Dear non-design folks: back off.

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Martha Rzeppa

29. 11. 2013 | 3 min read

Dear non-design folks: back off.

3 mins left

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I don’t know about you, but I love great design. In whatever shape or form. Rand, Sagmeister, Rams, Eames, Ive, Wegner, Starck & the rest of you bunch – I love you all.

And luckily I am privileged enough to be surrounded by some of the most talented designers every day. (No, I am not blowing smoke up their bum. The probability that they’ll actually read this blog post is somewhere between very minimal and non-existent.)

Having said that, my life as an account gal is not the easiest. Within the agency, I need to represent the clients’ thoughts and ideas. And when talking to clients, I need to defend the designers’ thoughts and ideas. And sometimes these don’t quite match.

Clients love it when they get a revised design back where half of the changes have been ignored. They really feel listened to. They also love it when we are persistent – or stubborn – about what good design looks like. (It’s our job at the end of the day.)

Designers love it when a client moves elements from left to right on the page. Or wants to do something with this white space on the top right corner. Or just doesn’t like a design for an unexplainable reason. Or has a son or a friend of a friend who works in design and said during lunch that our design just doesn’t feel right.

And believe me, I’ve fallen into this trap myself many many times. Because I think I have an eye for design. Because I know that a certain design just won’t fly with the client. Because we haven’t entirely answered the brief. And because I know we can do better.

Deep down there’s a designer in me that wants to come out. And sometimes she does. I just can’t help it. How often do I catch myself suggesting different illustrations or colours? (One of my favourites is a magenta, R 212 G 15 B 125.) And how often do I get to hear that I should mind my own business? And they are right. Even though it’s hard to admit, I am NOT a designer.

Believe me, my intentions are only the best. I want to make the client happy. I want to help the designer to get to the solution more quickly. But by trying to design myself, most of the time I don’t get anywhere. It frustrates the designers to be told what to do. As much as it would frustrate me to not get enough freedom to do my job.  And let’s acknowledge that their job is tough. Too often, all they get is a brief, brand guidelines and some copy to work with. They don’t get the opportunity to get to know the client and the company as much as we do. Yet they need to produce top notch work (which we then often comment on based on our design expertise). And they deliver time after time after time.

The main lesson I’ve learnt in agency life is to leave the design to designers. As hard as it is. (Note to self: I am NOT a designer.) The greatest work is produced when we guide the designers from a marketing/ consumer’s perspective – to share the problem without giving away the solution. I tried that some time ago and it really works. Even though I often think I know the solution to a certain problem, almost every single time the guys surprise me with an even better solution. One I would have never thought of. And it’s a win-win. I get fantastic work and the designers get the respect and creative freedom they need to enjoy their job and produce fine work.

To cut a long story short, we need to stop being all over the designer’s work. Leave the design to designers. It’s their job. They are the pros. Our only job is to brief them. And guide them when we think they haven’t nailed the brief. Or misinterpreted some of the content.

So next time when you review a design, ask yourself: Does this change I am about to suggest really matter? Does it really make this piece better?

If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to let them do their job.

Published in:

  • B2B Content Marketing Agency

  • content-marketing

  • design

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  1. Ryan Skinner

    November 29th, 2013

    Nice Friday rant, but I’m not buying it!

  2. Ryan Skinner

    November 29th, 2013

    Sorry. Your commenting software cut off the important addendum, so – let’s try this again:

    Nice Friday rant, but I’m not buying it! (he said, while poking a designer with a stick)

  3. Martha Rzeppa

    December 2nd, 2013

    Ooops. My comment disappeared too.

    You are absolutely right. The designers made me write it. Word for word. (While poking me with a stick.)

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