Design to your tastes second, and your client’s first

Design is a personal process. We all have different tastes: Some like loud, bold colors and dramatic lines, while others prefer muted, understated colors and soft curves. Compromise between differing tastes can lead to lukewarm or disjointed design, rather than a happy medium. Individual tastes range wildly, and as a designer, my projects run the gamut to accommodate a wide variety of client preferences, needs and spaces.

So what happens when tastes clash on a project? How do you decide the best way to move forward with a design that seems mired in differences of opinion? Simple. In design, as in business, the client must come first. Asking yourself what message the design will communicate to your client often illuminates the best solution for a design conflict.

Beyond sticking to your brand colors and guidelines, what questions should you ask to help identify the right message? Here are a few things we designers consider during the creative process:

  • Colors often have stereotypes associated with them. These associations are both psychological and relational – some colors are well-suited to certain industries. Check out the great infographic in this article by Leo Widrich. Ask yourself, “What do the colors in this design convey about our company? Are those messages consistent with our brand?” For example, our website design for wealth manager Cedar Hill Associates is primarily blue, creating a feeling of trust and dependability.
  • Design trends can help identify the right solution for your marketing materials. Designers read, listen and study to keep current on the latest design movements. That said, consider your audience. A cutting-edge look may be appropriate if you are marketing to a younger demographic. If your audience is more established, consider a more classic look for your piece. Also, take care to avoid mistaking yesterday’s trends for classic – just like in fashion, wearing a style that’s out of date can send a message that your company is outmoded.
  • Your text says more about your company than the words it conveys. Font choice can convey simplicity and objectivity. It can look bold and brash, or elegant and spare. Consider the splash Google made recently with its new logo. Just moving from serif to sans-serif was enough to prompt a wave of commentary in the design realm. As an example, check out the logo we created for New Food Strategies, which features a modern, slightly whimsical typeface to communicate the brand’s fresh, distinctive feel. Still uncertain? Smashing Magazine has a great article by Dan Mayer on the importance of choosing the right typeface.

Ultimately, know that you’re got us in your corner. We practice, study and road test these principles on a daily basis. Invariably, we are looking for the solution that makes you catch your breath … and that makes your clients sit up and take note of your company or product in the most compelling and positive way.

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