The Riddle of Design*

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lament…

Oh… wait… wrong riddle there… sorry…

…now… where was I… ah yes…

There are many questions when it comes to design. The first and foremost of these is this: What is the purpose of design? The answer might surprise you.

When you hear this question most likely the first things to come to your mind are the obvious answers. “To be creative.” “To be original.” “To get noticed.” All good answers, to be sure, but none of them are what matters most. In the end the ultimate purpose of design is to make the client happy.

This can be a very hard lesson to learn, but if you want to make it very far in the design field it is one that you will have to come to terms with. Yes, sometimes this means that your most creative designs will end up on the cutting room floor, or worse yet, butchered and mutated into something hideous that only remotely resembles what you started with. It doesn’t matter how brilliant a designer you are, or how spectacular your design may be, if the client doesn’t like it, if it isn’t what they want, it will never see the light of day. This holds true in web design and video as much as it does in print media, when it is all said and done, unless you are designing solely for yourself, it is the client’s design, and it is up to you to give them what they want.

It can be very hard at times to smile and nod as you watch your work deconstructed, drastically altered, or outright rejected. To have to silently change your refined palette of brown and blue hues to vibrantly clashing shades of teal, purple and orange to match the shampoo bottles from the client’s shower. To have to screen the picture of the client’s pet parrot behind the layout’s text because they don’t understand the concept of white space and don’t want to “waste all that space with nothing in it.” To have to change the colors of a design from green to blue to another shade of blue to purple to another shade of blue to brown to yet another shade of blue then back to the original shade of green.**

It is hard, but it is something that a designer has to do. The customer may not always be right, they might not have a clue, nor creative bone in their body or an original idea in their head, however in the end, even though it is your time and your creativity, it is their design. We, the designers, may not like it, but sometimes we just have to swallow our pride; we smile, nod and once they are gone we curse them to hell and back, vent to our friends and co-workers, then get on with our job and make the changes and make the client happy.

That is the true riddle of design. It is our art, but their design.

*With apologies to Robert E. Howard.

**Yes, I have had to do all of these things.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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