Making Sausage

My old advertising boss used to tell our customers, “You don’t want to watch us make the sausage.” He grew up in Mississippi, and knew what went into those tasty treats you find on your breakfast plate.

If you actually saw the pieces and parts that make sausage, there’s a good chance you’d never eat it. He applied this sausage thinking to the creative process and clients. He reasoned most clients don’t want to see all the wadded up ideas and missteps in the design process. And he’s mostly right.

Yet, I’m coming to the conclusion that no one wins when clients can’t see into the design process. Client’s are generally ignorant about the time, energy and discipline necessary to produce effective creative on schedule and within budget. Showing the end concept without involving them along the way further contributes to their ignorance. Why? They have no sense of appreciation for your creative process. Having “grown up” on the client side of things, I’ll never forget the first time the contracted design team presented logo concepts for our project. As they unveiled a concept (there were three), they tried to explain the thinking and meaning behind each. I’d already formed my opinion within 5 seconds. I wasn’t impressed with any of them. Why? I hadn’t been involved in the design process or even seen the work required to get there. When I took some time to walk around their offices during a break, I saw the drafts pinned to the wall and the notes scribbled on the boards. Only then did I begin to understand the blood, sweat and fears that went into their design.

“Show your work,” as my teachers used to say, is an important part of gaining client buy in. Clients must not only see the final product, but understand the journey along the way. This is true in most professions. Home builders constructing a new home interact with the owners throughout the process. They see the sludge and scrap generated during the building process. They see the complicated nature of the electrical wiring and the time it takes to trim a house down to the door knobs and crown molding. In design, we need to show people how we make the “sausage”. Movie producers have long understood this concept. Next time you rent a DVD, you’ll surely find a “behind the scenes” or a “making of” selection of clips. Take note.

Want to see a good example of designers showing their creative process? Try Dave Werner’s portfolio site, Not only does his work touch the heart (see the Impact Chair and Reflect/Respect Projects), but it gives valuable insight to potential clients as to how Dave’s design process works for them.

One Response to “Making Sausage”

  1. BSCO

    Almost always, it’s necessary to educate the client to the process.

    AIGA has an excellent series of books, especially the What every business needs book.

    I suppose that’s why it’s called communications.


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