I recently saw this tweet about an agreement back in the 1970s between the car rental company Avis and their ad agency when they launched the "We Try More" campaign with great success. I love that contract, but I especially love this line in it :
Because of this, DDB will only give the ads they recommend as an agency for approval. They won’t "see what Avis thinks about it."
Apparently, Avis understood that they were paying their ad agency not only to do something, but also to do something they wouldn’t do. After all, the ad agency understands advertising, and Avis knows all about rental cars. In theory, the designer (or design agency) knows design, but the client (or manager) doesn’t. That’s why you hire a designer – to do a job you can’t do.
There’s an idea in this paragraph from the Avis agreement that I think is important in a designer’s job, but that designers seem to forget about : never make a bunch of options to give them all to a client or supervisor and "see what they think about it."
A novice designer does something similar. An experienced designer makes his own decision based on his knowledge and understanding of the goals of the project. He creates a layout that best meets those goals, and only then sends it to the supervisor or client for them to accept or return. The designer then receives comments and makes edits if necessary.
(Note that I don’t mean that the designer shouldn’t make multiple choices at all. He can do them early in the project when ideas are being generated. These choices are not published; they are used within the team to gather feedback until the right direction is found.)
If you are a designer, you are paid to do design. That is, to make design decisions. That includes throwing out all the crap you think won’t work in your expert opinion. When you make a bunch of choices to suggest that someone else make the decision, you remove your authority as a designer and forgive the client or manager to do the job for you. You say, "I don’t know how to make a decision, even though that’s what I was taught, " or "I’m too scared to decide anything."
As a designer, you have to be confident in your competence. And that’s where the difference between a novice designer and an experienced one comes in. Design is not just a process of arranging pixels on a screen in a pretty order. Design is a decision-making process where bad ideas are discarded in favor of good ones.
Yes, you’ll probably put the layout in front of a client or supervisor at some point, and they’ll be horrified. Which, by the way, is also productive. In that case, your client or supervisor will want to articulate why they think it won’t work. And then you’ll take your design set and correct it with the new knowledge you got from the client, and then adjust the direction of future work.
It doesn’t mean that you’re failing at something. It’s just part of the workflow.