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How do you find the balance between your own style and the client’s aesthetic?

Aaron Horkey
I don’t take art direction anymore. I only work on projects that genuinely excite me and that I can feel comfortable attaching my name to. I’m too old and my stuff takes too long to produce to have to worry about revisions or what an AD is going to blue line.

Adam Tickle
I have often had to work my style to the client’s request.

Adrian Shaughnessy
You cant unless you convince the client that your aesthetic is correct.

Andrew Blauvelt
I don’t assume the client has an aesthetic. They might have tastes, preferences, and opinions, but design is about people other than the client--like the audience.

Dan McCarthy
I listen to their ideas and then try to think of a way to make it look like something I would normally do on my own. It usually works out good, because most of the time the client is familiar with my work and they are trying to go for a particular mood that fits my style.

Eric Karjaluoto
I don’t have a style. I’m only interested in solving the client’s needs. Similarly, I don’t think that many of our clients should favor any one aesthetic. They tend to have bigger concerns than what they like or dislike. Most of the projects that we work on are focused on achieving specific goals. (We’re not decorating homes here.)

Evan Leake
I like to think of myself as fairly flexible and willing to try new things. I like to see what sort of artwork the client likes, and do something with a similar aesthetic.

FACE
Again, you must be intelligent, mature and precise in order to be able to move and work in that border or fine line, to finally come up with something that is fulfilling for both parts. You have to be a bit of a psychologist, it is important to listen to the client.

Flip Flop Flyin
I’m lucky that most of the time clients know what sort of thing they’ll get from me.

Friedrich-Wilhelm Graf
Trying harder, negotiation tougher, learning to say no.

Friendswithyou
Clients usually want us to do what we do best.

George Lois
A clients aesthetic? You gotta be kidding. The only client that I ever worked for in my life that I would consider having any true concept of aesthetics is Florence Knoll, who pioneered bringing great furniture from architects into the marketplace. She loved everything I showed her because it took her breath away.

Hula Hula
Staying true to what the specific project asks for. Trying to remember every project s different from the last one and thus needs a different approach and solutions.

I like to think more than a style we have a particular way of solving projects. Paying special attention to color, trying out our own type treatments and fonts and having a laid back and feel good approach while being 100% committed to our job.

Ian Stevenson
I try to get away with as much as I can and give them drawings that they didn’t know they wanted.

Jeff Domke
Hypothetically, clients are paying designers to provide an aesthetic perspective that is superior to their own. However in the real world, clients have opinions just like every man, woman and pet goldfish. The trick is to get clients involved early on, get them excited about your ideas and get them committed to your way of seeing. If you can do this, then you can steer them on the path to good design.

Justin Ouellette
Sometimes it can be hard to resist the urge to rethink a client’s entire brand, but working within a foreign aesthetic is just part of the discipline. In some cases it’s possible to apply your own style at a different scope, for instance in macro organization over micro details, or vice versa. Sometimes you just can’t.

Lance Wyman
I think my clients have become clients because there is an attraction to the style of my work. I haven’t experienced any major imbalances.

Milton Glaser
Style is determined by appropriateness.

Followup question: It seems like you may be at a point in your career where you are able to say "I have been doing this long enough, that I know this is right" to clients who try to be designers. Do you think this is true? If so, how does it affect your relationship with such clients?

Length of time in the field is irrelevant. With clients, in every case, the issue is always the same. You must persuade them through the power of the work itself, that you have solved the problem. If I can quote from my essay, "What I've Learned,"

Number 8
DOUBT IS BETTER THAN CERTAINTY.

Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being skeptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential. Of course we must know the difference between skepticism and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one’s openness to the world as passionate belief is. They are sort of twins. And then in a very real way, solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.

Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you.

Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy. Self-righteousness and narcissism generally come out of some sort of childhood trauma, which we do not have to go into. It is a consistently difficult thing in human affairs. Some years ago I read a most remarkable thing about love, that also applies to the nature of co-existing with others. It was a quotation from Iris Murdoch in her obituary. It read ‘ Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.’ Isn’t that fantastic! The best insight on the subject of love that one can imagine.

Please Let Me Design
Damien: We don’t have our own style, only ideas that creates it.

Pierre: By simply not thinking in terms of aesthetic. An idea come first, then we try to figure out a way to realise it.

Rick Valicenti
While i have a completely three-dimensional approach to design, my clients know my responsible nature and commitment to their needs. In return they embrace the fact that their message will be expressed with my dialect and sensibilities.

Wolfgang Weingart
I do my own work, as I think it will be perfect.

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Fill/Stroke is a collection of three individuals who have always been good at collecting content, but never really good at sharing it. We formed in early 2008, and have been honored to interview some of the greatest designers of our time.

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