Clients and client team members often have hidden ideas about the project they have just assigned to you. They have hunches about what the solution should be, they may have been pondering a crazy idea for days, or a possible design idea might have captivated their imaginations. Ideally they have connected with a designer whose talents they respect and are confident he or she will bring work to the table that is exceptional. But still, there often is a lingering idea or two that is rolling around in a someone’s head.
That idea might be great, or it might be otherwise. Regardless, it is important.
A client’s hidden design thoughts are often free from the influence of trends, not held back by executional obstacles, and may contain nuggets of insight that only an insider might have — a possible window into unique knowledge of the organization or product. They could also be simply odd. Giving consideration to these design thoughts can assist a designer in thinking in a fresher fashion or approaching the project from an unexpected angle.
To benefit from these ideas requires listening carefully, as they are not always expressed clearly or confidently. Sometimes directly asking the client if he or she has been pondering any design ideas is justified. What is done with this information is the designer’s choice. The information can be ignored, explored, or embraced. The designer gets to choose how to respond, but it is worthwhile to note that having this additional knowledge increases the understanding of both the situation and the expectations.
Another reason to search out these ideas is that once that lurking idea is brought into the light of day its merits can be rationally assessed. A stinky idea can be dissected, making visible the reasons it is stinky. A conversation can be had regarding how an idea might be problematic. Or an idea might be refined to make it viable. However things develop the idea is no longer looming under the surface, waiting to be discovered, possibly holding back the client from moving forward.
Additionally, this effort can enhance the working relationship. It encourages respectful, meaningful communication. And it brings the client into the design process more significantly. When the client recognizes the finished work as a combination of the designer’s skill and the unique insight they provided to that designer, the result is often greater commitment to the project and a desire to support it as it is presented to broader audiences.
Numerous avenues can be taken to arrive at the desired destination of memorable, engaging design work. Often that journey can benefit significantly if designers listen a bit closer to clients, ask more probing questions, and ponder client instincts and thoughts. Their ideas can be surprising, enlightening, and just the little nudge needed to push the work beyond predictable, and instead achieve excellence.
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