Establishing a shared design aesthetic

I’m a big fan of the HBO series “Silicon Valley.” They make fun of the world of high tech and start-ups and I always wondered if my engineer friends are at all offended when they spoof on the geeky, awkward, how-does-it-work-let’s-break it-and-build-it-better lifestyle of developers. Well in Episode 4, I got a taste of it myself, as they introduced “Dan” the stereotypical Designer.

Silicon Valley

Establishing A Shared Design Aesthetic

Dan (the designer) is creating the encasement for a compression storage device that Richard (the client) has invented. From the first moment when he dims the lights and puts on the music I know this is going to be good. He shows photographs on a big screen and wants Richard to respond. Richard does not understand. Dan says he needs this discussion to help establish a shared design aesthetic in order for him to develop the prototype. Richard says he has work to do and doesn’t have time. Dan says, ” This is work; this is my work and what we’re doing here can actually save time.”   Dan can easily create what he thinks will work, but then there’s a good chance he’ll be wrong. The client needs to participate; share their design aesthetic, and help the designer understand what’s appropriate, what’s wrong and what’s ideal. So the end result is a design solution that works for all involved.

PLEASE watch this (unless you’re already watching SV and don’t want the spoiler)…

Is it a Butterfly?

I died watching this because at Opus Design, we start logo design and website design projects with the exact same line of questions. We don’t ask what animal you’d be? or dim the lights and play music though, we’re a “little” more down to earth. But we do ask, “if your company were a car, what car would it be?”  Volkswagon bug?  Ford pickup?  BMW Z4?  There are clear and distinct brand attributes associated with these cars, and hearing clients talk, and debate together, about who they believe they are, provides insight to us as designers. It’s hard to ask people to describe themselves in qualitative words, it’s easier for them to talk by imagining through a secondary comparison. It just takes a bit of a nudge.

You get there in the end.

Look how EXCITED Dan gets when Richard finally shows some interest. He’s not praising the work, in fact, just the opposite. Dan points out that he got what he asked for, but when Richard shows he cares, and the other developers decide to chime in, Dan is happy they’ve recognized the value of his work and will no doubt add “more slam and lights.”