TURN THE ELEPHANT
We don’t recommend performing an appendectomy unless you’re an actual surgeon. You probably shouldn’t take an F1 car around the track at 200km/hour unless you’re a real F1 driver. And, unless you’re a structural engineer, don’t even think about building a tensegrity bridge.
It’s an age-old point and you probably think we’re going to say: ‘let us be the designers of your company report and do the job you pay us to do and, you do yours’. But it’s not that simple.
A good designer has a thorough understanding and appreciation of design principles and knows how to combine them to the best effect to meet the client’s brief. They know how to use the tools to clean up images, to create a delicate balance between positive and negative space, dark and light, texture, shape and form.
Some even know how to make bad copy and average images look great together, or have their own sense of style and can craft the bedazzles out of a Mac.
But is that enough?
There are books written and posters designed by precious designers that feature the odd requests by clients, usually met with an eye-roll. And while we’re sure that a mechanic will also roll his or her eyes when a client explains how to disassemble a Quad 4 on a ’95 Opel without taking the drivetrain out, they never seem to make a poster about it.
No, we can’t make the white person in the pic you gave us black, or make her look friendlier, or turn the elephant so that you can see its face. But it’s not really about us.
A truly great designer takes advice and input from a client seriously. Even while doing something as simple as a leaflet you may be the temporary custodian of the client’s brand, but get over it, you’re a salesperson. You’re not designing for Creative Review, you’re selling a product.
A great designer is often ‘born with it’. It’s important to know the principles but they know context and how the relationship of elements can affect the way the user reacts. They don’t follow rules of thirds and know instinctively the importance of flow without ever hearing of Feng Shui. They also know they’re creating the perfect space for their client’s customers’ to feel comfortable about what they’re about to experience. They’re crafting a sale and they can anticipate the consumer’s reaction to their work.
So, it’s not about who knows best or who has the degree in design, it’s about why the client isn’t comfortable about a particular layout or design. Because chances are if they’re uncomfortable looking at it, their customers may be uncomfortable too. If you can’t turn the elephant, know why the question was asked in the first place, save the eye-roll and find a suitable solution.
Read more on integrated reporting:
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DIGITAL ANNUAL REPORTS: ARE YOU BEING LEFT BEHIND
How to use a digital report to your advantage.