The title of this post is a phrase that usually leads to disaster for everyone involved. Every design or creative project I work on starts with a strategy meeting with the client. I interview the client about what they like and don’t like. I gather information to determine the creative direction for the project. Without these meetings I’d be trying to design in a vacuum.
Occasionally, I’ll have a client who will say something along the lines of, “Just be creative. I’m sure it will be great.” Good theory, but when we do this, it’s usually followed by the phrase, “I don’t know what I want, but I know I don’t want that.”
When I told a friend of mine about this, he compared it to a game called Bring Me a Rock. Here’s how it goes:
I tell you, “Go outside and bring me back a rock.” When you come back I tell you, “That’s not the right rock. Go get another one.” When you come back I say, “That’s better, but it’s still not right. Go get another one.” When you ask me what’s wrong with it I respond with, “It’s just not quite right. Let’s see what the next one looks like?” We keep repeating this over and over. How long before you started throwing rocks at my head? Trying to design something without direction is just like playing this game.
So, how can you give your creative team guidance if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Start making use of your junk mail.
We all get bombarded with bulk mail, e-blasts, sales letters, & flyers on a daily basis. Some are good, some are bad, and some are outright ugly. Set up three boxes for you to sort them into. Use one box for the good, one for the bad, and one for the ugly. Once you have a good selection, go through them and REALLY look at them. Determine what makes you love them (or hate them). Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. If you’re doing a postcard, be sure you’re comparing postcards. Compare e-blasts to e-blasts, logos to logos, etc.
Next determine exactly what it is that makes you like or dislike these pieces. Make notes on them so you can easily spot the similarities. If you have a group of friends or family members who fit your target market bring them in to make sure they share your opinions. (Remember, the likes and dislikes of your target are more important than yours. They’re the ones buying your product, not you.)
Now you have the information your designer needs to please both you and your target audience. And you don’t have to get pelted with rocks in the process.