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Dealing with "same same, but different" design requests


Many designers will be familiar with the "I want it exactly like this, but completely different" types of requests. I've also had a few emails from designers and clients who were close to pulling their hair out because the other party seemed incapable of seeing the problem.

So what's going on and why do these requests cause so many problems? I covered part of this in my previous post on communication, but here let's look at a specific issue that comes up again and again.

You want what?

A common "same same, but different" request runs along the lines of "I want a unique logo, but make it look like this logo, using the same colours and font."

At first look, the request seems nonsensical. How can you design something to look exactly like something else while making it look completely different? The answer is that's usually not what the client is asking (if they are asking for that, politely decline their request).

For me, this indicates that the client actually has an idea of the kind of thing they want, which can be good. They might have a specific direction in mind based on their own research, or their vision for their brand.

If they haven't really got an idea and they're just picking out logos they like, it can also be instructive. It can give you an idea of how they see themselves, or how they'd like to be seen.

Question time

The thing designers should always keep in mind is that a client is looking to you to decipher their ideas because you're the expert. Just like when you take your car to a mechanic and say "it's making a funny noise" and expect them to fix it.

A good mechanic will ask you to describe the noise, ask whereabouts on the car it's coming from, ask how long it's been happening, when it happens, etc, and then give you an estimate for the cost of fixing it.

You should be doing the same with clients.

Find out more about their company, their goals, their customers, their products/services, any subsidiaries, and anything else you need to create a good design. Ask why they want those specific colours and/or fonts. Don't be afraid to ask direct questions (this goes for both designer and client).

For clients, be honest with the designer. That's the best - maybe only - way to ensure that you get a design that works well for you.

When clients and designers work together and avoid communication pitfalls, the results are often brilliant, and problems can be overcome quickly and easily.



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Very good advice. If only everyone followed it!

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