We are big fans of Malcolm Gladwell. So we thought we would share one of this stories to illustrate a point.

Howard Moskowitz is a market researcher and was briefed by Pepsi to help them create ‘the perfect cola’.

Howard failed. He never found the perfect cola. He thought he had failed. He hadn’t. He hadn’t been given the correct brief.  He realized that he should have been finding the perfect colas.

He applied the same thinking to Spaghetti sauce and created brand leaders and a way of thinking that revolutionized the food industry (you can watch the TED talk at the bottom of this post). That’s why when you go into a supermarket, you now have endless variations on products. How many different flavors of hummus can you buy these days?

The point is that sometimes the brief is wrong. Pepsi wanted to change their product to increase sales. They were asking for a solution to the wrong problem.
If you commission a designer, you will get the best out of them if you if you treat them like a creative partner rather than a supplier. Sometimes they may come at a problem from a different angle, sometimes the wrong problem has been defined in a brief.

• Good design is an answer to a problem. One of the main things we’re asked to do is to make a product or service stand out. But what if the main problem isn’t looking different from your competition? What if potential customer’s perception of your product doesn’t match what you’re actually offering? What if the proposition, positioning or even name is wrong?

Your branding and packaging should always be a genuine reflexion of what you’re about and stand for. Make sure you’ve asked the designer to solve the right problem.

• Tell the designer why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s important that your designer understands what you do and why you do it. Tell them why you get out of bed in the morning and what drives you. Tell them your story, why did you start doing this? If you are passionate about what you do, the designer will be passionate about working with you.

Use words, pictures, even videos or films. One client of ours told us that she started as a chocolatier after being inspired by two films. We watched them and completely understood her and her brand because we were coming from the same place.

• Prepare a list of the tangible deliverables you’ll need and prioritize them. Think about it like preparing for a baby’s arrival or choosing a house. There are essentials you can’t do without and there are things that will be nice to have. You’ll need to prioritize them based on your budget and/or the time you have available pre-launch.

Think about business cards, stationery, vans, flyers, website (prioritize its content and what’ll do too), shop signage, number of products/packs in a range, menus, trade stands etc. No two businesses will need or prioritize the same things.

Design isn’t to be liked, it should be judged based on its ability to perform the task it’s there to do. It’s nicer to be liked of course, but it’s not the ultimate aim. The right question should be ‘does it solve my problem?’. You may like certain colours, styles and might even be tempted by certain trends, but ultimately, you should focus on the solution needed and why you decided to embark on the venture in the first place.

If you’re not too keen on dark green, but it’s the right colour to use for your business, use it. You may think it’s your business, but it’s actually your customers business too.