Monday, April 2, 2012

c+notes: “Why Designers are not like Mushrooms”

Each new project comes with a unique set of challenges and variables that a designer must navigate along the path to creating a successful design solution. Information and a full understanding of the project parameters are key contributors to a designer’s decision making process. As a result, thorough project information delivery to the design team is critical. 

Duh! The RFP: This may come as a shock, but most clients spend quite a bit of time preparing and writing their RFP. While some are too brief, and others require periodic bathroom breaks to read, most are well thought out. This collection of background history, product information, show objectives, wants, needs, hopes and dreams are all critical information for you design team. Provide it and their time digesting it will help them not only form the big picture, but ensure that every detail is addressed and every objective met. 

Branding Guidelines: If they are available, branding guidelines are a key component to the information a designer needs.  When we ask for a branding guideline we are occasionally instructed to “get it from the web site”. Under certain time constraints, or when a client does not have a branding guideline this is an acceptable solution…and ultimately it’s better than nothing! However, if they have a corporate branding guideline the problem with this solution is:

            A. The site content is low-res at best.

            B. The site may not be based on the most recent branding guidelines.

            C. Some branding guidelines will specify “3-dimensional” or signage guidelines. 

The fact is, if you are working with a client who has a branding guideline in place (and went to the expense to implement it), they will likely appreciate your desire to adhere to their guidelines.

Needle in a haystack: There is a tipping point when the quantity of information exceeds a reasonable level of content that can be absorbed within an average delivery timeline. While a 75 page RFP might make sense for a sky-scraper or the next space shuttle, it is excessive for an exhibit. Common sense is a fair guide when providing your designer with the necessary project information. The consequence of over information is the relevant content becomes a time-consuming search for a needle in a hay-stack. 

Timing: If you provide your designer with the actual deadlines and benchmarks they will appreciate having as much time as possible to create the right solution. If you are working with a designer that you feel the need to pad the time frames for, you may need to evaluate who you are using and why you do not trust them to meet your goals. No professional designer should ever miss a deadline. Period. If they do, find another one because no project will succeed if a key member can’t manage their time. 

Product Information: Occasionally, we run into a project when either the branding guidelines have not been released or new product information has not been disclosed and won’t be until the designs are completed and the project has been awarded…(insert uncomfortable silence here).

To a designer this is the functional equivalent of telling your doctor that your symptoms are confidential when they try and determine why you are not feeling well. 

We recognize that every industry (Pharma, Consumer, Automotive, Entertainment, etc.) is highly competitive and as a result very confidential. To everyone, their technology or product is a critical product and therefore this topic can be a sensitive one. As professionals, we are used to working in these situations and signing the necessary agreements to put our clients at ease. Ultimately, if the branding or product information is a key component to the design, then the disclosure of those details is crucial to project success.

9 out of 10 Designers Agree: Lacking or withheld information can be the design equivalent of not telling your doctor what your symptoms are when you are in pain. Ultimately, Designers are not like mushrooms because unlike mushrooms, designers rarely succeed when you keep them in the dark and feed them shit.

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