6/14/07

Let designers design

"All projects are collaborations to a certain extent and each must play their role, but yes, designers should do all the designing," says Dana Robertson at Tango Design... Designers are intuitive and lateral thinkers who thrive best when allowed to explore. I believe that curtailing their natural instincts ultimately leads to poorer creative solutions in the long run."

This was from a Computer Arts (August 2006) article I read, and I find it incredibly relevant especially in the Singapore context. There's generally a lack of respect for the designer's ability to solve problems for the clients. Designers are generally seen as tools who know Photoshop, Flash, etc and hence should be instructed to reproduce what the client has in his head (which in most cases range from vagueness to clueless). Maybe it stems from the general impression that Singaporeans only go into design because they're not academically inclined enough to pursue other more reputable professions. I think this is changing with Singaporean agencies winning awards abroad etc - but the general impression is still there. If we want to have good designers, we need good clients.

To me, design is only good if it works, whether the goal is to communicate a vision or convincing someone you need to pay for imported air (as an extreme example). A good designer with enough experience will know the subtleties better than any clients. Not only does the designer need to understand the client’s brief (top level perspective) but be savvy enough to work through problems at the micro level.

"That's not to say client feedback and direction isn't useful, and more often than not enhances the end result. But this can only happen if the client offers abstract feedback as opposed to saying 'move that there, make that bigger, and can we try that in green?" which is essentially unhelpful," says Franki Goodwin, creative director at Franki & Jonny. This scenario is something that we see too much of in Singapore. Without an enlightened marketplace, designers will be stifled. Designers on their part must work hard to prove that they are not mere operators with a Photoshop toolbox.

Goodwin agrees that a client's distance sometimes means they are better equipped to highlight a problem with a piece of design, but points out that it's ultimately the designer's job to come up with the solution. "There is a common misconception among some of our clients that we fight design battles for ourselves, out of vanity and ego, not for the good of the project. But creativity or good design does not compromise the commercial appeal of a project. It enhances it."
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