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Unicorns and pixie dust

A lesson that they never taught in school was that you should never fall in love with your own work. In the past week I’ve had two conversations about this and it’s really worth exploring.

The customer is often right.

Like most people, when I got out of school I was full of my own brilliance. I was bursting at the seams with knowledge and eager to set the world on fire. That lasted until I encountered my first client. Suddenly I was face-to-face with an alternative view of my self-confidence.

That first client, just like every single one  that followed, thought that they knew their business. Moreover, that client actually had their own ideas!  With a consistency that rivals a Mariana Rivera slider in the 9th inning, no matter the project, clients always suggest changes that my immediate reaction is to gasp in horror at. It’s true. I create a poster and they ask if I can put a unicorn in the corner. I design a logo and they tell me that the unicorn should be pink. I design a brochure and they tell me that pixie dust should swirl around the unicorn and cover every page. I build a website and I find out that the unicorn needs to be animated … and is there anyway it could talk?

Young me I’m sure, actually gasped. I audibly took in a sharp intake of breath with the hope that I might either pass out or wake up from the nightmare. How dare you suggest something like a unicorn … on MY masterpiece!

Beads of sweat have accumulated on my brow right now just remembering it.

The hard lesson, the one that took me years to embrace, I will share with you now. This is big so you may want to write it down. This kernel of knowledge has taken me 23 years to master and now share with you. That lesson is …

The customer is often right.

There. I said it. It’s right there in pixels for all the world to see. The customer is often right. It’s amazing when you think about. I mean, I have all this experience and knowledge. I’m actually really good at marketing, writing and graphic design. I can’t tell you though how many times it’s been that clients have suggested that I add a unicorn to something. Bedazzled the one-horned fantasy with sparkly things and pixie dust. They have suggested something so far away from what I created and completely nuts … and it works. I can point to project after project where I created something and adding the unicorn actually made it better.

The wisdom of experience is that the customer might be right and you should listen with an open mind.

I’ll admit something else… sometimes the unicorn was in fact a terrible idea and the pixie dust will kill the design. The lesson I’ve learned and I’m trying to share here is that sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m not. The wisdom of experience is that the customer might be right and you should listen with an open mind. No matter what you do. If you’re an actuary or a plumber or a school teacher, we all have clients. We all get asked to do things that fly in the face of our brilliant work and we all gasp at the suggestion. Just remember that the customer is often right.

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