Often people have a very literal idea about what they want others to see in their visual(s). It is what has meaning to them in relation to how they themselves see something, not in relation to what their customer sees and will understand. When we talk about a design (or a brand) meaning something or having significance beyond its obvious face value, it is the conceptual meaning we are talking about that is conveyed through the visual.
Assuming a client needs a visual that has meaning to its purpose…. How are designs done based on a concept? They clearly come from allowing the client to reveal the concept. Begin by engaging the client. They will tell you what you need to know if you *LISTEN*.
Mad Men fans will appreciate Roger Sterling’s wisdom when he said, “It’s about listening to people and never saying what’s really on your mind.” Roger is a wise man. I appreciate his wit and wisdom.
Help your client open up by asking questions related to their ideas about the company and specifically the project and its intent. The better you know the client, the easier this is. Make an effort to get to know them and observe how they communicate.
This brings to mind Roger Sterling’s wisdom again, “I don’t know if anyone ever told you that half the time this business comes down to: “I don’t like that guy.””
Listen listen listen. Look for the concept in the descriptive words they use. Find out what the clients own customers say.
Once the concept is clearly distilled, defined or identified, the design solution is not far behind. It is all in interpretation so to be sure you are receiving this idea clearly, repeat it back to the client. “So when you say…. Is this like….. ? Or do you mean….?”
For me it is like a lightning bolt hits me. It comes from the client and it’s exciting when the realization occurs that this is a viable core concept we should build on.
If the project involves a group, it is the same thing, except with more people. If they dont see eye to eye, it is your job to define the commonalities they do agree on and build a concept around them.
You might have a great idea you want to try or you may want to design something to win awards and accolades but this is not necessarily the way to achieve a positive experience for your client.
As we like to say, we see it when you say it.