by Mike Clark
You’re a creative, right-brained person. The boardroom is filled with left-brainers. The two groups think so differently from one another—how can anything be accomplished in this scenario? In the past 20 years, I’ve seen many right-brainers fail. To survive in this left-brained world, I learned a few techniques to bridge the gap:
- Be the bridge builder. It is your job, as the right-brained person, to build the bridge. A client comes with a very practical need. They know creative is part of the answer, but they don’t know why. Put on your business suit, get into lefty-mode, and establish a comfort level on their terrain. Once they trust you and know you understand them, they’ll be more willing to come on the journey with you.
- Diffuse right-brain issues first. Before the decision-makers can appreciate the creative element of your work—they need to understand WHY you developed it. (The answer is not because you had “a great idea” of because “this color palette is the latest trend.”) What is this creative based on? What research did you do? Walk them through the logical steps first. The left-brainers in the boardroom want to know that:
- You went to the store and reviewed where this product would be sitting
- You looked at what it would be next to
- You examined every element of the competitors’ approaches (design, graphic elements, words, colors, bullet points)
- Be the expert. Never get in a subjective war of words with when presenting to a client. You have the advantage in this situation. You know why you did what you did. Right? So tell them. Show them your research, audits. Remember, this isn’t your first rodeo.
- Present in the environment. One of the biggest left-brain issue cancellers is to present concepts in the environment consumers would be in. Does this mean going to the aisle itself? Maybe. It definitely means showing your design against the actual visual backdrop. Remember, the shelf is where the decision-makers are more concerned about success.
- Speak their language. The left-brainers are not designers. Forget design lingo. Instead of, “We chose orange because it complements the lines and aesthetics of the logo,” say, “We chose orange because it pops against the competition’s designs. All of their packaging is blue or grey.” Talk about the rationale behind your presentation. Share the reasons why you’ve done what you’ve done.
- Listen. Do they get it? Or do they still not understand? Do you need to do more homework? Listen for the little things. The silence. The hesitations. The concerns. The ones who are the most silent are the ones you have to engage. A talkative client is an easy client. It’s the quiet ones who can be tougher. Engage them; ask questions. Be available to clarify.
Creatives, if we don’t connect with the left brain way at the beginning, we’re in trouble. Don’t go right into the creative—first you have to set level expectations. Remember your audience—and be the bridge builder. In a world of right-brained and left-brained people, I believe a great designer is capable of being both.