Color Between the Lines
My husband and I were driving to a meeting. On our way we stumbled onto the topic of design and development work. Since my area of expertise is more marketing focused, I couldn’t lend much to the conversation other than to listen.
Here’s what I caught…
“Design and development works best when people are given clear constraints.” he said. “At the risk of reducing my job to a child’s hobby — it’s like coloring in a coloring book versus painting freehand.”
“Without constraints, it takes longer to get to your end goal and you usually find yourself wasting valuable time on unnecessary revisions. If you have a pre-drawn image to color within, getting creative inside pre-determined boundaries you waste less time making revisions and free up more time to work on your color combinations.”
Why this came as a surprise…
Until very recently, I had very limited exposure to designers. My first encounter with a designer was as a marketing specialist for a large corporation. From my perspective, I’d assumed designer meant artist, artist meant creative and creative meant freedom. Pepper in the fact that I was working in a company with an in-house design team which provided no collaboration between the creative and marketing departments and BLAMMO…I assumed our designers had done these projects a thousand times before and didn’t need some newbie specialist walking in, trying to hold their hand through a simple email campaign.
My first conversation with my designer went something like this:
“Jeff, I have to create an email campaign about galoshes for dogs. Get me some mock-ups. I need them on my desk by Tuesday at 5p.m.”
Ok, it’s an extreme example but you get the idea…
Poor Jeff just got left in the lurch. He has no idea what the premise behind the galoshes campaign is, no idea of the call to action, no idea, the customer challenge and that doesn’t even scratch the surface…
He’s left to his own devices to find my answer…
Needless to say, Tuesday rolls around and surprise, surprise, my designs don’t hit anywhere near the mark. So we spend more time going back and forth in iteration until we’re completely out of budget and the campaign gets sacked.
No problem, I think, next time I’ll nail it….False. I make a massive swing in the opposite direction.
“Jeff, here are links to some glossy, heinous CTA buttons. I want the shade of orange that the sunset is at around 7:05 p.m. on April 18th at the 49th parallel.”
This is way too much, makes zero sense and Jeff’s now really pissed off. He’s a designer for crying out loud. He doesn’t need a marketer telling him how to do his job.
If you’ve been here too I encourage you to read this great book called, “Design is a Job,” by Mike Monteiro (@mikeftw) Design Director and Co-Founder of Mule Design Studio. Yes, it’s a book about design — web design more specifically, but it’s riddled with helpful tips that any professional can take away.
There’s a section in the book that makes a good point about clients and designers that I’ve used to help find that balance between design and marketing department expectations.
“Like a good doctor can put you at ease with a sensitive bedside manner and care with professional terminology, so must a good designer cultivate a productive means of getting the necessary information from their clients.”
Designers love their boundaries, but they also know how to make good decisions. Give them the lines to color inside, then get out of the way.
As a product manager or marketer that means it’s your job to give the designer the customer challenge, goal and copy along with any other basic info they’ll need to color in between the lines and that’s it.