It is essential that clients are involved in the creative process. I do a lot to encourage involvement as it increases the client’s investment and trust in the process. I do have my limits, though, and brainstorming with clients is definitely one of them.
As an identity designer for twenty years, I can quickly evaluate ideas. Experience allows me to imagine what a rough idea may look like once refined, to imagine its use for different mediums, the issues it may encounter, and to know if I have seen something similar before. I am quick at doing this, but no way quick enough to do it while a client is sitting across the table from me. I fear that a really bad idea will come out of my mouth before I have the chance to edit it. Worse than the bad idea coming out is the thought of a client jumping on it and hanging on for dear life.
I don’t spend time thinking about ideas until I have gathered information and reviewed it, asked more questions, done more research, fleshed out a creative brief and direction, and created a mind map and a vocabulary for the project. Even at that point I don’t think brainstorming works for logo design. For me, logo design is an exercise in minimalism, balance, and abstract forms. It is something that doesn’t lend itself to discussion but rather to exploration and experimentation on paper by one individual or a number of designers working individually and then coming together.
I believe clients risk damaging the value of the final deliverable by being involved in the early visual stages of logo design. I recommend that instead of focusing on ideas, they influence the design through information. The time they spend providing information is much more valuable than time spent throwing around ideas with me.
Perhaps brainstorming with a client works for other designers and for other forms of graphic design. Does it ever work for logo design?
Steve Zelle is a logo designer and consultant with over twenty years’ experience working with clients. Based in Ottawa, Canada, he operates as idApostle and is the founder of Processed Identity. You can reach him through his website or on Twitter.