Picture the scenario: You get given a great logo design brief from Client A. You take on the project and submit some ideas. One gets chosen, developed and finally delivered. The client is delighted with their new logo and your work makes a positive buzz in the design press. Everyone is happy and the project was a success.
High fives all round.
A month or two later, Client B is in need of a logo. They do some initial research, discover the work you did for Client A and give you a call. “We love the logo you did for Client A. It was brilliant! Can you do the same for us?”. Of course, you oblige and take on the job. You answer the brief to the best of you abilities and are pleased with the work you present. But Client B is less happy. “What you did for Client A, that’s the kind of thing we were after. Can you make it more like that?”. Obviously you want to keep your new client happy, so you incorporate elements from the previous design. It’s not exactly what you would have done, but it’s a decent compromise. The client likes the direction it’s going, but the reason they got in touch in the first place was because of that amazing work you did for Client A. After to-ing and fro-ing with the client a number of times, you settle on a design which sits somewhere between the original response to the brief, and a direct rip off of your previous work the client was hoping for.
It’s a theoretical scenario, and one that is rarely quite so straight-forward, but it is something that working designers need to be aware of. If a piece of your work is successful and gets recognition, it’s reasonable that a paying client will want to replicate that success for themselves.
Design Week recently unveiled a new logo by Neville Brody which commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Japanese Musical instrument company Yamaha. The first thing we noticed when we saw the design was it’s striking resemblance to Brody’s previous work for the 175th Anniversary of The Royal College of Art.
Now, the point of this post isn’t about critiquing the logos themselves or even commenting on how the final results were arrived at. Without any knowledge of the brief and design process it’s not for us to say. but it’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen and it does raise questions.
Producing successful design work is most likely the aim of any designer. But dealing with client requests to do more of the same can be a dangerous thing. Before you know it, you fall into the trap of re-working the same one hit wonder, regardless of what’s right for the brief.
Is it something that can be avoided? Perhaps. But it does take time and effort. As with the majority of things in a designer / client relationship, it simply comes down to trust – Getting the client to the point that they’re able and willing to trust your judgement and let you do what you feel is right, regardless of whether it’s what they’re expecting or not. Like most relationships in life, the trust in a relationship between a designer and client needs to be earned over time, and it goes both ways. There are times when both parties will be required to take a leap of faith which allows the partnership to continue moving in a positive and productive direction. It’s our job as one half of this equation to explain what we’re doing and why, in a way that allows the client (who may or not be familiar with our creative little world), to feel involved, comfortable and happy that we are the people who should be making these decisions.
Design is a strange profession in that those paying for the service are required to be involved in the decision making process more so than they might be in other transactions. When buying a meal, the customer doesn’t pop in to the kitchen to add some seasoning. But whilst a bad meal might potentially ruin a night out, a poorly executed piece of design, could ruin the profitability of an organisation. These higher stakes do make it easier to understand why a client would want to replicate something they know is already successful. Explaining that repeating a previous performance won’t necessarily achieve the best result is something that may well fall on deaf ears unless you have gained the all important trust.
There are times, however, when the client is right. Even if they’re most definitely not. Design is a service industry and although it’s our job to push the brief, offer sound advice and make the client feel safe, sometimes, it’s simply not enough. Sometimes, the person paying for the product will dictate what that product is. To say the least, this can be a frustrating position to be in, but one that most designers will have to deal with at some point.
Is this an issue you’ve experienced? Is it even an issue? If the client wants a ‘remix’ of an existing piece of your work – is there a good reason you should resist? Where do the lines start blurring between having a house style and re-hashing used ideas?
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.
Phil and Tom