When Your Client Says “Be Creative”

I was recently commissioned to re-design all of the product datasheets and complete product catalog for Vanguard Instruments Company. At the first meeting with the client, I was provided with the existing catalog and simply told to “be creative” with the re-design. Usually when a graphic designer hears such a statement, they jump for joy thinking that they have total creative freedom, but it is of utmost importance to first determine what the client actually means by “creative”.

After thoroughly studying the original product catalog, I prepared a list of questions for the client for our next meeting. These included questions like:

  • What do you like about the existing catalog?
  • What do you not like about the existing catalog?
  • Are there particular colors that your business does not want to use?
  • What image would you like to convey with your catalog design – e.g. “modern”, “progressive”, “traditional”, etc.

After going over these questions in our second meeting, I determined that the biggest advantage that the client’s products had was the fact that they were very easy to use and offered simple user interfaces. The client emphasized that they wanted to convey this simplicity in the catalog design, so they were not looking for some avant-garde design that would win progressive graphic design awards, but a design that featured a clean layout that made it easy for customers and potential customers to quickly find the information they were looking for.

Following are some before and after examples of the completed project:

Original Product Catalog Cover
Original Product Catalog Cover
Re-designed Product Catalog Cover
Re-designed Product Catalog Cover

The original cover design was just very busy with no real focal point. Also, it featured specific products, which we wanted to avoid with the re-design. I simplified the design to highlight the industry that the client was in as opposed to showing specific products.

Original Inside Spread
Original Inside Spread
Re-designed Inside Spread
Re-designed Inside Spread

Again, the original inside spread was just too busy with too many images layered on top of each other, and too much text with no clear focal point. With my re-design, I focused on highlighting the client’s experience in the industry, providing a clear focal point.

Original Product Datasheet Spread
Original Product Datasheet Spread
Re-designed Product Datasheet Spread
Re-designed Product Datasheet Spread

The datasheet spreads were also simplified to provide clear access to the relevant product information. The client has since informed me that many of their customers have commented on how easy to read their datasheets are compared to their competitors’.

So the next time a client tells you to “be creative”, make sure to take the time to ask them what they mean! As designers, it’s always very exciting to be given free creative reign, but we must remember that it is of utmost importance to make sure that our work ultimately reflects the vision of the client and not our own egos.

NOTE: The re-designed product catalog can be downloaded from the Vanguard web site HERE.

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