Each of us has rules to live by. We violate those rules—or commandments—at our own risk. Following is my list of Ten Commandments for the Design Consultant. See what you think.
Enter your client’s world quietly and with an open mind. Let your client know that you want to know — about how things get done, about the newspaper, about needs, about resources. Ask the questions you must to understand what your client expects of you. Never be afraid to ask the “stupid question.” The fact that others never asked it may be one of the reasons you‘re there in the first place. You may be the first one who dared.
Give your client the benefit of your experience by offering your perceptions about the paper, about needs, about resources. Be frank, but do not be threatening. Once into a redesign, continue to update your client on the status of the process and the level of quality. Your honest assessment is important.
Some of the people you will work with do not want you there. Some of the people you will work with do not want a redesign or know how to make it work. Some of the people you will work with do not believe in the boss, in you, or in the redesign. Some of the people you will work with do not believe in themselves. You must motivate them. You must energize them. You must make them believe in themselves — in their ability to achieve a high-quality, lasting redesign. When they believe in themselves, they will believe in you — and in the redesign.
4. Keep in mind that you were hired for what you know.
Your client expects you to create, to originate, to lead, to guide. Your client does not want you to “go to school” using the newspaper as a learning tool, but understands that creativity, questioning and experimentation are most often the keys to successful solutions.
5. Remember there’s always someone who knows more than you.
Seek out the wisdom that is waiting for you when you walk through the doors of your client’s building. Inside that building are hundreds of years of experience and insight. Take advantage of that — the best solution to a vexing problem may be standing in front of you, gripping a pencil in her teeth, pulling out a pad and picking up the phone.
6. Keep focused.
Other influences often clamor for your attention during the redesign process. You’re often tugged one way or another. Your job is to create an attractive, practical redesign. Keep your mind on your mission.
7. Be a teacher.
You cannot expect a redesign to endure unless you prepare your client’s staff to do it themselves. One of the best ways to prepare them is by including them in the process. Train them in the principles and techniques of design, typography and color. Give them a style guide and train them to use it. Teach them as you redesign — and teach them what they can do — not what they cannot do.
8. Do your homework.
You cannot prepare your client’s staff unless you are prepared. Keep up with your reading. Attend whatever workshops and seminars you can. Observe what you can from others. Be a student of newspapers. Keep in touch with all design: fashion, automotive, architectural and the like. Look for the fine, not the fad.
9. Go away
The moment will come when you have completed your work. Prepare for it. Savor it. For when that moment comes, you will know that you have done your best and it is time to go. The moment is bittersweet, much like the moment when you send your first child off to school — the child is growing, and must grow now without you. If you stay, you’re in the way.
10. Do it for the love of it…or do something else.