MARKETING MIX: SOAP BOX; Designers should take control and start taking risks

Everyone buys into the idea of teams and working in partnership. A team can make things happen more quickly, innovative solutions can be stimulated and effort co-ordinated. Two or more heads are better than one and many hands make light work. Who is kidding who here? No one in the design industry is really working in partnership with their clients. Not according to the Oxford Dictionary definition: ‘Partner. A person who shares or takes part with another or other, especially in a business firm with shared risks and profits.’ Where’s the risk? (Not to mention the profits).

Everyone buys into the idea of teams and working in partnership. A team

can make things happen more quickly, innovative solutions can be

stimulated and effort co-ordinated. Two or more heads are better than

one and many hands make light work. Who is kidding who here? No one in

the design industry is really working in partnership with their clients.

Not according to the Oxford Dictionary definition: ‘Partner. A person

who shares or takes part with another or other, especially in a business

firm with shared risks and profits.’ Where’s the risk? (Not to mention

the profits).



Many clients believe a good brief means delivering lots of facts and

figures to their design agency and walking away satisfied that they have

fulfilled their part of the bargain. Designers are encouraging this

‘dump it and see’ approach by telling clients they will take care of

everything, that the client needn’t worry about it, that it will all be

fine.



So grateful are they for the business and so frightened of it going to a

competitor, most design companies wouldn’t dream of ruffling a client’s

feathers by questioning the motivation behind a re-design or challenging

the strategy for a new brand.



The brief is so important and yet it is given very little consideration

by client and designer alike, whereas we should be working together to

devise a new approach to the creative design brief.



The inevitable result of this approach? The pastiche kit of parts; that

jumble of category language on a pack which feels comfortable and is

widely accepted (including performing well in consumer research, because

consumers like what they know) but which is hardly going to exceed

customer expectations, which certainly does not qualify as a

revolutionary solution and makes bugger all difference in the long run.



Design companies must learn to expect more from clients, rather than

accept their briefs with blind devotion. We must have the confidence in

our experience and abilities to question and probe briefs, including

refusing to do a piece of work which we feel is strategically wrong for

a brand. Only when clients realise that effective design means plunging

into the core of the brand and probing its meaning - not dipping a toe

into cosmetic prettifying - will we be able to innovate rather than

administrate, originate rather than imitate.



How? We all have a brain and that brain has two sides: the creative and

logical. True partnership means clients and design agencies supporting

each other to use whole brain thinking.



The challenge must take place before the brief is finalised. Designers

must develop a process to enable everyone, both clients and designers,

to think big from the outset and encourage the use of the creative and

inspirational right half of the brain as well as the logical left side,

which ‘suits’ rely on.



Let’s be honest, design is a risky business. It takes a brave client and

a brave design agency to take those risks - together.



Amanda Connolly, managing director, Coley Porter Bell



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