“but in giving their clients exactly what they asked for… that was their downfall.”

— “Creators of Beloved Peacock Logo on NBC's New Look: Yuck!” by Stephanie Orma

As a practicing professional designer and creative director having created work for clients huge (Microsoft) and tiny (Bimbo’s 365 Club) throughout my career, I find that above quote to be idealistic and naive. It comes from a Co.Design article about Chermayeff & Geismar’s reaction to Wolff Olins’s recent redesign of the NBC Universal logo.

In the real world, our job as designers is to put forward our best recommendations based on the client’s objectives. Of course we try to come up with solutions that are strategic and well-crafted and that will resonate with our client’s intended audiences. These days, to present the one and only solution as Chermayeff & Geismar did with the updated NBC logo in the 1980s or what Paul Rand did with the NeXT logo is a near impossibility, especially with large corporations who are likely paying six figures or more for a comprehensive redesign.

The design process is ultimately a collaboration between the client and the designer or design firm. Ideally trust is built between the two entities. Designers must trust that the client knows their business intimately. And clients must trust that the designer is an expert in branding (or whatever the area of the assignment is). I have found that the final product is often better when that trust is there.

Sometimes for whatever reason that trust isn’t developed and there is only so much convincing we designers can try to do. In the end—to be practical businesspeople—we must know when to stop pushing the client since they are the one signing the check. As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”