Anyone can design a logo.

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georgeUnlike many professions being a designer that focuses on logo design is a profession that many people take for granted and think of it as something that, short of a few drawing and computer skills, is something they are qualified to do. The truth is designing logos is a niche skill that most designers aren’t very good at because it isn’t just a case of understanding what a customer wants and designing it for them it is understanding what works and providing the customer with a visual tool that pleases the customers eye and also achieves the required results for the customer. Ultimately a logo isn’t about the aesthetics of design or the reflection of a customer’s tastes it is about what works; and for most businesses a logo is the hardest working bit of graphic design that they will ever invest in.

One of the most difficult parts of designing logos is that every customer comes with a different set of challenges that I don’t often see until I place a finished design in front of them. The most egregious challenge I come up against is when I’m informed that the design doesn’t meet their expectations. The problem with expectations is that they are often the seeds of resentment so when a design doesn’t meet expectations I’m immediately to blame for their disappointment; my skills as a designer are called into question and suddenly I’m nothing more than a hack that doesn’t know what they are doing. This is the point at which I need to reassure my customer that I actually know what I’m doing and rebuild their confidence that they did hire the right person for the job. But occasionally a customer decides they know what is best, and instead of giving me the feedback I request, starts to provide specific direction to me. This kind of thing happens when I either haven’t done a good job understanding the customer’s wishes or failed to see the customer as a potential problem customer. Either way I’m usually to blame and have to figure out how to deal with the problem.

The thing that these unhappy customers don’t see is that they’ve discredited the guy that designs logos for a living and have suddenly decided they know what’s best because they know what they like; but recognizing quality work is not the same thing as understanding what makes it quality work. When this happens I’m left with the choice of either talking my customer down off a ledge or jumping off my own ledge by trying to satisfy their whims.

I wonder how many people are prescribed a line of treatment or a prescription by their doctor and tell the doctor he’s got it wrong… or go out for dinner and make it their job to personally instruct the chef on how to prepare their meal. Just because you don’t like a song that doesn’t make you a better musician than the person performing it. It really is a bizarre dichotomy that seems to be unique to the world of graphic design that some people feel that recognizing what is good is synonymous with being able to create it by directing someone else to do their bidding.

I understand that to be an entrepreneur requires drive, passion and a vision for what you want to achieve but it also requires an understanding of what your limitations are and the willingness to give control over to people that are better at certain things than you are. You have to be willing to listen to experts and rely on their expertise especially if that is why you have hired them; if you decide against something, that is fine, but you’re being foolish if you decide that being disappointed by someone’s work suddenly qualifies you as an expert in the field. Good design is a process and the best design usually occurs in an open dialogue between the client and the designer but if a designer doesn’t listen and fails to achieve the results you want, then by all means fire them and hire someone that knows how to listen; but keep in mind that just because you experience some turbulence doesn’t mean you are qualified to start piloting the plane.

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