It is every designers nightmare – having to answer to more than one person. But with most projects more than one person is involved and everyone will have an idea on what the finished item should look like.
Having worked on a number of community projects, and trust me volunteers have much stronger views than most business people, I have come up with a strategy that seems to be working.
I ask for one person to be nominated to liaise with me. That person works as a conduit feeding through the copy, photos, illustrations etc. They give me the brief – this comes in various forms sometimes a sheaf of emails from the group members saying what must be included or a simple chat over the phone.
I will then only communicate through that person. They send the draft to the group and then collate the feedback and send it onto me. This saves me having 10 conflicting emails and not knowing whose view is the most important or the one to follow.
To make the job easier for the liaison person I try to give them as much information as possible about my design decisions. Why I have chosen that particular font, why those photos and not others, why those colours. These are all questions that will be thrown at them and if they know the reasoning behind the choices it helps the group decide if they are happy with it.
Occasionally if there is a very difficult person on the group who won't agree to the design, I will send them a personal message to help explain my decisions and why it can't be quite as they would like – but I will only send it through my liaison person so they are kept in the loop.
This system worked brilliantly on a recent project that involved literally hundreds of people. I was asked to design a set of exhibition panels for the local U3A group. Each panel featured the work of one of their groups, each group has around 20 members. One lovely lady, Juliet, worked as my go-between. She did a great job rounding up the material so it was sent through to me in good time, she then fed back the comments from the groups and worked to explain to them that the reasons behind the design format that had been chosen. From my point of view this worked really well, I could get on with my job. I don't think life was so easy for Juliet but the exhibition did her great credit in the end!
View the Ems Valley U3A exhibition at Emsworth Museum throughout August 2016.