Excerpted from Seth, circa 2006.
If you want average (mediocre) work, ask for it. Be really clear up front that you want something beyond reproach, that’s in the middle of the road, that will cause no controversy and will echo your competition. It’ll save everyone a lot of time.
On the other hand, if you want great work, you’ll need to embrace some simple facts:
It’s going to offend someone. If it doesn’t offend them, then it will make them nervous. The Vietnam Vets memorial offended a lot of people. The design of Google made plenty of people nervous. Great work from a design team means new work, refreshing and remarkable and bit scary.
You can’t tell me you’ll know it when you see it. First, you won’t. Second, it wastes too much time. Instead, you’ll need to have the patience to invest twenty minutes in accurately describing the strategy.
It’s not my intention to soapbox anything on the subject matter of design-based client work. I appreciate all of my clients even when we disagree or they leave me feeling discouraged about a project or some small portion of it.
The above though did catch my attention enough to stop and ponder – in general, do we really want what we often ask for? How often do I ask for ‘top of the line’ or ‘cutting edge’ when all I’m really willing to receive is on par with or just a little better than the next guy.
My accountant does my taxes because he’s trained and equipped to do so. My clergymen school me in the ways of faith because they have years of study, discernment and applied wisdom on me. My car repair specialist gets to make suggestions on how to keep my car in top shape because he has the skill-set and training to do so. I make a decision to allow those I see as experts in their field to help me or educate me because they are areas I don’t excel in as much as others.
Which brings me back to design… when the situation from above arises, am I not being viewed as an expert in my field or is the field one where most think they are an expert of their own? If the answer lies in the former, I’d encourage you to find somebody you do feel is an expert. If it is the latter, I’d encourage you to quit tripping over your own feet.
…That means you need to be abstract (what is this work trying to accomplish) resistant to pleasing everyone (it needs to do this, this and that) and willing, if the work meets your strategic goal, to embrace it even if it’s not to your taste.
A constant personal battle I fight and one that I feel like gains victory over me almost every time. Consider me humbled.