Navigating The Creative Sea: Working With Clients, Not For Them

Before anyone gets their undies in a bundle about our stance on the proper preposition usage for project roles (try saying that five times fast), let’s make one thing crystal
clear: We’re not advocating a designer revolt. We’re simply standing by a
well-tested method of collaboration that’s in the best interest of both parties. Whew, glad we got that cleared up! Can you imagine the fallout of a designer revolt? Good grief, we’d be using ink toner as war paint, brandishing X-acto knives, and wearing layers of our thickest paper stock as armor. We’ve obviously never thought about this. That would be ridiculous. Anywho, moving on…

Passion Fuels Many Things

Over the years, we’ve developed a sense for creative dynamics and how they factor into getting results for companies. We’ve learned from experience that projects will be the most successful when bolstered by a fluid partnership between the client and the design team. We’ve also learned that’s easier said than done. When people work together on a creative project a wonderful thing happens: People become passionate about their creative input. The downside is that, while passion fuels ideas and creativity, it can also fuel egocentricity and contention. Vanquishing the latter possibilities involves great, heaping doses of respect, humility, and wisdom—important things for our studio’s culture and for life, in general. But let’s move away from the general and move to the specific. What better way to do that, than an extended metaphor? Okay, fine, metaphors are general by nature. True. But they’re so gosh-darn helpful for visualizing and retaining specific concepts, that we really don’t think you’ll mind.

Voyage to Results Island

Imagine a gentleman (client) would like to embark on a sea voyage headed for an island— let’s call it “Results Island 235,” just for kicks and grins—so he hires a captain and crew (design team) to sail the S.S. Project across the Creative Sea. The gentleman has provided the destination (main goal), as well as the basic parameters for the voyage (deadlines/sub-goals/budget/etc). The captain takes these specifications, does his research, and then establishes a course (design brief) for the journey. After setting sail, the captain and crew go about the business of navigating the ship (creating the design) and keeping it on course with the gentleman’s requests. Various obstacles may extend or change the course of the voyage. Nevertheless, the ship eventually arrives on the shores of Results Island 235 and everyone cheers!

*Note, we chose an arbitrary number because there are an infinite number of metaphorical “Results Islands” to which a client may desire to go—from increased sales to attracting new demographics—the destination and subsequent course will change with each journey. Never fear, the captain and his trusty crew have the skills and tools necessary to take on any adventure across the Creative Sea.

Nobody Wants the Ship To Sink

Coming back to the core of this article, our little voyage metaphor fits quite nicely with the importance of working with a client, rather than for a client. For starters, we like with because it implies a sense of proximity. We’re on the ship together. Everyone is (quite literally) on board with making the project successful. And it’s not that we’re completely against using the word for because it’s somehow degrading. It’s not. But it does have a much better use: In order to ensure that we create design that gets results for our clients, we work with them so as to better navigate during the course of the creative journey.

So who’s ready to set sail with the Wenzel crew?

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