Your worst client

A boy and his balloonsI was recently asked to lend a hand and do some icons for a video game. Icons are not my strong suit, but as a designer it is great to work on a project outside of my comfort zone. Being able to break myself out of myself made box is a great way to unwind, pick up a skill, or just explore other angles of design that I don’t get to do much.

It was a great opportunity to strut my stuff. I worked pretty hard at it. I fretted and fussed over the right look, how the icon fit with the type faces, making sure it fit with the game design, and still have meaning to the user. Icons are rough because they are so subjective that the designer has to ensure that the client’s meaning behind the icon is as apparent as possible. The user is always going to inject a little bit of their own meaning into the icon, but if done right the icon will hold enough of the message that the user doesn’t have to inject much. It is a difficult trick to pull off at times. Things can go awry quick if one is not careful.

I worried about whether my icons were “good enough”. I sent them to the client who liked them, and I kept thinking to myself is she seeing the same icons I’m seeing? To the client they were. The icons did what the client needed them to, and I was able to continue to foster a good relationship with a great client.

In this case, the worst client wasn’t the actual client. It was me. I started thinking about how critical I was being over my work, a good thing to be but at times overdone, and how it affected my confidence in the project. I looked over each icon, and as I would make a change to one I would make sure similar changes were made to all of the icons  to ensure consistency (even changes to the icon labels in the client’s preview file).

By the time I finished and sent the files to the client, I was sure I would get a page and a half document on how bad they were. Turns out the client loved them – (ha!! sucker… oh wait, shouldn’t have said that). I try not to marry myself to a project. I find that I sleep better that way. This project experience reassured me that I need to be critical of my work on all projects, but to also trust the judgement of the client. Afterall, they have to give the final okay. I can get the artifact to a publishable point, but the client has to approve it. If the client approves the project before I feel it is ready, I have to trust them in their decision.

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