‘Digital design is like painting except the paint never dries.’ an ancient quote from Neville Brody in an early Computer Arts magazine. I don’t remember much about the rest of the article except that there were some nice visuals from his Fuse project (which is why I bought the magazine) but it was the quote that has always stuck with me. Client projects normally end with either a deadline or with budget considerations. Particularly from a digital perspective this isn’t necessarily true anymore. The launch of a web project isn’t an end, it’s a beginning. A recent client is constantly tweaking and evolving their website, I consider the website a success as the client continues with the vision and adds content regularly. (Of course I could discuss the other side of this where another client could dilute the original concept and structure but that’s another story and one which annoys the web developers much more)
We’re currently entering the support phase of a large project (design, build and launch is completed) a great client and the trick has been staying within the project confines and scope. This is where project creep kicks in, sometimes it can be difficult to define an end point but as part of the project documentation it’s imperative to identify a deliverable or end.
Even in pricing (particularly with apps) we are constantly making decisions on at what stage functionality should be added. It’s usually quite simple and almost always defined by budget and timescale. (The client will always want all singing all dancing until we discuss budget, I remember a client who wanted a website to rival Nike but didn’t have much money… They didn’t want 3D, they wanted 4D. Yep out of this world…)
I learned a valuable lesson years ago when designing an identity for a club. A small job (and fee) which escalated into something bigger than originally set out. To complete the project (It was freelance) I accepted there would be an element of creep, however an identity soon became tshirts, posters and advertising… and… and… I believe I still would be working on it if I hadn’t asked for the invoice to be paid. At that point it was underlined the work had value and project creep ended.
My point is that as a designer nothing is ever finished, improvements can always be made. Even when something is approved and finalised there is always some tweak that you can make. When working with print there is always a tangible physical end product, with digital that product is a living breathing element that needs constant improvement, as a designer the trick is being able to let go of a project and allowing it to live on its own or evolve with a developer, software engineer or client.
Of course the ideal scenario for client and designer is to operate on a retainer, that way the project becomes an ongoing relationship rather than a finite transaction.