Stumbled across this animated short on Vimeo and loved it, but found it even more inspiring when I saw that the artist posted a video of her process. It’s always great to see how someone else approaches a task.
I was especially interested in the fact that she animated the bridge by hand. No dynamics, just keyframes.
Instead of moving everything over, I’ve decided to leave the wordpress blog where it is. It will serve as sort of a time capsule for that chapter in life involving my stay at LifeChurch.tv. So, all of those old posts can still be found at bryanclark.wordpress.com - including old series designs, animation breakdowns, and a post or two about robots.
As I’ve talked to other designers and creatives about difficulties with clients (let’s face it: it’s what we do every time we get together), somewhere along the line I realized that many of the problems we face are easily remedied with a simple change in mindset.
So, if you are someone who works with creatives (designers, animators, video producers, writers, etc), here’s a little tip from our side of the fence – and if you’re the creative, try relaying this to your clients. I whole-heartedly believe that this single sentence can vastly improve your experiences:
Creatives are, at the core, problem solvers – so treat them as such.
Early in art school, I learned this simple truth from one of my professors: “As a designer, you must be a good problem solver.” It may seem like art & design is no more than making pretty pictures, but the reality is that every project we approach is, essentially, a series of specific problems that must be solved. Each problem contains a vast number of variables. Some are big picture variables (such as the goal, or the target audience), while others are more detail-based (such as paper size or running time).
An experienced creative knows this and finds an answer to all of the problems in a single solution. Often, the result is as delicately balanced as a house of cards. Each element is placed for a specific reason with numerous variables in mind. As the client, it’s easy to look at a finished piece and decide to make “a few tweaks,” without realizing that your specific requests may cause the whole balance to come crashing down.
So, how can you apply this idea? Here is my best advice:
Structure your feedback in the form of a problem, not a solution.
This is big. It’s the magic fairy dust that can make everything better. When changes need to be made, one sure way to hinder the process is to format the feedback incorrectly. When that first proof arrives, it’s natural to spot a problem and then try to fix it. Unfortunately, that’s the wrong response.
You’re paying a creative to solve the problem for you; so, for the sake of your project, let them solve it. They (should) have the knowledge and experience that qualifies them to find the best solution. They also know why they’ve strategically placed every wall in your house of cards, so they know which walls need to stay and which ones can go.
So, instead of “make that blue,” your response should be “we don’t think that color works.” Instead of “make this bigger,” try “this isn’t prominent enough.” It’s a subtle shift, but it frees your designer to do what he or she does best. Otherwise, you limit their ability to give you the best solution, and make their job harder by forcing them to fit a square-shaped request into a round hole.
So, try it next time. Even if you’re no stranger to working with creatives, you might improve something. And, creatives, don’t forget to treat yourself as your clients’ problem solver, either. That’s your job.
As a designer, I frequently ask people for their opinions of the pieces I’m working on. It’s a pretty necessary part of the design process, but the reality is that not all of the feedback people give is helpful. So, how do you know which critiques are valid, and which you should dismiss?
For years, I agonized over this question with each project. Finally, I landed on something that significantly lessened the amount of stray, irrelevant responses I received. So, here are some thoughts that have helped me over time. Maybe they’ll help some of you, as well.
The big issue with searching for feedback is this: Once you ask someone for their opinion, they are immediately no longer your target audience.
Think about it. When you ask someone to give their thoughts on a design, you’ve just made them a part of the process, and they begin to view your work in ways that your target audience never will. Most people will genuinely want to help, and even feel pressure to do so. There’s a natural sense that, if they DON’T find something to criticize, they will be letting you down. So, they look for something, whether it’s really an issue or not, until they find it.
In order to get more honest, unadulterated results, we need to remove the pressure to “find something wrong.” The best way I’ve found to do this is to ask more direct questions.
Ideally, I try to ask a “yes” or “no” question first (“Do you understand what this is trying to communicate?” or “Does this look like something you would wear/buy/etc?”). Depending on the response, I may move to a question with a broader answer (“What message does this send to you?” or “What feeling do you get from the colors?”). This gives people a way to respond easily, which satisfies their need to help, and doesn’t put them on the spot to find something wrong. It also allows me to get the answers I need for particular questions I have. Most importantly, it still leaves the door open for people to point out anything that truly is causing a legitimate unexpected reaction, which is what I’m looking for in the first place.
Just be careful not to be too leading. You still want to keep it fairly vague, because you can easily sway their feedback if you don’t.
For years, I solicited feedback by saying as little as possible, believing that saying too much would skew my results. I would often ask no more than “what do you think of this?” and wait for a reaction. Since using this method, however, I’ve found that the responses I receive are much more helpful. It’s a subtle change, and I hope it helps you as much as it has me.