20 Dec Identity CrisisReading Time: 2 minutes
“Pro Se” they call it in court, and the proverb goes, “the man who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The same goes for graphic design in a small business. Graphic Design is basically problem-solving in 2 dimensions. The reason you can’t do a good job of it yourself is that there is no problem for you to solve. At the point at which you conceived of the business, you absolutely get it. You may well be the only one who gets it. You need no graphic solution to interpret it to yourself. It exists so strongly in fact that you can functionality articulating it in a product. The message resonates with you because it originates with you. To make that brand conception relevant to the rest of the world, you need an adversary: A reality check and a provocateur who can prod you to push beyond the personal boundaries of your idea, rein in your more extravagant excesses and create engagement around the core concept. Without an adversarial process, one cannot arrive at the boldest possible solution necessary for the greatest, most compelling, and best-differentiated expression.
When collaborating with creative design experts, I like it best when they are the voice of reason and we, as the client, are the raving lunatics. I think good graphic designers might prefer it that way too. Having worked as a designer for a number of years and seen my best and brightest children slain on the altar of the status quo, I am nostalgic about those clients who said they wanted something that discomfited them and meant it. Even better when they rejected most of my first round of concepts as too docile and unchallenging.
That’s where we are now. We gave crowd-sourcing a try and wound up with something that solved the problem but didn’t engage. What the crowd-sourcing process lacks is the conflict and interplay between the designer and the client. A hundred monkeys sitting at a hundred drafting tables may never come up with the graphic identity one is looking for. Two monkeys chained at the wrist and armed with clubs just might. What may be missing in that process is the adversarial relationship that tempers the steel and forges something new out of dreams and dross. Perhaps we didn’t conceive the problem largely enough or position ourselves extremely enough. Let’s give lunacy a try. We have a novel way of looking at social networks; we need a novel way of expressing it.