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Devaluing design via buzz nomenclature

Devaluing Design via Buzz Nomenclature

<strong>Do you undersell your work by using certain words during the design phase? </strong>
 
The nomenclature of the digital industry is of course unique, and it is a struggle for many account managers to relate to clients. Once the clients get the basics down, however, it’s the “account managers” job to make sure they use the terms properly. Used at the incorrect phase of a project, certain terms can actually devalue the role of your designer.
 
Two terms in particular have gotten to me recently for improper use and the tone they set on a project: “Comp” and “Look &amp; Feel.”
 
<strong>Look and Feel :&nbsp;The Problem</strong> <br />
Noncreatives are adapting these words as buzz words in an attempt to speak the language of creatives. But in the end, all anyone is creating is a jumbled mess.
 
To noncreatives, including clients, these terms just invoke the feeling of a mood board: colors, tone and typography.
 
To creatives, the words “look and feel” include descriptions of not only the visual “feel” (i.e. the look), but the feel for how something works. So for them, it may be fine to use for certain stages of the project.
 
The problem comes in when noncreatives use the word throughout the life of a project. If it connotes a mood board to the client, you will cause a major roadblock. So why not just use terminology that helps to support the clients understanding?
 
Let’s explore another common scenario with a buzz word that occurs when communicating your process to a client.
 
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<strong> Comp :&nbsp;The Problem </strong> <br />
Let’s walk through a common scenario to explore the use of the word “comp.”&nbsp;
 
During the design phase of a project, all the posted design templates or elements are called “comps.” The client views two directions, and selects one to sign off on for execution. The client then sees a schedule with the next set of deliverables.
 
The producer still uses the word comp.
 
A few weeks down the road, the client comes to the account team and asks when they are going to see the real designs. After all , these are just comps’s&nbsp; like you used in the design direction phase. This is a multimillion dollar project. When do they get the designs for which they are paying so much? That’s what you sold them, right ? You sold them, an amazing creative team full of skilled visual designers.
 
How do we fix this? Simple. Change your nomenclature.
 
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<strong> Look &amp; Feel :&nbsp;The Solution </strong> <br />
Account teams begin to use these words when the project is still figuring out a direction, a mood board, setting the tone. Time and time again, however, they are still used when projects are deep into the design phase.
 
Designers act with precision and skill. If their work is still a “look and feel” just prior to development, for what did your client just pay you thousands?
 
Visual design of websites, products and other promotions, are meant to incite action. To sell. To create conversation. When you are creating a shopping cart system, the “look and feel” is no longer the topic of discussion on a project. Say you want to introduce a new checkout path that you feel is intuitive and would save three steps in the checkout process. When you present the visual, using the words “look and feel” could make the process harder to sell, as well as diminish credibility in the technicalities of your solution.
 
The Look &amp; Feel can be interchanged with the phrase mood board. Think about providing mood boards to give the client a feel for the overall atmosphere of the project verses the actual layout.Clients with traditional backgrounds will understand this better.
 
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<strong> Comp :&nbsp;The Solution </strong> <br />
In many projects, you use comps as an additional visual piece to sell a project. They are mock-ups. Ideas for how things could work, not the execution. If your design team is dead set that they are delivering pixel-perfect comps, use different terminology during the pitch. The term “mock up”&nbsp; can be interchanged with “comp.” To clients, this makes them understand that what you are&nbsp; delivering is not representative of the final piece, but really just a preliminary layout showing design, positioning of elements on a page and initial integration of functionality.
 
As you get further along in the process, to better explain all the detail that goes into the real design and execution of the design concept, do not call the deliverables comps, either. You already gave comps (mock-ups). These are designs. You do not want to devalue the skilled visual work that you are, in fact, delivering.
 
No matter where you are in the life of a project, do not let your producer fall back on the term “comp” as an excuse, a means of explaining to the client that they will not understand the full visual until they see it in action. This is a common technique that allows the design and account team to take little to no responsibility for their work. They are using the word as a scapegoat, pushing all responsibility onto development.
 
If you can not sell your design until it is coded, then you aren’t properly showing the right templates and functionality. This can all be done visually. If you have a client that likes to see motion, put up all the functional designs into html and let them click through the pages to get a feel for the interaction.
 
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<strong> General – Educate your team </strong> <br />
Whichever words you decide to go with, make sure they are used properly throughout the life of a project. Give your team resources to fully understand the terms they should use. Improper use amongst account teams can cause frustration for designers as well as confusion for clients.
 
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<strong> General – Educate your client<br />
</strong> Give clients a primer on terminology to come.Whether they act like the need it or not, most clients are not familiar with digital terminology. A simple reference sheet or website would help. Remember, other agencies may have their own nomenclature. Clients may come in thinking that a “look and feel” is just a mood board, and if you do not establish the way your agency uses it, you could run into confusion and even devalue your own work.

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