I met with a wonderful, potential new client this week and we talked for a long while about the concept of “perception IS reality”. We looked at it in a couple different lights and mused over this idea from a few different vantage points. I thought it was worth sharing.
My initial desire, in talking about this concept, was to describe my belief that the “reality” of a situation is only that of the emotional response or reaction of the person who is interpreting a piece of information. For example (in more of a business capacity) a client sends you an email saying they would like to meet with you in a few days to discuss something you previously produced for them. Either you get totally nervous and spiral down the path of “what did I do wrong, why do they want to see me?” or your reaction is just the opposite and you think “wow, I can’t wait to hear what they want to talk to me about, maybe they want to commend me, or give me new work?”. Either way, the email that your client sent “is what it is!” It is just fact. It has no emotion tied to it, it’s just a bunch of words; your client wants to meet with you. But your emotional response to this fact is what colors your view and becomes your reality. Am I getting anywhere here? This is a bit of a challenging concept!
In terms of a creative services provider (ie. me, or my lovely new potential client, a fantastic photographer) this concept can also be looked at from both our own perspective as well as our clients’ vantage point. From our own perspective, we want to ensure that every contact with our clients is ‘branded’ and ‘cohesive’ in order to ensure that when our clients read our emails, receive our notes in the mail, hold our business cards or look at our websites, that everything encourages their perception to be what we want it to be; pretty, powerful, creative, bold, dynamic, etc. But from our client’s vantage point, their actual perception is going to be based on how much they value our services… for some clients, who don’t put much importance on things like beautiful custom photography, nothing that an amazing, experienced, established photographer does is going to convince them to spend 400% more money on pictures of their children, when they could go to Sears and have studio portraits done for a fraction of the cost!
I have worked with some extremely successful, affluent clients/corporations who could afford to spend the money to produce the most awe-inspiring, award-winning graphic design, but they don’t believe that graphic design, on a whole, is as valuable as other aspects of their business. So they put pennies towards the design and end up with very modest graphics, no matter how hard I fight them, and encourage to act otherwise!! It’s like fighting with a toddler, trying to win these sorts of battles; there’s just no reasoning with them.
This is where the value of experience entered our discussion. Above-mentioned fantastic photographer told me about an article she’d just read, and posted on her own blog, about a boat mechanic. There’s no way I’ll tell the story as well as the version she posted, so I’m just going to copy/paste it below, then we will discuss!
“There is an old story about a ship that cost a company millions of dollars. Something went wrong in the engine room and the ship was stuck at the dock. They called various “experts” who spent weeks trying to fix the issue to no avail and at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. Finally a older gentleman was called in, who simply brought in his small tool bag and a hammer. He set about pinging on various parts of the vast engine with his hammer, finally settling on one area. He spent a few minutes pinging in that area, took out a few tools and fixed whatever what was wrong. After a few moments the man straightened up, looked at the captain and instructed him to “start her up.” The captain disbelievingly went to get the engines started while the man sat in the engine room listening as the engine roared to life. The man tipped his hat as he exited the ship to the staff who sat dumbfounded because they had seen all the experts come on board for days with their expensive equipment only to have the ship not fixed. This man did it in a few minutes with a few pings of his hammer!
A few days passed and the man sent the shipping company a bill for $10,000. The accounting department contacted him immediately; they had been told that this man had only spent “a few minutes” fixing the ship “with his hammer and a few other random tools”. When questioned about why his bill was for $10,000 – did he accidentally put an extra zero on the bill? The man confidently responded: “In fact, the time was worth $1,000. The other $9,000 was for the years of experience and the ability to discern the issue as quickly as possible for the company.”
(excerpt from original article here)
Did you all have an “a-ha” moment? I do, each and every time I read that story! I guess it’s this ‘experience’ that I want to encourage my clients, and my clients’ clients to value when attempting to perceive their reality. This is what I think is really important to get across for my clients, when I design beautiful package and identities for them. I hope to be able to skew some perceptions and modify some realities and maybe even change a few minds. If my clients let me!