My Work

Just Listen OK!

I design things. Mostly I design graphics for print; that is not to say that I can’t design for  electronic media it is just that I was raised (in the work sense) on the smell of printer’s ink and hot type. I guess that means you now realise that I am no spring chicken and of course you would be right. Because I am such an old f..t I have learned some things during my sometimes myopic journey. In the business context , one of the things I did learn – fortunately fairly early – is to really listen to people when they are telling you what they want. Then go away and work out whether this is truly what they need, work out a couple of solutions – one or more to suit their wants and (if applicable) more than one to suit their needs. This works pretty well. If you tell people (clients) that what they want and what they need are different things, without showing them why, then they will go to someone who will just parrot what they want because it is easy. Believe me there are a lot of parrots out there.

Ok, so why, having this font of knowledge, did I stuff up with my most loyal client?

She came to me a last week and asked for a new logo for a branch of her business that was doing better than her mainstream business. I had done stuff for her before and she is very happy with my work so I was pretty confident that I could give her what she asked for. Mistake one – I didn’t really ask her what she wanted – I just assumed that I knew.

I set to and started to muck around with some ideas none of which I really liked until I hit upon something that I though I was happy enough with . Here are a few of them.

OK, now that was hard, I think that they all suck big time and knowing this I soldiered on trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I had all this stuff up on my computer screen and my client (with whom I share a floor in a building) popped in to have a look while I was out of the office. When I came back she said I really like this one.

Here is the one she selected.

Now here is where I made mistake two. I thought to myself, ‘wow that was easy’ and started to produce a couple of variations but she stuck with this one so I patted myself on the back and moved on to other things. Mistake three was not really listening to what the client was saying (actually I think that was mistake
#1). I think they call it reading between the lines. She was very stressed,  not well and was having issues with a tender process that was not coming together the way she wanted it too because of the issues above. It was easier for her to say, ‘I really like this one’. What she was really saying was, ‘ well this is the best of a bad bunch’ and I think I knew it but I was too arrogant, lazy, stupid or whatever, to acknowledge this.

Over the weekend the job kept preying on my mind – I knew that I had stuffed up and now what was I going to do about it?

Another thing I have learned as a designer is that when I have an idea, write it down or draw it on anything that is available. I have concepts sketched on beer coasters, serviettes, scraps of envelopes and even a photograph of something drawn on the back of my hand because I didn’t have any paper at the time but did have my camera. Saturday night I was having dinner with some friends and saw something that took my fancy so I grabbed a serviette and my pencil and popped it down hurriedly much to the amusement of my fellow diners. Too embarrassed to tell them what I was doing I just cracked a silly joke which distracted them as I stuffed the serviette into my bag.

Mistake four I think, was going to bed that night with the logo problem on my mind. Until at some unmentionable time I put the problem and the screwed up serviette together and had one of those ‘ah ha’ moments, then went to sleep.

Here I am, writing this after resurrecting the somewhat tattered serviette from the bowels of my handbag and sitting at my computer for a couple of hours. Ok its a public holiday but there is no footy on the telly, it is too windy and cold to go for a bike ride and there is washing up in the sink. Apart from the really tacky design of the above offerings I was troubled by the fact that the logo said nothing at all about who or what The DMC Group is. The C stands for consulting so I reckoned that the C should come out and CONSULTING should go in. This made the whole thing a bit more sensible to me. Finally I came up with a few alternatives and popped them on my client’s desk thinking that she would see them tomorrow when she came in. She obviously didn’t want to do the washing up and was suffering from a dearth of footy on the telly so she came into work just as I finished arranging my latest offerings on her desk. Here is what I showed her from my most recent scribblings.

Her eyes lit up and she was very happy with what she saw. I think she was also relieved that I had ‘read between the lines’. Of the four new ones I showed her this is the one she chose.
And here is how we do it in reverse.
I’m pretty happy with the result and the client is ecstatic. She is ecstatic with the result and she is ecstatic that I was able to pick up on what she wanted and I was able to show her that I think she needed. I think I will just listen in future.
Peter G

3 thoughts on “My Work

  1. The graphics in the earlier part of your post aren’t showing up, Pete.

    Sounds to me as if you’re upset that you weren’t psychic enough to understand that “I really like this one” didn’t actually mean “I really like this one”… A simple “This one is best so far, but…” would’ve been far clearer.

    Just my two bob’s worth…

  2. Thanks Shines. I am not sure what the issue with the graphics is but it seems that it is different on everyone’s computer and with different browsers. I need to look at it when I get to work.
    What you siad is true but it is fairly common. I often have to read between the lines and work out that some of my clients are not happy but say they are.
    I am pretty good at it though and more often than not get to the bottom of the issue. Difficult when my client is a pair or even a married couple. Don’t want to go there.

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