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Je ne sais quoi.

The ability to effectively communicate an opinion on design, art, music, or other abstract concept has eluded human language for centuries. While Americans simply say we “love” everything – pizza, Lady GaGa, children, puppies, and so one – the Greeks developed specific words to describe specific kinds of love – agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. When it comes to romance languages, the French have always had a way with words. To describe a woman of a certain appeal, they would say she has a certain “Je ne sais quoi.” which means, quite literally, “I don’t know what.”

How do you describe your feelings and sense of appeal towards your own marketing, advertising, or web development campaigns? Most business owners, unless they have spent a considerable amount of time with formal art instruction, won’t use words commonly recognized by designers like “composition”, “color family”, and “tonality”. Instead, they will communicate with more general phrases like “It’s missing something.”, “It doesn’t pop. Make it pop.”, or “Can’t you just blend it all together?”

A designer is not just a commercial artist, but also a translator between the sophisticated world of visual language and common spoken language. When a designer delves into the world of web development, suddenly they also must translate complex technical concepts (also known as“GEEKinese”) to those same customers. It’s not a matter of being more intelligent or more learned than your customer. Those who hire you do so because they trust your ability to complete a creative and/or technical process and rely on your communication skills to translate the results.

Every customer, every project, and every day as a creative professional is truly unique.  Designers, developers, advertisers, and marketers never experience the same day twice despite repeat clients and ongoing projects. Being highly adaptive by nature, and undoubtedly intuitive in process, we must evolve our language skills beyond what was taught in art school or university. To deliver a successfully completed project, we must make every effort to understand our client, communicate their story, and (above all else) make the return on investment worthwhile.

When my husband asked me what I expected to be doing for my customers’ businesses today, I replied with a cheeky smile and said “Je ne sais quoi.”

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