Recently I spoke at SXSW Interactive regarding presentations for right versus left brained audiences. I was asked about the ideal client and I brought up a past experience that I only recently discovered again. As anyone working in creative communicatons realizes, few logos and identity projects ever survive to maturity, just as most businesses fail in their first few years.
My ideal client at the time was Selima Salaun of Selima Optiques. I first met Selima in 1986 at the Alain Mikli Optique on 5th Avenue. I was a fan of Mikli eyeglass frame designs and owned several pairs of them. Selima was a creative spirit and a skilled designer and hat maker in Paris before opening the New York location for Mikli. We became friends as we were both fans of opera.
A few years passed and I received a call from Selima, who told me she was working on opening her own designer line of eyewear and had located a store space in Soho for her location. She had been thinking about her business name and the importance of the eye in her business, so she was calling to see if I could design a visual icon that would include both aspects for her new business: Selima Optique. I was living in Roswell at the time, so we would review over the phone and through digital files I sent. In the end, the right design came about from using a hand-drawn technique. It was distinctly different from other brands in that space at the time. Selima accepted the final comp and files, paid me and I lost touch with her over time.
Over 15 years passed, and then I rediscovered that Selima Optique was not only still in business but had expanded to Barney's, J.Crew and the Selima Optique brand was both trendy and global. Not being a celebrity or fashion follower, I never had an idea that she was doing custom designed shades for Bono, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jackson and others. But I cannot think of a more deserving person for this success.
So what makes a great creative client relationship? The client with a passion for their brand or vision goes a long way towards good work. And they must also really have the authority or ownership of the work. I have been involved in too many failure stories where the chief marketing officer took it upon themselves without much involvement from the ultimate owner or visionary (typically a chief executive officer). The result, no matter the level of the work, was not well received and died a quick death.
Another other most importance factor in success with brand work is having the courage to trust in the team you have engaged to build the work. Success comes to those that dare go the opposite direction of the competition. It requires a lot of bravery and trust and that is not common in general, let alone in building a significant brand. The western corporate world is littered with “curving stroke logos” that frankly all owe their inspiration to the Nike mark. The original swoosh was created by a single designer working directly with a right-brained visionary.