Present the idea not the execution


"It's just not right. Can we choose another image and change the colour to green? Also perhaps another message could be added. Why don't we try and illustration in there?"

Perhaps one of the most frustrating thing that can happen to a creative is to work on something they passionately believe in only to find that they do not get full buy-in from those who have commissioned them in the first place.

"They've changed the brief," says the visual designer.

"Its just not up to the standard I expected," says the client.

This happens time and time again leaving a bad taste in everyones' mouth and hours of wasted time in the gutter.

I want to argue that this kind of scenario is usually* the designers' fault. Before you hit the little 'X' at the top of your browser window think about this. What more could we do as creatives to help non-creative people appreciate the idea and realise our vision for the concept?

*there are always odd exceptions

Why do we imagine that we, on our own, will hold the answer to the clients problem? Why do we think that we should not involve them in our processes when it is them, and not us, that will ultimately sign off on the deliverables at the end. We delude ourselves if we think we can impose our ideas on others without collaboration with them.

There are three tips I want to share which I've found helpful to stop this kind of scenario playing out in creative teams and that move towards 'win-win' solutions for all those involved. See what you think:

Tip 1. Collaborate and be open to suggestions early

At the start of a project, its so important to involve intent owners early in the process. They will be agreeing the end deliverables so get them into those early creative meetings where the ideas are being formed. Allow them to help shape the idea and input at these beginning stages.

I like to get the team to present loads of ideas (even ones we consider as being weak) and critique them as a creative team with the intent owner present. Sometimes a weak idea can be helpful because it can confirm a teams thinking on what is "bad" so they can focus on what is "good". We encourage input to help us shape the evolution of the ideas.

Always be looking to add these sessions into the creative process. They give structure to a project and also help wider stakeholders to see the amount of work that goes into the creative process.

Tip 2. Sell the idea not the execution

When sharing early ideas with people always tell a story. Explain the thinking behind the idea and try and describe how you came to come up with idea. Why does it fulfil the brief from an emotional point of view?

Recently I was working with a designer who had been tasked with producing ideas of how we might present mid-yearly promotions for an internal-comms team. She had come up with a great idea for showing these like picture frames in a hallway. Tell the story, I told her. Get the intent owners to imagine we are a big family and, like in a real family, moments are celebrated. Certificates and photos are framed. Trophies are displayed. The power of this concept goes beyond execution and into the emotions.


A picture of me in action a few years ago presenting sketches at the early stage of a project with Boots.

Tip 3. Present sketches

At the early stages of a project the best way to sell the idea and not the execution is to present rough sketches and not polished computer generated design work.

These 'scribbles' allow viewers to use their imaginations. It allows themt o get involved in the idea. They are non threatening, there's scope to interpret, change and develop.

The problem with showing a fully designed up idea is that non creative people tend to focus on execution. Typeface, colours, even the shape of the nose of the person to the left of the picture and the type of car the person to the right is driving. Non-of these things are unresolvable from a design perspective but they detract from the real value of creative work - the idea which evokes emotion and communicates meaning.

You find that if you involve people through a process and get them to connect with the creative work early that these latter 'rejections' of polished work become a thing of the past.

So. My advice to all creatives out there. Resist the temptation to work in isolation. Invite people to come together. Get vulnerable. Share your ideas. Collaborate. Be open to new suggestions. Get out a pad and pen. Present the idea not the execution,


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