My first position out of Art Center College of Design was with Saul Bass in Hollywood. As you may know, Saul was a pioneer in defining corporate identity as a strategic marketing discipline. His firm developed identity programs for major international companies such as AT&T, Exxon, United Airlines, Warner Communications and dozens of others. Saul also achieved fame for his Hollywood film posters and film title sequences.
As a very junior designer, I was not allowed to attend major design presentations, but I found an area behind a curtain where I could listen to, but not see, Saul present. What struck me was how detail-oriented Saul was. He was at ease explaining to clients the rationale behind a particular design. Often, clients perceive logo design as being “art.” And being “art” there is always the element of subjectivity: everyone is a critic. Saul believed if one could precisely objectify why a particular design works (or doesn’t) one removed—to the extent possible—the element of subjectivity from the evaluation process. A client may not like the color red because red sweaters make him or her look fat, but he/she can’t argue with the fact that red may powerfully differentiate the company from the competitors.
The ability to verbally articulate design is critical in selling it to a client. I learned this from Saul and it has served me well to this day. If a client asks you why you’re recommending a design approach and you reply, “I don’t know; I just really like it,” you won’t get very far down the corporate design road.