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Lesson Learned: Knowing when to loosen your grip

Hey guys! I wanted to stop by to thank you all for the lovely comments about the wedding  update yesterday. It’s a real big process and I’ve been having a fun time sharing that process with you!

I also wanted to chat about something all new designers and even well-seasoned designer struggle with on a daily basis. This is the internal struggle with knowing when to “fight” for your design concepts and when to loosen the grip a bit and change things up.

You’ve been cranking away on a new logo, or shooting loads of photos for days now. You’ve poured your sweat and tears into this concept and you’ve grown to really love the direction it’s going. You wrap up the designs and get them packed up nicely, ready to present to the client. You think because you love it, they will too…right? You are presenting your work on a phone conference and BOOM…the client would like to keep exploring…They think the change is small, but you know it’s a complete overhaul…sound familiar?

I know I am at fault of this mini internal meltdown at some point in every project I do. I get so invested and attached to the project I’m building that when the client throws a curve ball (which is guaranteed to happen), I’m ALWAYS caught off guard. I’m not saying the change in direction is a bad thing…just something I wasn’t planning for. I then find myself fighting to the little baby I’ve been creating instead of really listening to the client’s reasons behind the change. Sound familiar…?

I think conquering this little roadblock is something that just comes with years of practice and many projects under your belt. As I get better at reacting to this kind of change in creative direction I’ve realized there really are some positives here. There is something in the process of scrapping everything, and starting over that reveals the real beauty in the project. It’s funny how that works.

I’m curious how other creatives approach the whole “letting go” idea. Let me hear your thoughts!

(Photo by Veda House)

15 comments on “Lesson Learned: Knowing when to loosen your grip

  1. I can empathize with what you’re saying. It actually sounds like the designer’s form of rewriting. I’m working on a novel that I’ve fought with myself about for five years in terms of alterations everything from format to characters to setting to time placement. And there have definitely been times when I’ve told myself I need to let go of a certain direction or character or idea, and I just didn’t want to do it. That’s probably why it’s been five years and I still haven’t completed a first draft yet. It’s a learning process, though, and I’m learning more and more to just go where the ethereal genius (see: Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk) tells me to go when it comes to writing fiction. It can be hard, but it’s always necessary. Good luck with your re-work!

  2. Sigh…..I JUST sent off an e-mail with logo concepts. I love both logos submitted but am head over heels in love with the one particular one. It’s so difficult. It really is your baby, something YOU created. You fall in love with it and you want everyone else to love it too, even if it maybe isn’t the right fit for them.
    In situations like that I wish I wasn’t a designer and just had an easy job haha
    I don’t really have any good advice on this, except that I totally know what you are talking about. Every situation is different but as a perfectionist I have definitely learnt to let go of a lot of the “little things”. When it comes to bigger things such as initial logo concepts it is so much more difficult, that’s where hopefully your contract will save your ass a little :p

    1. Hi Alicia,
      Contracts are a saving grace in this department. I have a “revisions” statement that keeps both parties on track. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  3. Great post! I am the same way, I get so attached to my first concept and sometimes frustrated when they like it BUT want more. I truly believe that it is for the best though. Even if I don’t end up loving the end result, I’ve learned a valuable lesson in not falling in love with your work to the point of not being able to let go and try something new. With every project and new round of exploration I try to really think about what’s best for the brand and client I’m working for rather than what’s only best for myself and portfolio. It’s super hard though!

  4. This all sounds too familiar! i put so much into projects that when this does happen, it can be so hard to take. i think the first few times are the hardest and then it becomes a bit easier to separate yourself as you gain more experience with these types of situations, but it’s never easy. One thing that really helps me is looking back at a previous project this has happened with. I look at the final product and more often than not know that I came up with something that was 100 times better because I was faced with that challenge and sometimes it ends up meaning more to me because it has more sweat equity. It’s like “yea the first option was good, but this one is even better!” It’s totally a “everything happens for a reason” moment.

  5. Here’s an even more complicated issue : when the client has a special idea in mind and you know it’s not the right one. You don’t like it and actually understand his target audience / customers more than he actually does. I know, O know, it’s a very specific situation but how do you deal with this kind of clients?
    Because I absolutely agree with you, you need to sometimes let go, make compromises but in this case, should you too ?

    1. Hi There! I can remember one specific client where this has happened. We kept going in circles because the client ultimately didn’t know what they wanted (even though they kept saying they did). In that instance, it was best for both parties to step away and take a break from the project. I think this is another instance where having a guiding contract in place is really important.

  6. I am completely with you on this. When I was a junior I used to get so incredibly attached to my ideas and every rejection no matter how small was a minor heartbreak. Nowadays, especially in my freelance work, I try to prepare myself for clients’ comments. I start of with a handful of moodboards, get clients to pin what they like onto a secret pinboard as well as an initial in depth consultation. Like this I know what visual areas are absolute no goes and which ideas and looks I need to explore. Of course that doesn’t save me from pit falls and clients not entirely liking what I’ve done. Even after being in the industry for seven years now I still feel a little upset when my “babies” get rejected but always give myself a mental slap and a reminder that it is probably for the best.
    Thank you for this post. I absolutely adore your work. x

    1. Thanks for stopping by Toni and sharing your story. It’s nice to hear that another designer goes into a really in-depth “research” phase. I do the same and feel it’s been the best tool to keep us both in check along the way.:)

  7. Ah, this completely hits home with me. It’s always hard when you are in love with work you did and then the client isn’t sold yet. What helps me is to remind myself that the project isn’t *for* me, it’s for the client. They have hired me to fulfill their vision. I then take it as a challenge to absorb their feedback and make changes so that they do love it. Easier said than done, of course! Thanks so much for writing on this topic – it’s a tough one!

    1. Hi Laura. What you said about the project being “for them” is absolutely right. Sometimes I get a bit discouraged because of the lack of trust. My thinking is that if the client shopped around for the right designer, there should be a level of trust because they chose YOU and YOUR knowledge base. It’s definitely a balance of give and take 🙂

  8. I had the luxury of having my freelance work on the side, local, and mostly private. I was able to let go by literally letting go of freelance design for clients. It’s honestly not my passion precisely because of this. If I were more passionate about it, that would make it more worthwhile to figure out how to work with others.

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