It happens all the time. A client walks in the door full of ideas on how they want something unique and fun. Often, they'll even point to videos we've produced as examples of what they like. Then they systematically squash out every ounce of creativity and fun from the project.
This isn't unusual, and I empathize with the fine line between maintaining a professional image and appealing to a general audience. As someone who is personally more practical than creative, I can understand how figuring out how to make the process work can be challenging.
Those fun, interesting, artistic people come up with ideas that I never knew I wanted or needed. But they also speak their own language, and it can be hard to make the connection between their artistic vision and the practical need for a solid ROI.
Like anything else, it comes down to relationships and trust and I'm lucky to work with clients that let us take chances. Not only do they get the best results, they are definitely getting the best out of the creative team.
You can do the same by keeping these things in mind:
1. Ask for the results you want (and give the creatives some freedom to help you get there)
Seems simple enough. But it can be hard to break away from controlling every step of the process. Our approach is to ask clients to articulate what they want the project to accomplish, how they want people to feel, and what they want people to do when they see it. Because really, it's about the client's client – who are they trying to influence?
You can always ask for revisions, and of course the project should always comply with your brand standards. But if you tell a graphic designer you want a specific font size, color and width that's exactly what you will get. And you'll never know what you missed.
Take the following for example:
The direction here was to reflect the event's purpose, which was to educate the community using the stories of Holocaust survivors as a tool. And despite the somber topic, the message was to be about hope and the inimitable human spirit.
Notice that the direction never mentioned a font or trees or butterfly imagery. Yet, the message resonated just the same.
2. Nobody cares about your org chart
This is a big one, and probably the hardest obstacle to overcome. Everybody has a boss, and every organization has some sort of hierarchy. For insiders, knowing the politics can be critical. But to everybody else, it's usually just boring.
Let go of the idea that the most important person in your organization is always the best person to deliver your message. For instance, there are numerous organizations and experts on water safety and lifeguarding, but the young man below with the dream of saving lives is going to attract attention and get people to listen in a way that an 'official' never will.
3. We aren't just making this stuff up
We really do want you to succeed. As long as you feel heard, and your project manager is sensitive to your organizational limitations – don't dismiss any idea out of hand. Chances are we are recommending an approach because we know it works.
One great thing about working with creative people is knowing how deeply they care about what they do, and how much they want you and your company to be a success. It can be difficult to resist the urge to micromanage your creative team, but if you do- you'll see them work their magic.