Thursday, June 9, 2011

“Listening ears…”

This is what we tell our children to have – to speak but also to listen – a life’s lesson.  Shouldn’t a Designer really listen, or would you rather have them just give you something?  No right or wrong here…but it is extreme.  If you’re spending money, you should demand a lasting solution, unlike one you could be tired of seeing in a month or has elements you find objectionable.  A Designer is, in effect, creating a solution with a definitive aesthestic – in other words, form and function are inexorably linked – and without proper input from you relevancy is elusive.  You, as the Client are tied to the solution.  So what’s your “mode” of offering input going to be?  Upfront?  After-the-fact?
Two-way Street – dialog.
Beyond the typical qualification chat (How long have you been in business?..What similar projects have you finished?..Examples of work?), begins to evolve to the individual, person-to-person phase…is the Designer listening?  Hopefully, you’ve gleaned “personable” information from a blog, website, or introduction, and you’re set for a poignant conversation = such as what you want to accomplish – this “design precedence” is critical and sets the tone for the entire process, in addition to the usual “ooh, I like that,” as you preview image-based media during an initial presentation of ideas.  When you meet to discuss your work, are you forming a program (list of project requirements) together, or are you being told ideas (one vs. two-way street)?  Think of the process NOW – if the Designer is not listening to what you want and/or will not engage in a dialog, this may be telling of the future.  After this “design process preview,” you can feel more comfortable in the personality of a future design…Bluntly, certain television shows have portrayed designers with type A, bipolar, or other nuances that suggest a self-centered, unbalanced, and perhaps belligerent temperament – so try not to prejudge a Designer or the process.  Yes, it’s a little disconcerting not to design for yourself, but remember that some form of schooling has taken place – color theory, spatial analysis, and/or specialty studies – which form the basis of meaningful, creative, sustainable, and great design…yes, I wrote “great,” not good – but great.  In fact, lasting design solutions should stand the test of time, avoiding dated, contrived, or otherwise, trivial elements.  And a degree of design control is inevitable, if you’ve set this desire, upfront.
Input – upfront.
To be fair to the Designer, have you, the Client, offered a precise “laundry” list of items to be accomplished (whether they exist or are already planned)?  The program.  And how about aesthetic cue words?  For example, “simplicity, warmth, vibrancy” are more descriptive than “improve, redo, or fix.”  Maybe it’s something you saw, a design image to draw upon…maybe, it’s a place you’ve been, thoroughly enjoyed, and imparted “character,” which evokes an image of place…you can begin to see that no single “mode,” at the start will begin the process.  A dialog must be undertaken, or the process is doomed to fail.  In other words, you may have jeopardized the opportunity for adequate input.
Masterplan – long term
Additionally, any long term planning or “ultimate” measures you wish to have incorporated must be communicated to the Designer.  Otherwise, when the Design process begins, your planned items, elements, or factors, crucial to achieve an effective, cohesive, and completed design, will not be part of solutions – even worse, the well-intended design may preclude future improvements - your design process is already off on the wrong foot.  This seems simple to do, but many times what you are thinking may not have been written down, become real, and most importantly, critical in fact, real to the Designer during the input phase, who is working for the ultimate solution.
Evolution – (see dialog, above).
As a Designer choose alternates, options, or choices, this is where the dialog phase, during the “initial Designer interrogation” was crucial.  Did you two effectively communicate then?  Hope so…At this point, in effect, is where magic happens during the initial presentation of ideas.  The program has now evoked design “concepts” or “schematics.”  Words have become a “penned” solution; however, you may like one portion or pieces of everything presented.  For a Client or Owner, the choices may seem daunting…While it’s important to listen as the Designer’s rationale (meaning the concept behind each design ) is provided, it’s just as important to remain focused on what you want, while you absorb the ideasThus begins the “true merge” toward a final design, and remember, this should be interactive and “fun,” based upon effective dialog.
In the End.
Avoid “Design Fail.”  With the merged and final design now completed, whether it’s a graphic logo, finished space, or completed system (any of which could apply), it must be implemented, whether printed, constructed, or just plain finished.  Others will see it.  Are you confident in the result?  Has the Designer observed/insured the final implementation?  Only through this final collaboration of a Client and Designer will the totality of the process be effective – the final construct could fall prey to additional interpretation of the “implementer(s),” if you answered “No” to either.
As time marches on, the final design is subject to scrutiny, enjoyment, and/or interaction, by all – trials and tribulations of your design process are incorporated into a narrative, when you speak about the concept behind the form, perhaps with snippets of the design rationale (who knows you may even use “Design Speak”!) as folks “absorb” the result.  In the end, hopefully, you were heard, enjoyed the process, and have a “true legacy” as the solution evolves into real use!

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