Tuesday I was supposed to take part in a roundtable lunch with a speaker. I signed up to dine with illustrator Eleanor Grosch. After meeting with the other six designers at the table (including the infamous “other Kelly Anderson” from Sports Authority) we started to eat our sandwiches, then our side dishes, then our desserts. Over 20 minutes in and Eleanor Grosch still hadn’t showed up. Finally, one of the event organizers came over and apologized that our speaker hadn’t showed up and invited us to go to another table. I decided to head two tables over to a speaker who had one guest and an assortment of TOYS! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I sat down, soon followed by the rest of my former table.
Our new speaker was Christopher Chapman, an in-house designer who worked for the company in charge of making merchandise for the Disney Store and the theme park gift shops. He was speaking at the In-Howse conference, which was why I hadn’t heard of the session he was having later in the day.
Despite working for a company like Disney, Chris’s challenges were similar to most other in-house designers: designers not being involved as early in the process as they should be; clients trying to design for them; trying to defend and expand the brand.
Chris’s solutions to his problems were very proactive. He recommended always involving the client, so they feel as so they are a part of the process, and they will be more likely to support and defend the final design. This also allows you to make changes earlier in the process, which saves significant time and effort on the designer’s part.
His next big idea was to educate your client. You can do so in a very straight-forward manner, or, my favorite option, give your clients design books for Christmas presents. He recommended Orbiting the Giant Hairball as a great gift for a new marketing manager or other business person who doesn’t understand the value of design and the design process.
Finally, he also pointed out that sometimes your client is right. It hurts the pride, but take a step back, look at the suggestion as if it had come form another designer and then decide if it’s a valid point. Just because your client didn’t go to art school doesn’t mean they can’t recognize a flaw in the design.
Overall, it was a great lunch, and I found myself actually happy that Eleanor hadn’t shown up. Chris gave everyone at the table a Vinylmation Micky toy (I got the Godzilla Micky) and some great recommendations for further reading on in-house design.