I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’
— Steve Jobs, talking about Paul Rand
I’ve heard this before, and while I like the sentiment, I can’t help but think it’s either incredibly pompous or ignorant. I think I’d balance it off of some of the things that Michael Beirut says in this Creative mornings talk, where he points out that his clients aren’t any different from anyone else’s, and that while some people think that Pentagram clients self-select, they’re the same random mix of people that anyone else gets. Those clients aren’t going to swallow such an egotistical line, even if you’re the top designer in the world.
Still, the idea that Paul Rand has, that he’s going to understand your problem and solve it for you (and so there is only one correct answer), is a pretty nice one for those of us that design corporate brand identities. And why not, it seems pretty logical.
When Paul Rand presented his NeXT logo, he did it with a custom-made book (scroll to the bottom of the page, look under “presentations”) that walked Steve Jobs through the problem, and the thought process that went into designing the logo (more scans of the book are available at Imprint). Which is absolutely how you’d have to do it, if you’re only presenting the one concept: you’re telling the story about how the identity is fated to look like this, and not like anything else. If you can get that story right, presenting one option will work. But it might help if you’re not quite as brusque with the client as Mr. Rand is quoted as being.
As an aside, I happen to think that the NeXT logo is poorly done.