July 26, 2014

On Compromise

Compromise is thought of, and touted as, a virtue. When negotiating, brainstorming, or presenting concepts, the mutual modification of two opinions is believed to deliver a more successful, satisfying result. I influence you to give way there, you convince me to budge here, and we arrive at our end-product. I say bollocks! I do not believe compromise has any place in the creative process, or in any inter-personal relationship that matters.

This is not to say that there should be no push-back between designer and client.

Collaboration is my life-blood. Partnering with clients, intimately, over time, fuels the design assets Viewers Like You creates. Our satisfaction and success is nurtured through this unique relationship. However collaboration must avoid, at all costs, defaulting to capitulation. For example, when a client says they want this or that word to be “bold” and the designer ceases to defend their choice, then makes this change because the cult of compromise says that’s a good collaborative practice, compromise has made the client a demanding opponent, no longer a trusted partner. The moment the door opens to this dynamic, the shared goal begins to move backwards.

When either party shrinks their ideals, no one wins.

It’s quite stunning, the distance between what we think compromise means, and what it actually does. But what’s a better way to describe the result of a collaborative back and forth? I’ve asked around, and calling up a word that more accurately expresses the nimbleness required in the designer/client relationship has proven to be difficult.

How do you feel about the word shift? Or convert? When I looked them up in the dictionary, they both felt ‘meh’. Go see for yourself. What do you think? I got closer when I jumped to looking at the word evolve, which brought me to the synonym; advance. That’s when the epiphany happened. Advance.

» To move or bring forward
» To bring into consideration; suggest; propose
» To improve; further
» To make progress
» To grow or rise in importance


Rather than defaulting to compromise, promoting the advancement of our ideas, together, is the gospel I’m preaching. My delivering a product that’s a middle-state between our differing ideas means what you’re getting is “less than.” You end up sharing a mutation. And then your people feel that. There’s another way. Don’t compromise. Advance the conversation.


You might be thinking that since I’m proposing there’s no room for compromise then I’m suggesting silence is golden. Nononono. For sure a client who doesn’t share their thoughts, freely, even when they are not in support of what has been presented, is a different kind of detriment to collaboration. I can field an unfavorable response. In fact, I see it as an important juncture in the arc of your website/packaging/logo’s development. My clients know this. Often you’ll hear me say, “sometimes we have to turn left to go right.” ‘Cause it’s true! And we’ll never arrive if either of us feels shut up—or down. Speak up, let’s spar.


‘On Compromise’ is one in a series of short musings about topics I inquire about, a lot.