Most transactions take collaboration to be successful. You must accurately describe your symptoms to a doctor in order to cure them. Same kind of exchange is true with a mechanic, banker, barista.
In our work we call this phase Research and Strategy. Collaboration is essential here.
If we don’t understand who you are, what you do, and why you do it, nothing that follows will make sense. So, we listen. Then, we reiterate what we hear. We incorporate feedback. From there, we develop a strategic direction.
Imagine walking into a barber shop. You sit down and say, “Just do whatever.” Your very sharp barber says, “You don’t mean that.” You think.
“Well, okay. I want to look like Brad Pitt in…really any movie.” Vague, right? Your barber looks at images on his phone.
“Okay, what I will do is make the back and sides pretty short. I’ll leave the top longer. And we have this pomade to comb it back.” Here, he describes his strategy.
At the point, the barber has listened and come up with a way forward. You aren’t going to tell him how to get there. He has proven to be competent and professional. Presumably, he knows which tools to use, and when.
You sit back, relax. And think about something else. Unless the barber deviates from the strategy, you are going to get up, grab the pomade, pay for the haircut and give him a tip.
Now this is a sticky point: people don’t think about design this way.
We are surrounded by designed things. And there is pressure to have an opinion on everything, even if we don’t understand the rationale behind the design choice. These days, we all have to be critics all the time. Maybe it’s a byproduct of too much choice.
After we present our research and strategy, we want a relationship with our client that allows us to use the tools (colors, fonts, shapes, words) at our disposal to execute the strategy. We act in your best interest.
This isn’t the time for collaboration. This is when we do what we do best. If our choices take the project off-strategy we do expect you to speak up.
But, really, we want you to sit back, relax, and do what you do best.