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“I want something out of the ordinary so think out-of-the-box”…I’m sure all the graphic designers are familiar with this common client statement. Almost every client wants his design to be ‘special’ and ‘out of the box’ even though they have no clue of what exactly they want. Being loyal to their clients, graphic designers attempt to come up with the weirdest ideas possible. In the process, they open such a Pandora’s Box that they don’t really know whether they are ‘outside’ the box or trapped ‘inside’ it.

Now don’t jump the gun just yet folks. I don’t mean to state that unconventional approach is bad. Although out of box thinking has its perks and merits, it also comes with a baggage of drawbacks. Unconventional designing, or ‘Avant-garde’ as it is properly termed, is a feature of modernism. It involves works that are experimental or inventive, especially concerning art, graphic design, and culture. But not everyone understands the concept of modernism. This is where thinking out-of-box can become troublesome.

Let us discuss how unconventional designing can be a bane for graphic designers:


• Confuses the Client

You come up with a design that is out of the ordinary and show it to your client and what response do you get? A confused client shouting “What the heck is this supposed to mean?” Since clients don’t really understand the concept of modern art, they might not be able to comprehend your unusual style. You may go hours arguing with him that you acted upon his directions, but in the end, you will curse yourself for following orders and not using your own judgment.


• Consumes More Time

You must be wondering how thinking out of the box can be harmful if it consumes time. Although unique design concepts require ample time and thought process to be conceived, there is a limit to everything. Graphic designers simply cannot consume most of their work time on one client just because he wanted you to surprise him. Moreover, the client will pay you your standard rates and not for your ‘out-of-box’ solutions. Give equal time to each client project and don’t let one client consume most of your time.


• Rejection From Target Audience

Even if your unconventional design manages to impress the client, it may not be able to make an impact on the target audience. An average consumer in this day and age doesn’t have the time to interpret complex and eccentric concepts. They go for trendy designs that are common and in-vogue. Hence, there are chances that your ‘out-of-box’ design may be rejected by the audience for which it was intended.


Are You Inside Or Outside The Box?

Thinking out-of-the-box in graphic design is valid in situations when you are certain of its results. Graphic designers should assess the project properly before applying any unconventional approach. So are you really outside the box or inside it?


  1. Leo Adhami On March 21st, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I agree 1000% with this, they ask for ‘Out of the Box’ creativity, after that he said no please do this and that.
    When he finish he just say: ” What do you think about my creativity? ” Are YOU Kidding ME ..

  1. Paper Acrobat On March 21st, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    The best clients are the ones that trust your insight and experience. The designer has the expert knowledge so should be left to come up with something original and inspiring.

  1. Adam Booth On March 22nd, 2012 at 4:03 am

    I totally agree with the comment ‘Almost every client wants his design to be ‘special’ and ‘out of the box’ even though they have no clue of what exactly they want’. I have encountered this many times in my professional life where the client asks for a radical idea but in the end, only wanted what their competitor has. Stifling any creativity and ‘out of the box’ thinking the designer had.

  1. Adam @ Pixelbot Creative On March 24th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I don’t think clients necessarily want “weird” when they say “outside the box,” rather I think they’re looking for true originality.

    They want something they’ve never seen before - too often, designers seem to re-hash tired ideas over and over for different applications.

  1. Natasha McEachron On March 29th, 2012 at 12:31 am

    I agree with Adam @ Pixelbot Creative. When clients say “outside the box” they don’t necessarily mean weird and off the wall (unless that’s the personality of their brand/company). They most likely mean something that everyone else isn’t already doing. If a client’s competitors all have very corporate blue square logos, thinking outside the box doesn’t necessarily have to be pink dragon it could simply mean something fresh instead of another blue square logo.

  1. Rob On March 29th, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Great article! Creative people should alway think outside the box!!

  1. Integraphix design firm On March 29th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Totally agree. Graphic design that’s out of the box and innovative will typically scare a client even though it’s what they asked for

  1. Seattle Lawyer On March 29th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    When clients want something outside of the box it is them wanting an idea different from theirs that line up with their values. I don’t think companies are looking for weird.

  1. Tom @ Studio Republic On April 2nd, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I think that business graphics should be unique and form a brand for which the company can be identified, however this is unlikely to require out of the box thinking. Depending on the project, starting with some out of the box thinking can make sure that most design routes have been covered.

  1. Edna On April 20th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    When we go for “out of the box” type of thinking with our lanyards, usually we are just aiming for surprise in a positive way that pleases our customers. While we recognize that you can get mileage out of images that leave a client wondering what you meant, we believe transparency is the best.

  1. Michael On April 26th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I am the owner of flip branding studio and today in a meeting with a new client starting up a new business, let’s call him client “X”.
    X: I want something that is so ground-breaking, original, I want everybody to be talking about my brand and logo.
    me: great, I will work on it personally.
    X: do you know company “Y” ?
    me: yes….
    X: I want my logo to look like their logo……
    me: …………..Speechless………..(i thought, well back to the box).
    It’s very hard to be able to Think outside the Box when clients have certain mindsets where all they want is something that has been tried and tested, at the end of the day our clients just want to make money and not all believe that how their brand looks is a great reflection of their products, so many of my clients only believe in personal selling………

  1. Tovo On May 22nd, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I think that thinking ‘outside’ the box is good when dealing with social media, branding, etc. Going too unconventional with the design aspect of the project is *most of the time* a bad idea. User experience is always important, and if you stray too far from what’s basically expected from the consumer and/or client, confusion will most definitely set in.

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