There’s a lot of psychobabble and plain old rubbish out there on how graphic designers should approach creating work for a new client or new design brief. Of course, this comes up very frequently with respect to the design students I teach. The questions I’m asked usually include: ‘what do I do first?’, ‘where do good ideas come from?’ or ‘how do I know if my idea is right?’.
My approach is always the same – gather information. What do I know and not know? A well-prepared client will have written a design brief, containing a lot of useful information about the current circumstances and perceptions and aims etc that a proposed piece of work must address.
But that’s not enough. For me, good design starts with a good chat.
I almost always ask potential clients these kinds of questions about their business or organisation:
Why did they start it?
What makes it special?
What do customers say about it?
What are their ambitions for it?
What do people think now, and (if required) how should those perceptions be changed?
Yes, this process is partly about establishing trust. But, more importantly, it’s about teasing out of people the nuggets of information a designer needs to stand a chance of producing design work that is meaningful, useful and helps to change perceptions.
Regardless of whether design work is for a commercial company, organisation or charity, that is what design is for.