One of the reasons I enjoy direct contact with clients is that I often get an intuitive sense for what needs to happen next. We had a call on Friday afternoon with a client who needs an identity for an event by tomorrow. He was full of 'strategy', but none of it translated into visual terms. Having gone through a hellacious process last year with a different strategist, I've learned that the best thing is to get a bunch of visuals in front of them and see what sticks.
Monday morning, while waiting for the client to give us art direction, I started pulling images for four concepts I thought could work for the show. He wanted 'anti-trade show': nothing traditional. No booth rentals, no vinyl signs, no bright colors. In the meantime, my fellow 2D designer had come up with a concept that he was really excited about. When I mentioned my deck, he didn't think it was necessary. I discussed it with our 3D designer who was lukewarm. The truth is, this is all a bit muddled since there's also a creative director working on the experience in the booth, so my deck crossed the line a bit. When we met with the client, it was just the 2D designers and our instructions were to use a specific font, specific font color and specific background color and 'have fun exploring'... Really? Whatever.
In the midst of all that, I almost didn't finish my deck. Our other 2D designer sent out a nice 4 page PDF while I was still assembling the PowerPoint (the client LOVES PPT, even though as a designer, I hate it). I thought that he'd come up with something that made a lot of sense from a conceptual level. My ideas seemed much more about 'interior decorating' and less about a strategic concept so I felt fairly insecure about them. Yet, I felt like it was the right thing for that particular client so I ended up sending it at the end of my day to our client services person to forward if she thought it best.
In the meantime, Jrex was struggling with whether or not to apply for a certain grant. If he won the grant, it placed restrictions on how much time he could spend on other projects. He was hearing from various people that he should apply, but it wasn't sitting well in his gut. As a result, even though the deadline was beginning to loom, he'd still not asked for recommendation letters from his usual suspects. One of the great things that U T has set up for him is a requirement that he meet 2-4 times a year with a mentoring committee. He's got three amazing guys: Optimist, No BS and Middle Ground. When he met with them on Tuesday, No BS immediately asked why he was applying for the grant. "Your CV is amazing. You should be applying for an RO 1 (one of the biggest grants available from National I nstitu tes of H eal th). This will tie you down. Forget about it."
Jrex was really excited after that meeting. Middle Ground said during the meeting, "This is amazing, I wish we'd had this system in place when I was starting out." The three mentors all seemed to enjoy spending time together talking science. Obviously, for Jrex, it's wonderful to get more experienced voices helping him think about the bigger picture. It was yet another degree of confirmation that we made the right choice. The P ortland program had no peers for him in l un g research only some other clinical people. These guys are all hard-core scientists.
On my end, throughout the day on Tuesday the client service rep kept forwarding feedback from the client. He really didn't like my coworker's idea. Of mine, he didn't like the first one and liked little bits here and there from the rest of the deck. He really liked an idea I had for creating relatively open 'cabanas' at the edges of the trade show space. They allow for more intimate conversations and gatherings, but open into the common area for the big end of day speech by the guru.
In the end, for both of us, it was a great reminder to trust our guts.