6 Tips to Wow the Left-Brainers.

by Mike Clark

You’re a creative, right-brained person. The boardroom is filled with left-brainers. The two groups think so differently from one another—how can anything be accomplished in this scenario? In the past 20 years, I’ve seen many right-brainers fail. To survive in this left-brained world, I learned a few techniques to bridge the gap:

  1. Be the bridge builder. It is your job, as the right-brained person, to build the bridge.  A client comes with a very practical need. They know creative is part of the answer, but they don’t know why. Put on your business suit, get into lefty-mode, and establish a comfort level on their terrain. Once they trust you and know you understand them, they’ll be more willing to come on the journey with you.
  1. Diffuse right-brain issues first. Before the decision-makers can appreciate the creative element of your work—they need to understand WHY you developed it. (The answer is not because you had “a great idea” of because “this color palette is the latest trend.”) What is this creative based on? What research did you do? Walk them through the logical steps first. The left-brainers in the boardroom want to know that:
    • You went to the store and reviewed where this product would be sitting
    • You looked at what it would be next to
    • You examined every element of the competitors’ approaches (design, graphic elements, words, colors, bullet points)
  1. Be the expert. Never get in a subjective war of words with when presenting to a client. You have the advantage in this situation. You know why you did what you did. Right? So tell them. Show them your research, audits. Remember, this isn’t your first rodeo.
  2. Present in the environment. One of the biggest left-brain issue cancellers is to present concepts in the environment consumers would be in. Does this mean going to the aisle itself? Maybe. It definitely means showing your design against the actual visual backdrop. Remember, the shelf is where the decision-makers are more concerned about success.
  3. Speak their language. The left-brainers are not designers. Forget design lingo. Instead of, “We chose orange because it complements the lines and aesthetics of the logo,” say, “We chose orange because it pops against the competition’s designs. All of their packaging is blue or grey.” Talk about the rationale behind your presentation. Share the reasons why you’ve done what you’ve done.
  4. Listen. Do they get it? Or do they still not understand? Do you need to do more homework? Listen for the little things. The silence. The hesitations. The concerns. The ones who are the most silent are the ones you have to engage. A talkative client is an easy client. It’s the quiet ones who can be tougher. Engage them; ask questions. Be available to clarify.

Creatives, if we don’t connect with the left brain way at the beginning, we’re in trouble. Don’t go right into the creative—first you have to set level expectations. Remember your audience—and be the bridge builder. In a world of right-brained and left-brained people, I believe a great designer is capable of being both.

InHouse Designer Blog

About Andy Brenits

Andy Brenits is President of the Board of Directors at InSource, the professional association for in-house creative leaders and managers. He is also a creative consultant advising individuals and business owners on brand strategy, creative management, and what it takes to differentiate yourself consistently in a crowded market. He has previously lead creative teams at GAP, Banana Republic, NFL, KPMG, and Arizona Public Service. 

9 thoughts on “6 Tips to Wow the Left-Brainers.

  1. Bill Pantos

    Hi Mike,

    As a ‘right-brainer’ design practitioner, I find the tips you provide to us to be very useful mostly because, we tend to forget that we speak to professionals of a different mentality and context.

    This is why (now more than ever before), a ‘right-brainer’ should understand that his/her responsibilities don’t stop at the design thinking and design implementation levels but, move even further and into the levels of business comprehension and articulation of communication.

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and advice.

    Bill Pantos

  2. Jay Febish

    As an Art Director for over thirty years, I totally agree with the importance of being able to effectively communicate with “the suits”. To be a successful, it is incumbent for the designer to fully understand the client and their needs. This includes the end user or purchaser of the product or service of your client as well. It is highly important to have an understanding of your client’s business and their competitors in the marketplace. Knowing your client’s strengths and weaknesses compared to the competition is essential. Are they viewed as the premium brand? Or are they considered the economical (cheap) alternative. Does your client want to change their perception to potential customers? Doing all this homework before you start to design that next Addy award winning project, insures your chances of increasing your client’s bottom line. Awards are nice to have hanging on the wall, but money in the bank is far better!

  3. Jeff

    While these are solid tips, they’re basically telling me to think and act like a left-brainer in order to win over the left-brainers. Boo and hiss! I’m sure that’s the practical reality of the situation, but why not attempt to engage the right side of their brains? Appealing to their emotions, for example, is a right-brain strategy that I’ve seen work with left-brainers just as well as the six tips listed here.

    1. Mike Clark

      Hi Jeff,
      It is all about getting them to the right side. It has been my experience that if all their left brain questions are anwered. And this will change per client and business, but once answered they will take the journey with you to the right side. They will not take this trip until they have their lefty issues met.

  4. Nita

    Good advice. The best designer in the world will not fare well if the project can’t be explained in practical terms. I know “practical” can be a dirty word to many designers, but if you can present that side to the left-brainers, you can win them over.