A few years ago I had a discussion with a fellow designer about subjectiveness and how it relates to design. He was in the school of thought that there is none. Composition, color theory and other design principles are in stone and there is really no room to adapt around these elements. To a certain degree, he is correct. There is a visual hierarchy and balance that need to be adhered to in order to make a successful design. However, there is one important factor that can (and most often) trump the best design. The client.
So, what do you do when have a paying client that wants what he or she wants? People in my field and in my head-space often have to deal with "right-brainers" who are not visual and see design as a goal and not a process. They often look to their peers, competition, and (gulp) family members to assist, advocate and advise them on what will make a good, quick and affordable design.
The curse for people like us "creatives' is sensitivity. We latch on to ideas the moment they come to us and adopt them faster then my wife on a dog shelter bender. We become emotionally invested in what we work on and the start of creating something from nothing is intoxicating. In an effort to spare myself rejection and the inevitable trip back to the drawing board I resort to an old, reliable tactic from my childhood. Escape to a Fantasy World.
After careful contemplation and a few stiff drinks one day, I chose the world of James Bond to deal with clients. This does not give me a License to Kill, but rather allows me to segregate and identify key players in the mental realm of plausible deniability. For me, I envision myself as the one, true James Bond - Sean Connery. (You can chose your own 007, but if you choose Timothy Dalton, I'll slap The Living Daylights out of you....)
From my experience, half of your clients will jump on board your creative train and let your steam run the engine. I call these clients, "Moneypennies". You walk in and they give you a smile and are eager to know what you have been up to. They give you a quick briefing and trust your judgment on what little information you have. They don't really worry about you because you are consistent and they know that you will walk through the door again - maybe even with a bouquet of flowers and a glass of Chardonnay. Moneypennies are great, but often don't give you much of a challenge. They are mostly side-project gurus, family members or that high-school friend that wants you to photoshop his ex-wife out of his Tinder profile picture. Moneypennies are cute, adaptable and low-maintenance, but you won't be "moonraking" in any big bucks. If you want to take your services and financial security to the next level, take a trip to the Quartermaster.
Like Moneypennies. "Q's" are on your team and on board with the mission you have taken. However, Q's have a good handle on what they do. They are usually technically suave and have superior insights and opinions on their business. These tend to be content developers, copy writers and project leads that need your skill sets to get the job done. Q's have disposable income and look to you to provide your experience and perspective to make their ideas work. In other words, they give you the tools to get your hand's dirty. Like most organizations, Q's have to answer to someone. Enter the "M's"
M's are tough as nails and have a strong knowledge of their business...and yours. Most likely, M's will step in when you are really blowing the mission, or the Q's suddenly disappear. You can't sweet talk M's and don't you even think about ignoring their calls for a saucy, snow vixen in a hot tub at Les Deux Alpes. M's are tenacious, straight forward and know more than you think they do. You may have your own ideas based on incomplete intelligence, but the M's see the whole picture. Listen to the M's and you might learn something.
Finally, you have the "Blofeld's", who are hell-bent on making your life miserable. Have a great idea? Blofeld's will shoot it down. Need some information? Blofeld's will eat a cyanide capsule. Need access to their secret financial accounts? Blofeld's suddenly disappear (along with your last 3 emails requesting an invoice to be paid). Unfortunately, Blofeld's are part of our profession and will always surface from time to time. Heed my warning double-O's - avoid the Blofeld's.
Which archetype do I prefer? In our line of work, we can't survive without adapting to and including all of these players. Some of my best clients are a result of a Moneypenny recommendation, a public nod from an M and even an occasional pity project from a Blofeld confidant. Our mission is ultimately based on what the client wants and without their business, we would be out of business. Take every mission with earnest professionalism , a deflated ego and most importantly, a sense of humor.
When the mission gets rough remember - Diamonds are Forever, Design is Subjective, and your next mission is just a phone call away.