nine lessons

nine lessons from working with a recent client

about make-believe

*we can create “design fictions.” we can tell stories about products that don’t exist and incorporate them into cinematic moments that allow the product to seem commonplace and real, as if it has always been there.

about collaborations

*a “collaboration” does not necessarily mean that each partner contributes equally. when a creative lead appears to provide little initiative nor feedback, then it’s important to take the lead yourself. for better or worse, feedback comes when it’s ready.

*if the client does not present itself as a functional collaborator then find collaborators from the outside, and make sure that not only does your budget allow for this, but that you bring in outside collaborators early on.

about process

*it’s important to refer to the notes one jotted down during the very first meeting (way back when). they often provide much-needed guidance for when things start to go astray. at the same time, one should not marry oneself to those notes. though the first ideas frequently offer hints of the project’s true ambitions, those same ideas hashed out at the beginning of the project are infrequently the best ideas.

*once the creative decisions have been made, one should factor in a sufficient buffer for the technical execution. it usually takes longer than one expects.

*remember, it’s ok to over-deliver but it rarely makes a significant difference if it’s on the wrong side of the project deadlines.

about client culture

*once a path has been agreed on, cultivate a firm belief in the choices that you’ve finally settled on. you may later conclude that there were more creative options that could have been explored, but it will distract you from finishing the project with the attention to detail that is needed. those other options can be explored later – either when the project is done but not yet delivered (when there’s still time to experiment) or after the project delivery (i.e., when the next project comes along).

*understand what the client’s (non-essential) darlings are. include them until the very end and if they still don’t belong in the final cut, do your best to allow the client to take the initiative to kill them off.

*keep your ego out of the project, which really means that if you feel anxious that your idea is not developing as you had hoped it would, stop thinking about it as “your” idea, and instead think of it as “an” idea; an idea that needs to be scrutinized, developed and possibly jump-started or abandoned. move on.

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