Graphic Language: The Trenches of Creation

Most of us don’t have a lot of spare time during a work day. That’s why we say our time is valuable. That’s why the work we devote time to comes at a cost to our clients. The final products we create for most projects are only one thing. In the end, there’s only going to be one logo, one site, one poster. But it takes a lot of work to get to that one thing. Dozens or hundreds of ideas are sketched out or written down. Then maybe a dozen different versions of a single idea worked out.

And why? How many times do we have to twist and turn an idea into something slightly different before we’re satisfied with a version of it and see it as a final option, or so dissatisfied with all versions that we throw them away?  How many times is that process repeated on a different idea during a single project? I think it’s because that’s just what it takes to do good work, and good work that’s unique and special, and lives up to our own full potential lives deep in our sketchbooks (or computers).  

You don’t just get to unique and special right off the bat. Your first idea is probably a cliché’ or something you’ve seen done before, so we push beyond that. It might actually take a couple of pages of sketching to get to those good ideas, and we should dump as many ideas into our sketchbook as possible. Then we might do multiple versions of the same idea. That’s all for the creator, that’s why your time is valuable, because you’re fighting in the trenches of creation, thinking and critiquing and researching and redrawing and second guessing why you ever chose this career. . . all for one good logo (or whatever).

A lot of times, we’re trying to meet a number set by the client. Even if you’re presenting 10 options to someone (I don’t suggest you ever do that many) in the end, there will only be one, and fuck, it’s hard to get just one good one! Why go through the pain of 10? Sometimes we can get 2 or 3 but any more than that and I bet most of us start running into the mediocrity wall. And I would much rather present 2 or 3 well executed, interesting ideas than 10 just to meet a number so a client can feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. They’ll get their moneys worth with one good idea, not with a bunch of average ones, or a bunch of average versions of an idea. That’s why I don’t let the clients set a number anymore. It’s not to anyone’s benefit.

And inevitably, if you allow someone to choose from a large stack of concepts, where there is one you really dislike and know is not as good (but it’s there because you’re trying to meet a quota) the client will choose that one. I promise you, it will happen most of the time.  Because that’s probably the one that’s safe and familiar, and that’s what most clients want to feel, but is the feeling artist hate most. Not everyone has the balls to do something unique and special.

Paul Rand presented clients one logo. He felt they hired him to solve a problem, and the thing he presented them with was his best solution to it. They needed one thing, so he created one thing. I would love to see his sketchbooks though. I’m sure he drew a lot. But I’d like to be more like Rand. “here’s the solution to your problem. Thank you”.