A Design Consultant First

For the first time in my design career (which is now pushing 20 yrs) I had a client tell me “all I want to see is the final product”.

Hell of a good way to get the design team bought in on the outcome of the product. I’ve never been quite so anxious for a design review as this one :slight_smile:


Ha…not yet…we still have to deliver.

I just thought I’d put it out there that there are clients like this. It is what designers dream of…but it is very daunting when handed to you…fun…but daunting :slight_smile:

I’m all for supportive clients, but this sounds like my worst nightmare, and a disaster waiting to happen, not a dream. Unless I’m misunderstanding…

The process is important for the back and forth check to ensure things are on track (a client never means what they say), and more importantly for you to educate your client, steer them in the right direction and move them towards excellence.

Just revealing the final product with a “tada”!" seems like it has more chances for failure than success unless you are shooting for a lowest common denominator, don’t offend kinda solution.


PS. My comments come from a wholly constructive POV. I do wish you the best. I think I’m pretty lucky to have some great clients with tons of leeway (enough to make it dangerous), but even if I presented with a “show me only the final” kind of solution I wouldn’t take it. All you are doing is taking 100% of the risk and your reward is the same as if you followed a normal process.

I agree with you, Richard on many fronts. This isn’t being designed in a vacuum…but their timeline doesn’t allow for much more than a “tada” moment. They’ve had problems with previous design vendors.

So, whether it is a dream or a nightmare is to be determined :slight_smile:

My dream comment comes mostly from the fact that most designers I know tend to want their bosses, clients, etc. to get out of the way and let them design. Being put in this scenario definitely brings that to life.

The one thing that I find refreshing is that it is a client that recognizes that they are making an unreasonable request for time and deliverable…and the give and take of that is that they need to pretty much let us run full speed ahead.

I’d say there’s likely a decent amount of trust built in your client relationship, which would reduce the risk, to some degree. But yes, to me it does seem daunting, but perhaps thats why I don’t have my own design shop…

Best of luck and if you can share the process/outcome, please do. I’m sure many would love to see.

The irony is that we’ve never worked together before. So…go figure.

As for process. As soon as we can…if we can…I will.

I had the same concerns as Richard, but I would welcome a client like this, even if the end result was less than satisfying.

I had a client who said this once… I don’t have time to be involved in the process - you are the designer and i like your work so just design.

Two weeks later at the presentation the quote was “I was expecting something that looked… i don’t know … different” he said “i will still present it but im not happy with it…and i don’t think anyone else is going to like it”

The next comment was “my boss loves it, no accounting for taste i guess”

I felt very lucky and from that day on i always make sure the client is involved in the process because it could have turn out allot worst.

red flags going off for me Jon.

Since my staff and I work through a Sales Organization we interact with our clients in a limited capacity. We get their initial criteria directly from them, follow up that meeting with questions, and then get down to design. We come back to the client with a fully designed solution/proposal, and that is when they are invited to collaborate further on the design. It’s extremely rare for a client to sign-off on a project with zero revisions, but not unheard of, on average it is 1-3 rounds of design collaboration before a sign-off. Much much more than that on large RPF’s.

Typically our clients are pretty great to design with, there are, however, certain account execs who are former designers or like to “play designer”, and they’re usually ones that derail the design process and consequently lose the bid. I love our a account execs who trust us and let us design, as long as we meet criteria and budget they can close almost any business.

I don’t know the whole situation with your client Jon, sounds like a high risk undertaking, but the rewards could be great if you knock it out of the park and bail them out on a tight turnaround. Looking forward to hearing how this one pans out for you.

They did for me also at first. But at the same time, this is what we as designers should be seeking. At least, I do. I believe that my experience as a designer is better tuned to dig into the meaning of a product and to deliver what my experience…my gut…tells me is the right solution.

What it has done…for me…is to strip away the need to manage the outcome. At the end of the day, they may not like the design. There’s a risk for that. But as a designer/entrepreneur…this is what I seek. Control over the design process. I have never believed design is done best as a committee.

We’ll see how it turns out in a few days :slight_smile:

Now if the client and you had a Paul Rand/Steve Jobs type thing going… =)

A few years ago a designer friend gave us a tour of an apartment he was building in shanghai for a wealthy client. He had complete freedom to do whatever he wanted. The client did not want to see any work in progress or designs, only the finished apartment. Dream job according to the designer at the time.

A year later when they were in court, not so ideal. Could have been the fur lined, egg shaped media room in the middle of the floor plan, could have been one of the other awesome details or concepts that were thrown in.

Shaw: I guess that is the downside of patronage. People who don’t understand design tend to actually want designers to copy what they like. Designers want to go somewhere new.

We have 2 divergent philosophies.

You have my complete buy-in that a consultancy can offer a unique and valuable perspective coming from the outside. But I would never recommend it as a stand-alone, ever.

There is no disputing your client has a better understanding of their customer. It just gets absorbed as the years of experience roll in. The silly cliche of I have forgotten more than you will know is rooted in truth. It isn’t obviously absolute, but there is no denying it. Just compare your own value as a designer with 20 years experience to when you started off. There is no comparison. Hopefully :wink:.

By merging the knowledge of your client and the unique capabilities of a consultant, your odds of success skyrocket. By leaning on only one, your chances for failure can only increase. But because of their deep customer knowledge, your client stands a better chance for success as a stand-alone than if your company does everything in what is essentially a vacuum.

Not being hamstrung in the creative process is one thing, but being cutoff from a valuable and essential tool is quite another.

By just going straight to the end you effectively remove any chance you have to “preflight” the solution. I’m a big fan of this:

Nemawashi (根回し) in Japanese means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback, and so forth. It is considered an important element in any major change, before any formal steps are taken, and successful nemawashi enables changes to be carried out with the consent of all sides.

Often times an end result is very close to my initial conceptual strategy framework, but by delivering it in little bits to select stakeholders it is digestible and everyone has time to absorb.

Think of it like watering a plant. Do you wait a month and then just dump a gallon on it or do you water it a little bit every day?

In an ideal world, I’d love to just go off and do my thing, but in reality, I find the above to have more consistent results… and sometimes you get some input that changes your mind too :wink:

I don’t dispute what either of you are saying (Iab & Yo)…

My counter to Iab, however is that experience in a field/market can sometimes be blinding (Blackberry?). A new set of untarnished eyes can be beneficial. However, that doesn’t apply in this case. The company is more educated, and knows it better than our group…however only by a year…in an industry that I’ve been involved in for 15. So…kind of a tough wash if you’re talking about experience benefitting.

Where they got it right in this case is their timeline. They had their backs against the wall and needed something new and viable in a very short period of time. Far too short for me to “manage the management”. If I had to spend the time on the presentations and interim deliverables…we would never have gotten it done.

Now, we have also not even begun to find the best solution. But in the timeframe, I think we have done a good job. What it has done for us is lay the foundation for having the conversation that you are all alluding to…that meaningful Design takes time.

It looks like you got yourself into one of those high risk/high reward situations. And since it is a good client, you really don’t have any choice in the matter. You have to take it on and I wish you the best of luck.

But I am still going to disagree about your knowledge base and will still recommend sneaking in any input from the client about the customer.

For my own .02, I was a consultant in the medical device industry for 15 years. Primarily in diagnostics and radiology. And I thought I was the for shizzle. I did all sorts of research, primary, secondary and I thought I knew that market upside down and backwards. But the fact of the matter was I only did research and gained customer knowledge when the client paid for it. Diagnostics and radiology is a huge range of products, from disposables to point of care to huge automated systems.

In the last 5 years I have been in house with a company specializing in hospital products with a focus on infection control and that is primarily in the intensive care units where infection poses the biggest risk. Everyday I am inundated with knowledge about our customer. Directly from the customer, from our customer service group, from our marketing group, from our sales force. I go to every trade show, read posters and papers continually, and in a year I was probably in more hospitals than I was in the 15 as a consultant.

In 5 years I have absorbed more knowledge about the customer through my pores than I ever did in 15 years as a consultant. That’s why when I hire a consultant it kind of pisses me off that I have to pay them to literally get up to speed. I understand I have to, but it doesn’t make me happy.

LOL…yes, that is basically what this past week was about. Us proving to our client that there is a “getting up to speed” factor. That we can do it quickly, and we can do it well. But that the reality of it all was that all we were able to provide them in such a short period of time is a gut instinct of where things were going.

Luckily…we delivered on all accounts and the client is happy.

My reward is that I now have a shiny new 3D printer on the way :slight_smile: