Change, Change, Change

Change, Change, Change

The Purpose of Revisions

Graphic designers live in an interesting world, essentially being experts judged and critiqued by non-experts on a daily basis. Our business and income depend solely on the opinions of those who know they can’t, or won’t, do the work they are hiring us to do. At the end of the day, it’s always up to the client which direction to move. Still, the beginnings of a frustrating experience with a project are almost always tied to revisions.

I believe this is because the purpose of revisions is usually not talked about throughout the engagement. For many designers, concepts may be presented in person or emailed out, but are almost always paired with a simple, “What do you think?” This leaves the door wide open to changes from all directions and oftentimes a lot of these changes hurt a project’s outcome more than help.

The cost of being particular.

If you’re a business owner or marketing team member hiring a designer, you’re the one handing over the check and building the business. So when those first concepts finally come around, the fear can set in pretty quick. Does this style really represent your business? Is this the color you were thinking of? Do you even like how it looks? Will other people like it? Why were some of your suggestions heard and others seem ignored?

It’s completely natural to feel the need to control the work. After all, you’re the one who’s going to have to live with this work and utilize it for your business. The problem with allowing the feedback to become too particular ties back to the idea of hiring an expert. If the designer hired is trusted and qualified, it’s fair to assume they’ve thought through the details of the work. Not only that, they’ve tried a wide variety of approaches to land where they are, both on this project and work from other clients. To become hyper-controlling is to ignore the possibility (and usually the reality) that the designer knows how to solve the creative problem better than the client. After all, if that’s not true then why hire the designer at all?

The confusion of being vague.

On the other side of things, some clients can be so overwhelmed or disconnected from the work that feedback becomes broad and vague. Designers want to solve creative problems, but without a clear problem in place it’s impossible to find solutions. The classic, “I don’t like it” or “I’ll know it when I see it” feedback takes the designer back to the drawing board without any direction or strategy to improve the work.

Get on the same page before you start.

The biggest impact on revisions actually comes long before the work starts. First, it’s largely dependent on the trust between the client and designer. Although trust takes time to build, reviewing portfolios and meeting in person with designers should ensure that the client is in good hands. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, the project has a high chance of going downhill.

Second, kick off meetings and creative briefs set the goals in place. Gathering and organizing information on the purpose of the project, the hopes for the outcomes and the practical needs of the work give a baseline for the creative to be judged upon.

The benefit of being focused.

If trust is established and the goals of the project are clearly defined, both the designer and the client have a clear roadmap of where to take the work. Keep the feedback based on these goals and the work will benefit from revisions rather than becoming complicated or convoluted in the process. This will also allow the designer (rather than the client) to find creative solutions to the problems. And finally, the work will get done more efficiently and you’ll get more out of your investment.


Starting Up

Starting Up

Why Branding is Important from the Start

Starting a business is a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but it’s also really expensive. It can be a lot to manage making sure your personal bills are paid, your vendors are paid, you can afford the space you just moved into, health insurance; and on and on. When it comes to business expenses, new business owners know the rule is to keep the lowest overhead possible.

One of the first things to get cut from potential business expenses is often marketing and design. After all, paying something like rent is clearly a priority before overpaying a pretentious designer like myself for work that may not have any tangible effect on your business.

However, we all know that all of your business expenses should really be business investments. Sure, you pay rent and that costs money. But it also gives you the space to do your work, produce your product or sell your inventory. Similarly, any money spent on marketing should come back with return.

It’s happening either way.

Whether you’re paying an agency to manage and develop your branding, or you’re not thinking about the concept of branding at all with your business, it’s still being built either way. You brand is built while you build your business. Every aspect of your business from the products to the customer service to the logo to your reputation all impact people’s perception of your brand. Point being, any unproductive and unintentional branding you’re developing today may create a larger problem for your business in the future.

Start up then start over.

If you’re starting a business without a healthy focus on branding or design, odds are your marketing materials and visual identity are not going to represent what your business is about or who you’re trying to reach accurately. And whatever incorrect or non-desired perceptions created are going to take some work to change.

That means if your plan is to start working on your branding or design a year or two after your business is launched, it may be a more expensive process and require heavier lifting to establish brand equity.

New businesses have a unique advantage to branding by starting with a fresh slate. There are no negative ideas about the business that need to be overcome and there’s no trying need to transition your customers from one aesthetic to another. When done intentionally and effectively, starting a business with a strong brand strategy and visual identity can give you better control over your customer and potential customer’s perception of your business.

Start strong and stay intentional.

Although you can’t literally control people’s ideas about your business, you can be influential on how they see your company through your branding, design and marketing. At the heart of developing a brand is really just the idea of being deliberate and strategic. Being purposeful in how you want your business to be presented. Maybe it’s youthful and modern to attract a younger audience or refined and sophisticated to set yourself apart from your competitors. In either case, the value of starting your business with how you want your brand to be perceived is crucial. Being deliberate about your branding from the beginning means shaping your customer’s view on your company from day one.

And why that may make that lowest overhead goal a little more cumbersome, it could pay off quite a bit for your business in the long run.