Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can we eliminate “Compromised Design” in this world?

I was forwarded this (old) stirring article by Andy Rutledge, titled “Compromised Design” recently. I’ve heard this before – from an agency head, from stubborn designers/visualizers, from client servicing people and even from some “clients”. This is a topic that is close to everyone’s heart, particularly people who are in design agencies or people who are churning out the “creative” work.

From the article: “Compromise is the refuge of the inept and weak–minded. It can be described in sugarcoated terms and even associated with lofty ideals for the purpose of misdirection, but compromise is nothing less than failure.”

This I agree with – compromises, or reaching middle ground on design or copy is a failure. It’s either a failure of the person giving the brief to articulate his/her needs, or the failure of the designer in understanding the brief, or a failure of the designer to execute his or her idea well.

But, isn’t this an intrinsic part of people working together? Isn’t this conflict bound to happen because of people’s differences in exposure, education, backgrounds and work experience? So then why do designers/visualizers/client servicing people moan and groan when their work is not immediately liked, approved and shot off to production? Why do clients insist on unfathomable, sometimes even idiotic changes and then go and ruin everything?

Visit Andy's site - He's got a lot of very interesting articles!

Sure, there are times when no compromise is needed at all – when it all clicks into place instantly. No, this isn’t an unachievable utopia - it has happened to me a few times. I either delivered something that was approved and shot off to production with zero modifications, or I received something from an agency that worked so well that I didn’t want to change a thing.

“Compromised Design” happens to us. Everyday, if you’re involved in communication. How do you try and avoid it? Get or give a detailed, articulate brief. Understand the unwritten/unspoken brief as well – the true purpose of creating what you’ve been assigned. Calibrate the client’s expectations with your own delivery capability. Follow a bunch of best practices.

Sure, there are all these ways to avoid design compromise all the time, and be like Howard Roark and “stay true” to your creation. In a perfect world, maybe doing all that for every single assignment would be possible. But its not a perfect world, it happens to the best of us, and it can be frustrating. Just keep reminding yourself: Conflict is good, and a lot of times the result of compromised design is actually pretty good.


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