Know thyself

Your taste plays a huge part in our work, so you should definitely make an effort to get to know it. Often, when I ask my clients what design work they respond to most strongly, they tell me they’ve never even considered the question.

But everyone has personal preferences, and having a sense of what they are will make it easier to judge creative work with confidence.

Identifying what you like — What tickles you? What pleases you? What draws you in? — will be incredibly helpful in creative collaborations. The better you understand your taste, the more you’ll be able to engage in useful dialogue throughout the process.

Of course, there may be differences between your personal taste and the needs of your company. A clear understanding of the former will help everyone understand your responses to work done to address the latter.

So, before your start working with a creative team, start paying attention to what you like and what you don’t like as you go about your day.

Look everywhere: the shelves of supermarkets, the street, on television. Don’t worry about why you like something, just note that you do. When you’re online, focus on engagements that make you smile. Is hitting Facebook’s ‘Love’ button satisfying? Do you respond to oversized images or the simplicity of a scroll? Perhaps you appreciate hidden treats, like the dinosaur game that pops up on Google Chrome’s “unable to connect” page (if you don’t know about this, check it out). Leaf through magazines, tearing out compelling ads or page layouts. Think of magazines as catalogues of visual eye candy.

Now switch to the perspective of a brand custodian. Look for what you feel are successful representations of a brand, not your personal taste, but a good marriage of product and portrayal. Look for brands with visuals or messaging (pictures and words) that you think work cohesively to make the consumer engagement stronger.

Next, study your competition and determine what’s working and, maybe more importantly, what’s not. What makes you jealous? What makes you wonder? What were they thinking? Think about how their design choices relate to your project. Think about how you would respond to them were they presented to you.

Throughout these exercises, keep in mind that you are not looking for potential solutions to a specific problem. You are simply getting in touch with your own aesthetic personality to help us more easily reach a solution that will work for you.

Bonnie Siegler is the USA-based Founder and Creative Director of multi-disciplinary design studio, Eight and a Half, with recent clients including The New Yorker, HBO and Random House. Bonnie is the author of two books: Signs of Resistance, A Visual History of Protest in America and Dear Client.

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