Screw Your Feelings, Young Designer

Jul 15, 2020 | Creativity, Design

As creative professionals, our job is to put a lot of heart and energy into creating things for our clients – and then listening to them tell us everything that they don’t like about it.

When I was a less experienced designer, it would offend me – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – and while I wouldn’t directly communicate that it hurt my feelings, it did bother me to have clients who often couldn’t even tell me specifically what it was they didn’t like about the designs. Many times all they could say was something like, “I don’t know what it is I don’t like about it, I just know I don’t like it.”

Or this gem…”I’ll know what I like when I see it.”

Fortunately, I was mentored by some other, more experienced designers who helped me get over this. My hope is that this post can offer similar encouragement to new designers just starting out.

Maybe you went to school and have a design-related degree, or perhaps you simply studied it on your own, and have a natural knack for it. You probably went to work for an agency or started a business designing because you enjoy design, and like me, wanted to get paid to do something you’re probably pretty good at.

Here’s the thing, though, about designing for businesses; it’s not about what you like. Honestly, it shouldn’t even be about what the client likes, ideally; it should be about what your target audience will respond to.

The way we at Day Creative approach our creative design projects is to start clients off with a questionnaire that asks a range of questions; background of the company, the community involvement level, their competition, their customers…it’s designed to give us a picture of the company’s story and who they are trying to tell it to. We’re looking for the “theme goal” for this client. Once we define that theme goal, the design and creative decisions get way easier.

We are then able to say, “We’re going to use this font, this language, these images, because we want to communicate this theme to your clients, and we believe these things accomplish that goal.” The mission is to impact the customers of your client, so you need to be able to illustrate how you’re going to do that through design.

This makes the process with the client more about the goal, and not whether or not they like a certain shade of blue or a particular font. (Although there will always be instances where shades of blue and fonts bring out strong feelings in some individuals.) It also makes the responses from me, or other creatives involved in the process, about the goal.

When we focus language and responses on goals, we aren’t telling the client they’re dumb for making a particular choice. (If it’s an older client and I have that relationship with them, however, I might certainly express that, if I feel it’s true).

Keeping the attention on the goal is helpful for both sides. Feelings aren’t as readily hurt on the design side, and it’s easier to steer clients away from personal preferences (which can be all over the map). This is why homework that includes things like our questionnaire is important, because the information we gain gives us the map we need to keep us all on the right path.

In short…screw your feelings, young designer!