Client and Designer: VS or &?
I’m sure everyone knows about these two clans. In one of them, the motto “Again they painted the wrong thing” is alive forever. In the second, they chant “Yes, they themselves do not understand what they want.” And the battles between them for the title of the true D’Artagnan are truly worthy to form the basis of the plot of an acute social drama. However, being a positive person (in my heart, at least), I would like, from my heart, to make this drama, nevertheless, a happy ending.
Any project, not only in design, is an almost intimate process. In terms of proximity. But, spiritual. Yes, the relationship in the project will always be much broader than the simple execution of a specific task in the style of “money in the morning, chairs in the evening.” Because the design of everything and always is a work in conditions of extreme uncertainty, with tasks in which conditions change every now and then. And for everyone. The joint creation of something new truly brings together. However, before the participants in this process can just go to visit each other, they have to go through a couple of three circles of hell of misunderstanding. And it is precisely this misunderstanding that is the essence of this article.
Any relationship starts with something, then builds on something, and then develops into something. And to begin with, I will list those “thresholds” that the newly formed unions of the client and the designer often stumble over:
- Expectations. Experienced in these relationships by their participants.
- Responsibility. Which they are ready to carry in them themselves, and which they both count on.
- Attachments. Which each of them is ready to do so that their common cause finally “took off”
And now a few details.
In fact, the client does not always come to do something specific. Even if he says otherwise. And with the developers, as the modern classics say: “everything is not so simple”, and they do not always need anything from a project except money. And now let’s go over a bit of the TOP of the real reasons why these two, it would seem, contrary to the obvious, but can still be together.
Customers want …
- Tryto find out if it is needed at all. Indeed, not always to understand how a particular business tool suits you, averaged statistics or advice from market neighbors are enough.
- Be in trend… But not so much in relation to the product as in matters of general principles of building a business. This happens when “you are still boiling,” while the rest have already come long ago.
- Reorganize the product development process… Sometimes the customer sees in attracting a designer an opportunity to shake up his team, significantly shaking it up for healthy creativity.
- Conduct a presentation of innovation Is a particularly relevant theme for technical start-ups. When an investor understands that creating a product is impossible without a systematic approach. This means that it is impossible without design.
… and designers are counting on …
- Perspectives… Often, the possibility of concluding a long-term contract is a much greater motivator for a designer than just full and timely payment for “here and now”.
- Portfolio… Hardly anyone will disagree with the fact that even a professional designer, between the opportunity to work with a well-known brand and the implementation of an ordinary project, will choose the first option, even if the second will have more democratic conditions.
- Creative passion… Some of the tasks that customers sometimes form in their projects can take over the mind to such an extent that the very thought of being able to solve the puzzle personally outweighs all reasonable material costs.
- Terms… When designers are also people, and they think about “not making all the money” and about “you have to live for yourself”, projects without adventures can be quite a good option, especially for experts who have already seen and proved everything.
It would seem, what is it all for? However, believe me, relationships will flow much more efficiently if each of their participants understands that even his most unexpected and secret hopes have every reason to come true. And, in the end, labeling them from the very beginning may be an elementary opportunity to more rationally organize your work for one, and find a way to save budget for another.
Now about why, even with these reservations, sometimes it may not turn out the way we would very much like. And in this part we will talk about unrealizable hopes. As, for example, only at the dawn of a stormy passion, when the customer already asks the designer for information on prices and terms, and the latter in response to him echoes that first he wants to see a detailed technical specification. However, are these mutual expectations reasonable and achievable?
To understand this, first we need to say one nuance, that no person can provide something or give guarantees about something if he is not responsible for it. The responsibility of a person is determined by his competence. That is, skills, abilities. And sometimes even the level of clearance. And now all that remains for us is to determine for what and why each of them cannot be held responsible.
Customer. Initially, he cannot know about the tools, techniques and other tricks with which you will solve his problems. For if I had known, I would not have come to you. Hence, it is unlikely that he will be able and competently describe by what standards and regulations all these tools, techniques and tricks you should apply. In other words, write that very detailed TK.
Designer. He cannot say anything about the timing and budget if he does not know the details of the problem, its status, the measures already taken to resolve it, as well as how and through whom the customer will interact with him. And also he is unlikely to be able to give guarantees for the result if he does not receive timely information about changes in conditions in the problem being solved.
Further, it is logical that the personal opinion of a customer who does not know all the intricacies of design cannot be a reason to execute or pardon. However, this does not mean that a designer’s work cannot be criticized. It’s just that this criticism should be based on arguments that are more objective than “somehow not very much”, “I didn’t want this at all” or “somehow not tasty / grayish / dull / other_inappropriate_pitties.” Likewise, the designer’s arguments in the style of “I am a specialist, I know better” and “it does not occur to you to teach your doctor …” do not endow him with the status of the ultimate truth bearer. Because in a situation of frequently changing conditions, he simply cannot constantly have complete information about how exactly his ingenious solution is right now. It’s sad. But it’s a fact.
So how, in this situation, to implement this kind of communication? Where will the designer get the TK if the customer should not be able to write it? How can a customer estimate the budget if the designer cannot tell you about the cost? And who, by what, and how will assess the quality of the work performed and the correctness of the proposed solutions? I will try to sort it out on the shelves.
1. Where to get the TK?
The customer does not set tasks and does not form requirements. He simply describes the problem and expresses his wishes. Moreover, in order for these descriptions and wishes to be perceived by both of them in the same way, the designer proposes to form them according to a predetermined form, which is usually called a brief. And already on the basis of these data, the designer must draw up a detailed technical specification himself, and then agree on it with the customer. At the same time, the technical assignment for the project does not prescribe what the project should be in the final of development, because again, if it could be described right away, then what is the point of developing something? The TK for industrial design prescribes what norms, standards and conditions the developed product must comply with, and what business requirements and how it must provide.
2. How not to be fooled with the timing and cost?
Not for the sake of politeness, but in response to the customer’s revelations about his troubles, the designer is simply obliged to reciprocate and tell in all the details exactly how his problems will be solved. So the customer will be able to objectively understand not only the approximate timing of each of the stages, but also the need to attract possible additional resources. However, the execution itself in the design is sometimes not even half the battle. Special attention can be paid to the issues of consideration and approval. And to assess their duration, they together need to talk about how many people are on the part of the customer, at what stages and how exactly the proposals will be considered, as well as what is the order of these reviews and approvals.
3. Who decides “what is the truth” and how?
Determining how relevant the proposals are here and now is the joint task of both participants in this adventure. For no matter how hard you try to spell out all the conditions from the very beginning, some questions can most often come up very unexpectedly, and often precisely because of the proposal of the next solution. But, this is a project. And this is normal! Therefore, it is best to do this: the designer, accompanied by each proposal, writes a list of the problems he solves, and also describes all the possible negative aspects of such a solution known to him. At the same time, the decision maker assesses their significance. Including, taking into account any new, no matter where they have arisen, conditions. If the client and the designer cannot come to a consensus on their own, they simply turn to a third competent party, which can be personally disinterested experts, focus groups or, at worst, elementary standards.
One more question, which sooner or later will still be raised: “And you won’t find it by chance” … And this “will be found” from at least one, at least on the other hand can mean anything from friends who can make, and to a place where you can experience. And it is quite clear that even with the actual availability of any resources, any access to them may require different conditions. And therefore the question of who has what, and what will happen, if then it turns out to find something else, it is better to discuss in advance. The most common ones here may include already streamlined supply channels for assemblies and components, specialists in consumer studies – from the customer’s side. And from the side of the contractor – the sites of pilot production, specialists in certification, protection of intellectual property, project management. On both sides – contracting organizations for serial production and promotion channels. And all this should also be spoken out right away, so that in the end it does not turn out that something from what they had been looking for for a long time and found far away, in fact, could not have been searched at all. Well, or vice versa.
And towards the end, I will traditionally describe what exactly prompted me to write another sheet on a theme seemingly not directly related to design. Like many others, we rarely manage only one project at a time. And more and more often I notice that in many respects the timing in these projects depends not so much on the amount of work, but on how this work is organized. So it turns out sometimes that while we are developing one, seemingly, simple object with some, during the same time in parallel, you can have time to start and hand over one or two is much more difficult. And every time we start something with someone from scratch, we, of course, try to do everything to take into account past experience and build relationships as efficiently as possible. And, of course, it is not always possible to do this the way we would very much like. Therefore, all of this text above is dedicated, first of all, to those who are just planning to get involved in a relationship with industrial design. And he is called to serve only this purpose – to preserve your nerves, and time.