The Client Comes Second
There's an interesting perspective illustrated in Walter Isaacson's new biography of Steve Jobs. In it, the author recalls the story of Jobs selecting famed designer Paul Rand (he made the logos for IBM, ABC and UPS) for the creation of a logo for his post-Apple computer company. Jobs asked Rand to present several options for the new logo, to which Rand replied that he would not create options.
"I will solve your problem, and you will pay me," he told Jobs. "You can use what I produce, or not, but I will not do options, and either way you will pay me."
(Quoted from the book)
When I first entered this field, I designed websites without really asking clients what they expected in the look-and-feel. I did it that way because I didn't know any better.
After several years in design, I heard about a practice called the "design discovery," which used a series of exercises and surveys to uncover the tastes and desires of the client. I immediately assumed that this was a superior workflow, adopted it at my agency and used it for several years.
Eventually, I became familiar enough with the concept of graphic design that I realized I had it right the first time. Why ask clients what colors, photos, textures and styles they like? It's typically irrelevant to the outcome. A website isn't for your client, it's for your client's customers.
We, as the experts, should be leveraging our insight, experience and intuition to design the best solution for the problem. Certainly, much of that insight should come from studying the client's customers, but surveying clients and providing options only serves to let the them dictate the outcome based on their personal tastes.
If our solutions are good, we will, like Paul Rand, find plenty more clients willing to pay for them. If our solutions are bad, the problem will take care of itself.
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