Client-based work

Ah, it’s been a while since I’ve worked for a real client.

Our projects this week had an entirely new spin than anything else we had so far done. Knowing that an actual potential client would evaluate our work and perhaps choose to expose it to thousands of people provides a little more incentive to create a clear, compelling message. The greatest challenge in such a situation is often to produce a piece of communication that is both compelling and also agreeable to the client.

There have been times in the past when I have run into situations where what was clearly a better choice ran counter to something a client wanted. It is at this point that visual rhetoricians have to decide who they’re actually serving: Are they interested in getting paid, or doing it right? When does doing it right really matter — is it moral, or just about pride? And how do you strike a balance?

In one case, I convinced a client (a humane society) to use more pictures of animals. The society wanted to project a very professional look and so didn’t want to include photos of animals — but this was central to their mission. We compromised and came up with a document that was both cuddly and sophisticated.

In another case, working on a brochure for an engineering firm, I received explicit instructions on what to include in the document. In this case, the audience was specialized and I, as a layperson, could do little more than take direction and employ my design skills to best effect.

My point, I suppose, is that it’s vital to communicate with clients. You may be able to create a better product if you can loosen their limitations. Or, they might teach you a thing or two. In rare cases, it might turn out that the client’s prescriptions are unpalatable enough that the partnership can’t work out — echoing Rock’s worries. His essay, although pretty abstract and vaguely reminiscent of something out of a superhero movie (“Peter, with great power comes great responsibility”) does strike a chord. In order to work in the field of visible rhetoric, one will also have to be able to work with people.

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