Ask Questions

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever”  Chinese Proverbs

My best boss ever was great at asking questions.

A client called us about making changes to their website.  We were just about finished with the project, so I asked my manager if we could have a phone conference with the client. We were all on the phone and the client said, “The logo needs to be bigger.” In my estimation, the logo was already large enough. I could have articulated several reasons why I did not think making it any bigger was the best direction for the site. However, before I could respond, my manager asked the client “Why do you want the logo bigger?” After some discussion, the client expressed his concern that the brand of the site was not prominent enough. They did not feel like, when you first hit the home page, you would immediately know and understand you were at http://www.whatever.com. Aha! Now we have a problem. See, “Make the logo bigger” is a solution. “The brand is not prominent enough” is a problem. The skill of my manager was that he could ask questions of the client and then let them tell him where they wanted to go with the project.

In an ideal world, it is the client’s job to bring problems and the designers’ job to find solutions. I did not end up making the logo bigger. I did put more white space around it and added a subtle (but effective) watermark of the brand icon in a very prominent position on the page. The point is this: making the logo bigger was only one possible solution to the problem.

Whenever I wanted to get into a discussion with a client or a co-worker and my boss was present, he would always listen and respond with questions.  His goal was always to understand the other person better.

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