The Mechanic and the Designer - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

I had a great and unexpected conversation last week with Andrew from which the topic of this post was birthed. We both felt like it could make a great Monday morning post. For some of you this is going to be a great “ah-ha” moment. For others it might drum up painful memories. It is my hope that this will help all of you greatly going forward. Consider the following...

Mechanic Image

The Mechanic
Your car is making a funny noise or running rough. Maybe it won't start at all or smoke was pouring out while you were on the highway. In any event you find yourself realizing you need to go to an auto shop to get the help of a professional mechanic. You speak with the mechanic and describe what you were experiencing with your vehicle. Maybe you give him a little history of the last few months or year of your driving habits and observations of your car. After all no one knows your car better than you. The mechanic then takes all those things into consideration and takes a thorough look at your vehicle. The next day you go back and find out everything that is wrong with your car and you are given a quote. You agree to the quote and he commences working on your car.

However you don't go home, you decide to hang around and watch him work. You mill about the garage and observe him as he works. Every once in a while you ask him if he should be using the tool that he chose or you ask if he should be using the parts he is and suggest other parts instead. He explains why you shouldn't go down that road but you push back and suggest he use a different part. He is uncomfortable with your suggestions and would prefer that you trust his knowledge and years of experience so that you can leave with a car in good working order. After you call a few friends and remember what you saw on a “do it yourself” show one Saturday morning 8 months ago you have him go ahead with what you want. He obliges because you are his client and paying for the service despite his advice and warning you otherwise.

You pay and leave. You drive home and your ride is smooth. You car feels new again and you feel great because you had a hand in fixing your car. Then a month later something happens. It starts to run rough again. You're confused, it was just fixed. Each day it gets worse and your left with a problem that is worse than the one your started with. Then you remember the mechanic you hired and the money you spent. You're angry because he didn't fix it properly. Well we both know your not going back there, he didn't do his job right!

Designer Image

The Designer
Your brand isn't performing the way you would like it to. Maybe your not getting responses to direct mail campaigns, your site isn't getting hits or maybe people just plain don't understand what you are all about. In any event you find yourself realizing you need the help of a professional designer. You speak with a designer and describe what you have been experiencing with your brand. Maybe you give a little history of the last few months or year of what you have been trying to do and the observations you have made of your audience. After all no one knows your ministry better than you. The designer then takes all those things into consideration and takes a thorough look at your brand. The next day you meet again and find out everything that is wrong with your brand and are given a quote for the work that will be required to fix the situation.

So the designer goes to work and sends you a mock up of the new initiative that is going to change everything for you. You receive the email and give it a look. You like it but want to see something else because it wasn't quite on the mark. Fair enough, the designer obliges your request. You see the second design and make a list of requests and changes to the color, photography, layout or messaging. He explains why you shouldn't go down that road but you push back and press him to use your suggestions. He is uncomfortable with your suggestions and would prefer that you trust his expertise and years of experience so that you can end up with a brand in good working order. After you show the design to a few friends and remember that one article you read about good design one some website a few months ago you have him go ahead with what you want. He obliges because you are his client and paying for the service despite his advice and warning you otherwise.

You pay and your design is complete. You unleash your new campaign, site or brochure and love it. You feel great because you had a hand in fixing your brand. Then a month later something happens. You're not seeing the numbers you wanted coming in. The hits on the site are still low and people still don't get what you're about. You're confused, it was just fixed. Each day it gets worse and you're left with a problem that is worse than the one you started with. Then you remember the designer you hired and the money you spent. You're angry because he didn't do his job right. Well we both know you're not hiring him again, he didn't do his job right!

The Point
I trust that it's clear in the first story above that the fault wasn't really that of the mechanic. In fact, I'd venture to guess that most people reading this would read that and think: “how ridiculous”. The question is then, why does that attitude make sense in a design context?

We love serving our clients. Everyone that comes on board is special to us and we want nothing but the best for them. However there are times when we run into a situation like the ones described above. There have been times when projects have been dragged out and ultimately been less successful or even failed because of someone being unwilling to take our advice. The very advice they hired us and are paying us for.

There are probably a few of you out there that are reading this and can identify with the above parable. Some of you have been through many designers or worked with an agency or two and had this (bad) experience.

We felt it was important to lay this out for you so that you can get the most out of the designer/agency you are working with and the dollars you are spending. After all we have all heard that time is money. If you are crippling an initiative you are undertaking right now, not only are you wasting your current time and money, but also the time and money that will be required to recover from it and that's if it is even possible to do so.

So remember this going forward. Your input is valuable and paramount to the success of your ministry. When it comes to the actual execution or work, let the designer/mechanic do their job.