Clients who are risk-averse or have extensive internal processes usually want to know what our process is. They want the insurance policy that the work we do isn’t just creative for creativity’s sake, but is effective and has a tested methodology that sounds sensible and comforting. They would be less apprehensive working with creative people if they knew that creative people processed work more like they do. They would be impressed by a process that had a trademarked name (Strategic Brand Generator™ or a series of them (Discovery Phase™, Positioning Grid™, Brand Ignition™, Analysis Calculator™, Integration Engine™).
We believe clients should be excited about a relationship with really smart and creative people who might work differently than they do. People who might bring the unexpected and uncover potential not yet considered. People who can solve problems because they are gifted that way, not programmed that way. In a focus group, consumers will respond to questions about what they think or how they feel. This can be helpful. They can’t, however, tell you what they don’t know, and that is precisely what our designers are most interested in. Clients need designers who are thinking about those unexpected solutions and not the ones they and the rest of the world already know – only this time it’s orange.
If a client with a new product is unwilling to welcome a little anxiety, then they are unwilling to create much of a difference and should expect similar sales results. But sometimes the problem to solve might be to tweak the position of an established brand that needs only a subtle shift in perception and not a radical overhaul. These are interesting and gratifying assignments because they bring the substantial weight of responsibility and respect for the brand’s place in the world, and the challenge to use our design abilities in a deft maneuver. The process that might be required to execute something like this can often be served best by the instincts developed from years of awareness and critical decision making. We have solved problems in a matter of hours that clients couldn’t solve in months using their own processes (or forcing them upon other design firms).
Designers are, by nature, strategic thinkers. The idea of a strategic design firm is almost redundant. Design is strategic. A strategy is a plan or action designed to achieve an overall goal. Design involves the conception, the art, the plan, the details, the function, the execution and the intention created to achieve that goal. Design is about organizing information. It is about cohesive systems.
In the final analysis, the difference between design firms is really more about what we do more than how we do it. From a client’s perspective, the process should not be as critical as the solutions.