I have a bad tendency to join in projects as half year intervals. The length of these projects may vary, but for whatever reason i absolutely hate joining a project or starting one, for example, in March. The latest project I’ve joined is concerns redesigning interiors and exteriors for a local research structure. The structure itself is now about thirty years old, and it shows. Almost every corner leaks temperature and certain halls, bathrooms and sauna look like something from a hospital… from thirty years ago. White and brown tiling everywhere, combined with white painted bricks. Lick of paint can do wonders in its simplicity in order to lighten up and make the environment look more inviting for customers and visitors. However, the problem is that currently the structure’s visuals are a combination of thirty years individual additions to everything.
I’ve decided not to disclose what the structure is or who the customer is. This is just to keep the project under a slight weil and keep the customer unnamed. Knowing some of my readers, it won’t take much to piece together what place I’m talking about in the end.
A solid branding image is a benefit, albeit it seems that the current customer I have seems it as a necessary evil. This is understandable; a place of research and safekeeping shouldn’t consider itself with business, but due to the current situation in macro-economy everybody has to think how money and budget is allocated. Too bad this wasn’t the case years ago with the customer’s structure, as almost every section, from the areas visitors can see to the workers’ areas, are a juxtaposition of thirty years of addons. One wall can look completely different from the other, furnitures are a collection of donations and original purchases. Tapestries vary from high quality ad prints to collection of A4s.
As I am a part of a collection of people working for the customer, I have worry about this juxtaposition becoming more jumbled, more incoherent. There is a certain charm to highly irregular visual environment, but for a structure that is supposed to do research and service customers, this is not recommended. A clear and easy to understand visuals are something all customers value. Think about the last time you went to a cashier and how things are simple. Granted, you’ll most likely see dozens of small stuff to purchase and so on, but otherwise the visual cues are relatively straightforward.
As this is a joint project with few other designers, it is apparent that there needs to be some sort of unifying theme across the board. This is rather challenging, as any time multiple workers need to use one look. Just look at Marvel or DC comics and how varied the character looks are. I prefer housestyle over each individual illustrator drawing She-Hulk’s face completely different. John Byrne’s run on She-Hulk was an excellent one, but one of recent runs looked like something Playdough mashup with a Marvel license.
I have no doubts that the each designer will have a successful end result. However, if all of us do whatever we want without taking notice the brand the customer wants to achieve and use them as our guidelines, I’m afraid the end result will only jumble the environment even further. Most designers are incredebly egoistical with their own image and style to the point of disregarding practicality or customer needs. Wants are a whole different thing, but disregarding what the customer needs is something any service provider should avoid like a plague.
The customer this time is rather straightforward. He was extensively open to any and all suggestions and willing to discuss matters. Unlike most people driving for a positive image, this person acknowledged first and foremost the lacking elements of the building, and while we got the intro tour to the facilities he was more than willing to amuse himself and us with every nook and cranny that needed some level of fixing, so to say. It is extremely invigorating to meet up with a customer who knows what he needs rather than what he wants.
Naturally, some problems that could use a touch of a designer is something a mere visual designer can handle. It’s not uncommon for a designer to come up with a good looking design, but have no idea who to realize it; what materials, or connection points the design would consist of. As such, certain physical points in the building’s structure simply can’t be given to any designer. Hell, at this point an engineer may be a better option. At least those guys usually have decent amount of information on materials and environment they go into.
There’s also the B word. Budget is a curse to most designers and far too many simply disregard it. Actually, it’s even thought that a designer shouldn’t think about budget when designing as that comes into play later. This is of course incredibly stupid, as it leads into problems where a design may have looks of a successful of product but would need incredible amount of machining or exotic materials to be viable. Restrictions are magical things; they may push people away and most just want to see developers or directors do whatever hell they want to do, but ultimately this more often than not simply produce a product worth nothing. Art, so to speak. That won’t fly where customers need to be.
This will be rather interesting joint project, as it’s not just visual things that need to be changed, updated or added. While I will most likely end up working with certain directional labels, cues and plaques. This is not my forte by far as I’ve discussed previously. However, one can’t have growth in skills or otherwise without taking steps outside one’s one field of expertise. I do agree with the notion that broadening one’s view is for the good, and I expect to gain some insights about the brand the customer is trying to create, and hope that I will learn something completely and utterly new.
I won’t be doing any kind of project diary. However, if anything interesting turns up, I’m sure I can make a post about it.