Do designers speak English? (and other myths)

Okay, here’s the problem.

As an eager to please designer, I’ve worked hard on a concept that feels like everything the client has described to me. I have a good understanding of the target consumer, value proposition, core message and a visual design to match. But the client doesn’t like it. Why? It looks amazing, but it’s just not “constrained” enough.


I like your logo, see how it feels “constrained”?

You keep using that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means. In fact, it’s just not that word, it’s any word that has nothing to do with design. But then the question is, how is a client is supposed to describe a design? They have no education or experience in the manner and it’s my job to try to understand what they want.

At this point I turn into an optometrist, comparing designs ‘one’ and ‘two’ for them to describe and for me to understand what is ‘constrained’. Now if I wanted to have a good laugh I could put together the list of comical words I’ve gotten and post it on clients from hell. But that still doesn’t solve my problem, or the client’s problem.

Can we come up with a universal way to describe artwork? Because English isn’t working.

The thing that I’ve learned most about art is that it’s usually just based on emotion and personal attribution of a color, shape or font to a childhood memory. So don’t explain to designers how a design looks, rather explain how it makes you feel. For example, if a certain logo doesn’t work for you, tell me what kind of company it might belong to, and how yours is different.

At the end of the day all visual cognition is based on reference, like when dots and a curve are recognized as a smiley face. If we can establish that reference point by extracting the idea behind a design, we can know which direction to go from there. I find, most often, when a client isn’t happy with a logo design, I haven’t fully grasped or understood the idea they’re after. Luckily for me, ideas are easily described in English.


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