Depicting a conversation

Russian broadside or “lubok”I am sitting on the porch, guarded by my sentinels who are growling in their throats at the passers by. They are also perched high enough so they can make sure the rodent population know they are there and there will be no nonsense. The huge swell of heat yesterday was quickly relieved by Kitty, Alex and I submerging ourselves in the lake hitting the hot pockets of water on the top, and the more frosty climes below. After about an hour of just being absorbed by the lake, we were able to get on with the evening which to our pleasure cooled a bit such that now, it is a lovely place to sit and be surrounded by breezes and the blue view up the lake. Sleeping was perfect too, with the roar of the window fans helping out the motion from the outside.

Yesterday was a solid design day for me. I got the calendar publication knocked into this goes here and that goes there—a lego exercise of what is a two column and what copy is a one…and this is where a square finished image goes, and this is where a silhouette goes. Though it is the first phase, I was looking at orphans and widows, kerning and all that fun around the typesetting (that used to not be our jobs as designers). It was centering just to do the kind of design work that is like carpentry…one nail after the next, looking at relationships, moving on, tweaking the last two steps, moving on,and finally finishing up the layout and then, tweaking and touching the photos and logos, adding tone, adding rules, taking away stray objects, recropping photos. And then, miraculously, it was done. At least, done for now.

I had the fortune to sit in on another conversation with the big consulting firm on branding. I will not go into the details, but it stunned me that the very pointed input that the client provided in our last meeting was cherry picked insofar as what the firm thought was valuable. Not what the client, who though I am on their team, provided which was considerate, considered and quite broad —had much merit to this group. When asked about the two approaches they had worked up—the client asked to see the work that went into deciding that these were the definative directions and there were no sketches to be seen (I mean, even if there weren’t sketches, even if it was only two directions presented—I would scramble and say that yes, they could see them…let us get them together for say, tomorrow… and get them together). But NO seems to be the answer…and that the client seemed to not have much say in that. Plus, when asked directly why they hadnt applied the old mark to the new treatments, they were dismissed, saying that it was one of two directions…no gradients…. Oy.

Just to digress, it is a nice thing when there is a black or white solution to a problem, isn’t it? But as with people and the nature of people, it is rare when a design solution pops off the pen and both the client and the designer say together “YES”. There are a lot of gradients in this business. Sure, there are great design projects which tend to be either for enlightened clients or for clients that talk to visual people (like the good old days of paper promotions, or today— in software or high end products) so this sort of seamless “perfect design” work can happen. More often, the game of “guess what I am thinking” happens, and the designer presents an idea/a visual and the client is either close, not so close or far away in his/her concepts. Then it is a series of back and forths…”tell me about this, tell me about that, show me what you like, show me why you like it” to begin to drive toward the designer seeing through the client’s eyes. No amount of fancy presentations with lots of white space and bad legibility can gloss over this type of coming to understanding. More often than not, the work is work…and it may be good work, it may communicate, it may transcend the client’s original concept—but it may not be the pinnacle of a design career—if the pinnacle is perfection. But who is to define perfection? To the client, they may not understand what perfection is….(often the case), but they know what they like, they have an idea of the value and if the path to design is a valuable conversation where the client knows they have been heard, isnt this success? Good design is a snapshot of good communication, good conversations. It may not win prizes given out by designers to designers…but it may fill a business need to drive more understanding with their customers to drive sales to pay their bill and mine… This is me, tiny design business girl talking. To the big firms, its billing billing and billing. Client retention and true client understanding isnt part of the deal. The attitude is that the client has selected them as the consultant because they are the experts…and client be damned, they were going to push back as much as possible. Not my style.

Poor Rob. Remember yesterday and how hot it was? Guess where he spent his day in Toledo? No, it wasn’t in the hotel pool. No, it wasn’t in an air conditioned conference room. Rob spent the 100 degree day in a freaking glass factory  where it was 140 degrees…which though it was a veritable hades, he said he learned a ton and was so delighted to have reintroduced himself to these flat glass guys, and reeducated himself on the new world of flat glass. We will see him home tonight running to throw himself into Cayuga’s depths and become one with the liquid element.

I am giving myself a break from natural history books on bees, beekeeping and bee history. I am not done with that, but its time for a change. I love books about man/nature as one can lurk and learn without having to scale Mount Everest or go to sea on a whaling boat. Into Thin Air is the kind of book I am talking about. Or the Nathaniel Philbook (I’ll check this and post links later) books on the whalers. While tooling around on my Kindle, I ran into a jewel that I started last night and cannot wait to get back to,  James M. Tabor’s Blind Descent. Blind Descent is the story of the race to descend into the deepest supercaves in the world by two of the foremost cave explorers. So, it’s the ascent to Mount Everest with the lights off…and the magnitude of the landscape, the training, the gear, the personalities of the lead climbers promises great things. I spelunked a bit in college— and after really giving what I was doing some thought, I did not look back. Its pretty scary business…not what you see which is very cool and truly other worldly, but the journey is not a fun one…and honestly, for me, not worth the wonders. But this book is going to take me back inside the earth, and what a nice way to reflect on the race to travel within our earth…versus going beyond

The clock says, move on, Q. Another summer day awaits to try and understand what the client needs and wants, to have conversations to try to figure it out, and to anticipate the water at the end of the day. Onward.