Monthly Archives: November 2006

ALA: “In Defense of Difficult Clients”

At the last agency I used to work for, there was a large poster that hung in one of the common areas that read “Next life, I’m coming back as a client!”We’ve all had our share of experiences with difficult clients — which may or may not be the same thing as bad clients. Bad clients are perhaps the types who don’t pay, pay very late, don’t respect boundaries (i.e. calling your cell phone at 11pm to discuss the most recent comp direction) or are verbally abusive.Difficult clients can perhaps be good clients if maybe uninformed clients or clients who are new to the design process. The excellent blog A List Apart has published (yet another) fantastic an insightful article entitled “In Defense of Difficult Clients”. In it, author Rob Swan writes:

These clients represent the ultimate test: They require that we explain why frames are bad. Why cross-browser compatibility is a serious issue. Why the use of ???????click here??????? is considered inappropriate. Why we now consider the web to be a medium in which vertical scrolling is acceptable. They test our knowledge and they test our patience.We all know why our methods are best practices, but can we justify them? Because there????????s no getting unjustified statements past these clients, and there????????s no bamboozling them with buzz phrases and marketing spiel. You have to justify each of your points in plain, simple English, whether it????????s a usability concern, a standards issue, or a design choice.

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The Design Community: talking to ourselves?

Mike Rohde, of the Rohdesign Weblog, was good enough to forward a wonderful article to me this morning. The article, The Thin PMS 185 Line, is an excellent critique of the graphic design industry written by Andy Rutledge.I’ve not read Andy’s writings before but something tells me I will in the future. Andy, apparently not one to waste time, begins the article with a bang in writing:

What follows is a critique of the traditional graphic design community and its various instruments, albeit from someone other than a traditional graphic designer. I don????????t write this article in order to bring ridicule upon graphic designers, but rather to shine a light on misguided practices and destructive ideals I want kept out of my own segment of the community ???????? interactive/experience design.

Wow! Nice preamble. Instantly I was intrigued. What “misguided practices”, or better yet, which ones? I, along with some of my podcast guests, have been critical of the design industry at times so I was interested to hear what his observations were. He goes on to write:

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Next week, podcasts resume!

Next week we’ll resume with the The Prepared Mind Podcasts! Thanks to all of you who have listened in the past and hopefully the latest podcast, #14 by now, will be heard by a few new listeners as well.We’ve got some really interesting guests lined up and I’m going to try and do them once a week but a lot is going to depend on the interviewee’s schedule. But I’ve got to say, it feels good to get back into podcasting again. Thanks also to those of you who have dropped me a line over the months and let me know that you’ve missed them. It should be exciting as I’m trying some new things in terms of the technology and format. Let’s see how it goes!.chris{}

Designing Democracy


It’s Election Day here in the U.S. and Americans across the country must decide between U.S. Senators, Representatives, state and local officials and numerous ballot measures. What’s interesting is that almost immediately, early this morning after voting began, reports about malfunctions with respect to voting machines began to come in from all over the country.Now for most who know me, there is little doubt about where I stand on political issues. That’s for other blogs, not this one. 😉 But regardless of which side you come down on, it seems like the richest and most powerful country on the planet ought to be able to get the process of voting correct! I mean, at this point, why not go the route of the Iraqis and get the ink pads out? You’d think that after the 2000 presidential debacle in Florida, that the most powerful country in the world would have figured out a way to get it right. Make sure that every vote counts. Make sure that the process of recording precious votes was flawless and rigorously tested.

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“Doesn’t strategy count?”

During our time with the ReBrand jury, an interesting concept arose during judging. Niti Bhan, one of the ReBrand judges and design thinker extraordinaire, had made the case for one of the entries that had not made it into our finalists from the day before. It was the feeling of most of the judges that the execution of brand was not up to the level we were looking for.“Doesn’t strategy count?” Niti countered. Her argument was that while the final execution may have been lacking, the strategy employed by the ReBrand had resulted in more close alignment with the way the target audience shops and increased overall sales. In the end, it was decided that the execution must rise to a certain overall level and while we were dependent on before-and-after sales figures from the contenstants, we had no idea that the increased sales weren’t due to other exterior circumstances such as a competitor going out of business, price-cutting or more favorable shelf space at a major retailer.But it was a very interesting question. “Does strategy count?” We designers probably have a great deal of experience beginning design projects for which very little direction was provided and few measurable criteria for success were established at the start. And when a sound, well-conceived strategy does exist, more than likely it was hatched and perfected prior to the involvement of the creatives — who are often brought in at the end to “make it pretty”.And how many times do we designers work up the perfect design brief at the start of a project and then procede to never refer back to it during the course of that project? Should a good strategy be rewarded despite a poor executation? Do we reward a good executation despite a flawed initial strategy?.chris{}

ReThink, ReVise, ReConsider, Re-Vote, ReDuce…

What a fantastic experience it was in helping to judge the next crop of ReBrand 100 winners for 2007!Anyone who is familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s excellent book “Blink” is familiar with the way humans employ “rapid cognition” in order to process information in the blink of an eye. Essentially, the art of making the types of snap judgements that in some cases can help us to return a tennis serve coming at us in under a second or in other cases may prevent us from walking down the dark alley where the 3 seedy-looking guys are standing.One could argue that in the case of branding, this type of rapid cognition is on text-book display, as we make snap judgements while walking down the grocery store aisle, interacting with a bank teller or dropping into our favorite coffee spot for a cup o’ joe.

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The Final Day of Judging

By now I’m back in NYC. Yesterday we spent the entire day narrowing down the field of 100 to the dozen or two dozen finalists we’d choose from today. Today, after much deliberation, we picked the “best of” finalists as well as the other entries we felt deserved to earn a “distinction”.If you think you’ll get a clue from me as to what the results were, think again! LOL! You’ll have to wait until the winners are announced! ;-)Having just recently arrived back in NYC, returned all my email and caught up on what’s going on at home, I’m fried and ready to zone out for a bit. Tomorrow I’ll summarize the experience and perhaps share a few thoughts.Until then!.chris{}