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Blank Paper Syndrome

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Ad for TMC Youth

Here’s another ad I have done for the Christian Science Publishing Society..this one is for TMC Youth, the part of the church that my roommate Ariana works for.

I was up until 4:15 am last night working on this, and have been working on it late every night all week. Looking at it with fresh eyes today, I already see a bunch of stuff I want to modify, including the title. I think that it fights with the other text too much, esp. the “college and university” part of it.

Ariana and her colleagues at TMC Youth have been in close contact with me on this, mainly because I live with her. Ari and I had hammered out a concept on Saturday and Sunday night. Then,I began to work on it Monday, fully prepared to present a semi-final proof to them today (Friday). The ad is due sometime next week.

Ariana has been trying to sneak a peek over my shoulder the entire week while I’ve been working on it. She even went so far as to ask me to send whatever I had completed at the end of each day I worked on it into her boss so that he could take a look at it. She says he wants to “just be a part of the creative process” which translates to me as: “wants to make sure he will be happy with how it turns out so he’ll be commenting on it every step of the way.”

I flatly refused to allow that to happen. Honestly, what self-respecting freelancer would agree to such a thing? Maybe if I was an inhouse designer for TMC, but I’m freelancing! Heck, my boss, Justin, at Kennard Design, (my studio full-time job) doesn’t even request to see my design every step of the way. We talk up front, he gives me input and we discuss ideas, and then he leaves alone me to work on it until I request his advice, which is always plentiful, for better or worse (better for my learning, worse for my ego, haha).

I think that constantly reporting every step of a design process to a client is a counter-productive way to work, because whoever commissions the work obviously can’t read my mind. They may not be able to understand my design process, because it’s not always linear. I wouldn’t want someone seeing something in a unfinished state and then requesting that I make a lateral adjustment to my design before I had a chance to present the finished and whole concept. If the client is allowed to make these sorts of unsolicited judgement calls throughout the design process, it no longer is my vision. Rather, I become just a pair of hands working for the client. Design done this way can take so so long. You don’t want to pay my rate if you’re going to to that! If you do, I’ll be tempted to double the rate out of spite.

Just get someone who works with you to do it for you! Then you can make as many changes as you want, to make sure it expresses your vision. To have two completely different people and different minds, a freelance designer and a client, competing creatively, can be disasterous.

My boss always says, and this is a pearl of design wisdom, that if a design is tailored to make everyone in the client’s company happy, it usually has to be dulled down so much to appease everyone that it ends up being boring, or worse, unclear and just all-around poor. When you have a mish-mash of several different visions, how can the final piece be good? Good design is about singularity and clarity, not making sure Tom from Accounting likes the colors! (Not that TMC Youth has said or done any of this at all…I’m speaking from a general perspective. I haven’t received any feed back from them yet, aside from Ariana’s unrevealing comment, posted below..so I don’t want to pin this unfairly on them…I’m just taking in general). I’m not saying that everyone can’t agree on a good concept, I’m just saying that design doesn’t need to appease everyone’s aesthetics or everyone’s idea of what the final product should be.

I just want to make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen with TMC Youth, because, ..1, because I think they’re a great company, and ..2, they’re still a fledgeling devision of the church and their work is so important for the future of Christian Science. I want to help them succeed. Plus, of course, I want them to have faith in me and my experiece as a designer.

Not like indecision in creative conception is in any way uncommon. At my day job, we have clients like that do this all the time: They don’t know what they want…they just want it to look good. At first, during the initial phase, they have little or no opinion or direction as to what they’re envisioning for the piece. Then, when you show them the first proof, lo and behold, they’re suddenly overflowing with all kinds of Important Opinions.

I’m not saying that’s bad or deplorable, or even that I’m above doing that myself; it’s just simply human nature to react that way. Visualizing a final piece can be difficult, it’s the “Blank Paper Syndrome”. White paper, or a blank screen, whichever you’re working with, can be terrifying, esp. for the novice, or a client who isn’t knowledgeable with the design basics. However, when you fill the paper with something, anything, you suddenly narrow the possibilities to a single track, and then people can make informed decisions and constructive criticism.

I mean, I complain when others do it, but I do it too. Everyone does. It’s just difficult to be on the side where you’re the designer, and expectations of your work run high, but unstable, you know?

I also have refused to show the advertisement to Ariana until today, despite her piquant curiosity. It’s kind of cute and a little flattering that she wants to see it so badly, but I didn’t want to run the risk of her forming an incomplete opinon on it that would be hard to change later. First impressions are lasting, right? I just wanted to make sure it was all ready and up to my standards before it made any sort of irrevocable negative impression on her.

Anyway I think Ariana has felt a little bad about pressuring me since we’re such good friends, but I know she is feeling pressure from her work. And, as a result, she has been very respectful of my wishes not to show it to her, but that doesn’t stop her from asking every day. Anyway, I at least appreciate her respectin my decision to not show it to her.

However, I am beginning to think my secrecy has had a negative effect. Because I wouldn’t let her see it as I was working on the it, despite repeated requests from her, I think I unintentionally started to build up an unnessecary aura of mystery around the ad. Today, when I sent it to her at work, I wasn’t there to see her reaction when she first viewed it this morning. But, she simply replied via email:

Thanks for sending over the file. It looks good. Ill let you know what the team thinks.

It might be just the lack of sleep talking (only 3 hours, which darnit, she really appreciated my staying up late and even offerend to drop by with an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts), but her reaction seemed tepid, at best. Then again, it’s always hard to tell intonation and exact emotion over email, you know? Plus one doesn’t get the benefit of reading the body language. I am now worried that I built up the mystery too much by not allowing her to see it, and, as a result, may have caused her initial viewing of it was anti-climatic. Where do I go from here, now?

When we started, she said she trusted me implicitly, I really hope I haven’t let her down!

Anyway, we’ll see what she and the rest of the people TMC Youth have to say about it later (I know all of them personally, so hopefully they’ll be kind?). After all of this, I think I’ve decided it’s probably wise not to do work-related graphic projects for people you live with. Yes,that’s the lesson I’ve learned here. This has been a lot of fun to do, but their rush time constraints combined with her repeatedly asking to see the ad, or just knowing she’s in the other room, wondering if I’m working on it, have made me just a little anxious and these last few days have been little stressful. I hate being rushed and I generally work at a slow and meandering pace.

Ack, what if she doesn’t like it? I certainly wouldn’t want this silly little ad to cause any weirdness between us. Ariana is such a good friend and I depend on her like I depend on family, so I have to make sure this doesn’t cause a rift. The other risk I run is that if the TMC Youth team hates the ad, it could reflect poorly on Ariana. They had originally slated Tad Weber to design the ad, who is a designer for the Christian Science Journal. He’s a decent designer, and also a friend of mine, but Ariana said they should use me instead for this project…Which is totally flattering, because she told me it was not because we are roommates that she chose me for this, but honestly because she thought I would be better suited for this project. Man, that is a tall order to fill!

I’ll be glad when it’s over.

—–

Currently listening to: Peace Love & Death Metal by Eagles of Death Metal

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Written by pocheco

May 5, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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