Sign & Digital Graphics

May '17

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86 • May 2017 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL Designing Without Directives The process of creative mind reading Since 1985, Matt Charboneau has owned and operated Charboneau Signs in Loveland, Colorado. He is a consultant and designer for monument, channel let- ter and pylon sign projects. His book, "The Pre-Sale Sign Survey Field Guide -- The how-to guide on sign surveys for the profes- sional sign salesperson" can be ordered on his website: or by emailing him at Matt@ B Y M A T T C H A R B O N E A U Designing Award Winning Signs You're the Designer on this Project… Lucky You! It's yet another opportunity to put on the blindfold and pull another awesome, dynamic, creative rabbit out of your hat. (Oh yeah, it's also got to fit within their budget—which is also a mystery.) "Be the Hero, not the Zero" is all you keep hearing in the back of your head as you read the words written out on the design request form: "Customer has no idea what they want for their monument sign; just come up with something cool," they said. I've heard it stated a hundred different ways and it makes my skin crawl every time a directive like this is conveyed by the customer. Salespeople sometimes don't stand a chance when a customer just won't or can't convey their hopes and desires for their sign. Some customers are simply unable to express themselves in this way, others play the "closed-lip" game in order to maintain some sort of obscure control of the process. Regardless of the real underlying reasons, if you must come up with a design, you'll have to learn how to read the customers mind, and just how do you do that? When your instructions are non-existent, and you have two days to create a design presentation, what do you do and how do you proceed? Where do you start when you know so little about what the customer really wants? When I am faced with this design challenge, I use a process that has worked well for me time and time again, and this is that process. Take Charge of the Process You've been handed a task that you really didn't want. It's not impossible to "guess" at a design and create one that the customer likes, it just contains a lot of wasted mental gymnastics. So, take charge of the process (or ask your salesperson to) so that you are able to guide the customer into making a decision; a good decision on a sign design that will fulfill their needs. • Start with basic sketches—garner their involvement in the designing process Customers should be walked through the process so they have a say in the whats and whys of the designs presented. Remember, at this point they still don't have a clue as to what they want. What you are doing is introducing the customer to "The Design Process" and you are going to do it one tiny little minor decision at a time. • Presentation is key—enlighten them with the facts If possible, ask your sales person (or your survey tech) to take "G ood evening folks, welcome to Café Charboneau. I see you've had a chance to look at the menu. Do you know what you would like to start out with?" "Well, not really. We're not sure what we're hungry for. Can you just have the cook whip up something that we'll like? You serve food to customers all day every day, so your Chef should have some good ideas for what we will probably like." Every once in a while, sign salespeople run into a customer like this. It's frustrating, and it's a nightmare for the designer. They hear from customers excuses like this: • "We're not exactly sure we know what we want, but we will know it when we see it." • "Just come up with a few ideas—something your designer likes, and we can go from there." • "I was hoping that your designer could simply whip up a design that I will like." If your client was a patron, and you were the waiter, do you know your patron well enough to guess at what they might want to eat? How about guessing at the type of sign they might want? Neither process is successful, so why do it?

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