A Business Mistake & Being Gandalf Header image by Grant Kennedy

A Business Mistake & Being Gandalf

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in business and today I’m going to tell you about one of them.

I had a client come to me looking for a logo for her new chocolate business.

The design brief was pretty simple. She wanted her logo to look like a cacao plant, use the colors of a cacao plant, and it would go on her packaging.

As a designer, I wish all design briefs were this clear and easy to parse.

We agreed on a price and I got to work.

I sifted through images of cacao plants. I sampled the colors. I sought inspiration from other designers. To any designer, this will all be familiar.

After three days, I deliver her the first draft of the logo and she asked for some revisions.

I made the corrections, package it all up in different file formats so she can use them everywhere, and send it off.

A couple days later, I get a message saying that she will be paying me but she won’t be using my logo.

I inquired why that is and she said after discussing it with family and friends, it didn’t match her brand.

Check out the images below. Do you see the mistake I made?

cocovie brush logo

Could the design be better? Yes… but that’s not the mistake.

Was it the font? Nope. The colors? Nope.

The mistake was in the delivery. I delivered the logo and said “here you go!”

Go back to the beginning of the story. My client was a chocolatier who creates craft chocolate for her customers. She needed a logo for her branded packaging.

She had an idea for a logo but it was MY JOB to bring that idea to life. I should’ve done mockups of the logo on different packaging, on a polo shirt, on a mug, on a website. Here’s how I should’ve delivered the logo:

I made a fatal assumption that she would know how to do all that. Because of this, I lost out on a potential lifelong client.

Here’s what I learned a couple key lessons from this experience:

  1. Don’t confuse your tools for your job. I was more concerned with designing a logo than I was with solving the client’s problem. In doing so, I stopped being a designer and became an artist… because design is about problem solving.
  2. I’m Gandalf, not Frodo. As the expert, it’s my responsibility to guide my clients to their ideal outcome. It’s not to be the star of the show.

So remember: Be Gandalf (or Dumbledore if you’re an HP fan) and serve the customer, not yourself.

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