clients like to cut & paste

We’ve all been there: you present some concepts and the client wants to cut and paste elements of a few designs together into one because they like different parts of each the the “best!”

They just “want to see what it would look like.”

You know that this won’t result in a cohesive design solution. Rather, it WILL result in a Franken-concept that won’t be a viable solution, even though the client may be convinced it’s a winner.

If anyone has come up with a magical way to resolve this situation, I’m sure it would be appreciated. (Also, if you have found ways that definitely DON’T work, that could prove to be just as valuable)

I’ve found that staring blankly at the client then just walking out of the room without a word does NOT, in fact, produce positive results.

In all seriousness, I know that when I am in front of a customer, I do everything I can to establish the fact that I am the designer and NOT the client. They are paying me for MY design abilities and as such, if they start asking for a Franken-concept, I do everything I can to steer them clear of it.

I’ve found most people are very insecure with their taste in style and design and will very quickly defer to the opinion of a trained professional. As a designer, that is what they are paying me for, so thats what I try and deliver.

Of course this tack doesn not always work. From time to time you will have to deal with an insufferable blowhard and in that case, you just gotta suck it up and present them with the franken-concept just to get things moving.

to get out of the loop you got four choices:

1- generate concepts that are unique and independent and not related in aesthetic form but satisfy the design formula you agreed on as the end result.

2- have strong aesthetic philosophy, brand reaseach, and process strategy reasoning behind your concepts that would make a cut and paste solution impossible.

3- create several iconic versions of each concept which exhaust any other possibilities that might be worth considering (this requires more work and comes with experience).

4- hire several designers with different scopes on design. whether it’s methodology or approach it might challenge the client to think different as well as realising the infinite variety which could come as you add individuals (we know this from design competitions).

ofcourse it’s better the client understands these are the choices you as a designer can provide.

Right on UFO.

Frankenstein was sewn together with parts from the same species. The trick is to design several different species that can’t biologically mix.

UFO & cg,

Thanks for the response guys, but you’ve failed to address the question.

In an ideal world, clients would acknowledge the differences in diverse concepts as they are presented. You can back up the designs with research and reasoning, but they sometimes want to take bits and pieces that they deem to be their favorite. No matter how diverse the designs, they will still have “likes” and “dislikes” about each one.

Like it or not, you clients don’t always respond ideally to an array of clearly diverse proposals.

Here’s the question again: How do you deal with the situation AFTER the concepts are presented, and the Franken-design has already been asked for? I know you’ve had to deal with this before, I’m just looking for some anecdotal evidence that may suggest ways to work through the situation.

first option will always be time consideration. more time>>more expense.

2nd, you need to convince the client by showing previous cases where these methodologies have failed because of so and so. that’s why you need a team of experts to support you. it could be engineering, human factors, cost analysis, manufacturing, etc.

3rd, clients sometimes have an idea but can’t develop the language and might throw you off track. so if you play it smart it’s best you have created a client demand list were key issues have been drawn upon and discussed in a step by step manner and to a certain degree developed and reminding the client about those problems you can bring them back on track- to reality.

4th, it’s a rule in design that the simpler your design solution,better chances that product making it in market. it’s a good idea to project on ways to arrive at a working design or atleast an agreeble framework instead of experimenmtation with cut and paste. there’re many methods depending on the type of design process you’re involved in and the client should be willing to accept your best recommendation otherwise it can just throw the project into loop.

You could use that as an opportunity to see something that you may have missed. The non-designer client doesn’t always know exactly what it is about a particular concept that they like, so they pick pieces that “seem” to represent what they want, as hideous as those suggestions may be. I take that info and reanalyze what it is about the combination of those things that they think is going to work so well, functional aspects or the ideas between the frankenparts, not necessarily the specific frankenparts they ordered. Then I’ll do some other concepts using my new parameters (my analysis of what they’re really trying to get at with their suggestions) that solves the issues they’re trying to with their monster. Except since I’ll be conceptualizing based on my new parameters from scratch, the new results will be a much more cohesive unit. It’ll usually end up in a concept that covers issues from their point of view that I wouldn’t normally come up with, but is still a better solution than what they would’ve come up with on their own with their frankendesign sense. It’s a way to bridge the gap between being too designerly (from the clients pov) and too tacky (from our pov).
Then to seal the deal on the new more cohesive concepts, do boards and show them EXACTLY what they asked for without your re-interpretation. When you show your new concepts and how they accomplish the same things that they suggested with their cutnpaste right next to their frankenmonster, it’ll be a no-brainer. Then everybody goes away with some satisfaction since everybody had a worthwhile contribution without feeling like the other party completely took over.

Although I don’t condone such practices…to help really seal the deal you could also botch the render for frankenstein a little, subtly throw off the perspective, let the intern do it, add a subtle sickly green tint to the colors, etc… (it’s a joke people)

When Alan Cooper first wrote about the value of Personas (user archetypes) in “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” he used a “frankenconcept” example to prove their worth as a design tool:

Clients want to sell their product to “everyone” to maximize their returns. But if cars were designed this way, you’d end up with part sports car, part minivan, part pickup truck. Its the right product for the market, and yet a product no one will buy. Instead we must carefully design for the goals of individuals. (Within the last decade, automotive manufacturers also realized that focus groups might show that 90% of people hate a concept, but 10% absolutely love it, and that’s enough to justify the concept.)

Coopers solution to “frankenconcepts” is that you carefully spec out your users and judge design concepts against them, not your (or your clients) opinions.

PS, if you don’t have the book, read about Personas here.

When this happens isn’t it supposed to be called collaboration?

Skinny is right…

Don’t just act as a pair-of-hands to your client and draw up the frankenconcept. Find out why they like the different parts…Instead of finding clever ways to work around them, talk through it with them to help verbalize their reasons before you go sketching new ideas.

I’ve seen some frankenconcepts work out fine, if not great. If the client and consultant work together to agree on a good brief and attributes for the design, then all of the (successsful) sketches should be similar. Combining concepts in a project that was setup well can be successful.

In Peter Block’s “Flawless Consulting,” he calls for authenticity in situations like this. If a client is resistant to making a big decision, one form of avoiding this might be to suggest a frankenconcept, they prolong the design phase and also exercise their control. His advice is to be direct with the client and not to collude with them by filling their request. Find a 50/50 compromise where you’ll both be happy with the results. If you handle yourself authentically (and don’t constantly pushback), you’ll gain respect and maybe even more projects.

rollermt brings up a interesting point with regard to satisfying and understanding the clients reasons why they might like a concept.

This is a dangerous area for the brand/company as a whole. I’ve seen this time and time again where you are part of a project team within a company or firm and someone leaves the team to move on to another project or another job elsewhere, effectively taking the designs current raison d’etre with them. I’ve done it myself.

If you find yourself satisfying individuals tastes on the team and not what the market is open to or is in need of, then you are in danger of being short sided in your approach and are doing a disservice to the brand/comapny that will eventually produce the design.

If you end up placating those on the team just to move the design along or to keep them as a client, then there is danger on the horizon.

This is why it is extremely important to keep a well organized documented history of the projects development so you can review where and why the project has made detours to satisfy new criteria and individual team inputs.

To get hung up on a singular design’s indentity and get steamed because they want to change it, is cleary an indication of immaturity on the part of the designer. You have to work together with other disciplines and incorporate thier inputs in a very difinitive an diplomatic way. If they need to be schooled in a particular area, then educate them on it. You have to earn there respect for you as a designer, don’t just demand it.

we have a few magical tools.

  1. collaborate at the front end. collaboration allows you to more fully understand their needs, helps them look at their needs to a greater extent, creates greater focus/concensus and often develops a solid relationship that builds trust.
  2. end user and brand language research/development provides clarity to design language. If you can bill this time, even if small, you will have a better handle on design cohesion. likewise this type of work actually leads to future projects as it provides a new light to the entire product line rather than one offering.
  3. love every aspect of your designs. to me if you are designing for one product then multiple iterations should have some form of interchangeability.

if they don’t then they are different products even though the spec may be the same -different user group expectations? This is an opportunity to shine by showing the client that they have potentially uncovered new markets in which I propose two solutions. the client wants to be a rock star as much as you do thus find opportunities to drive home the rocking beat.

some other things
A. mock up the franken-part and review it with the original designs… but put your design skills into the redesign. meaning work out the design with the elements they chose to a place that you can live with. afterall, all of the elements came from you and in some way seek to solve the same problem
B. give them what they ask for. in my opinion, if you give it once, on repeat visits, they will endow you with more trust. ex. If you go to a car dealer mostly you want what you want even though they are the expert. if they give it to you the first time, the next time you come back you will have a greater trust for them simply because they recognized your needs the first time.

last thing to ponder.
in some markets, what designers think is wrong is totally right.
I can’t tell you how many “designer” bikes I have seen that are absolute crappers in the market place. they are so “designed” that they don’t fit the user’s expectation or the history of what the thing is expected to be.
ex. if Karim Rashid designed the next Harley…design community would accolade it but it would tank just like Sir Elton John playing the 100year anniversary of Harley in Milwaukee. GoodBye Norma Jean is a wonderful song and all but a red sequen(sp?) suit and a piano is the wrong answer…and the people knew it! -that was a brand crime of the century!

often if it craps in the market place a few things could be at work. A. the mfg’r didn’t support the design. B. the designer didn’t understand the expectations and aesthetics of the market. C. the mfg’r and the designer were off expectation targets together. D. the design was ahead of the acceptance curve.

My point, sometimes the client really does understand what will rock in their world even if it doesn’t fit the design paradigm.