The needs and wants in a 3D animation, VFX or motion design project are two important things that you need to understand for better project management. Every partner that works with us starts off as a client and on a fundamental level, they are just looking for a suitable studio to produce the assets that they need. As we progress up the relationship ladder, we will eventually learn that they too have their wants alongside the needs of the project.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he theorized that human needs can be represented as a pyramid shape. The basic needs are placed at the bottom and the more complex, intangible ones are at the top. An individual will have to fulfil the basic needs before being able to address the higher-level needs. We can also apply the same concept in our businesses as well. Each stakeholder will have to fulfil the needs of the project first before we can address their wants.
In doing so, we are able to establish the relevant needs as the primary focal points and these become the foundation of the project. Any wants that each stakeholder has become secondary and will need to address this foundation before we can consider them. As such, the needs should and always be the focus in every endeavour to make the project a success.
DO I NEED THIS OR WANT THAT?
As a 3D animation, motion design and VFX studio, our priority will always be to meet the needs of our partners. We can only do so if these needs are established early otherwise we risk running into complications later on. Surprisingly, most of us are familiar with them since they are usually the first to be discussed at the start of an enquiry or a request for a quotation. Some examples of the needs:
- Budget: Our partners would usually have a budget set in stone for the project and they would need the production costs to match it.
- Time: For each project, there is a specific deadline that our partners need to meet. In general, the time needed has a direct influence on the budget as well. The longer the timeline, the higher the budget can be.
- Functionality: Partners need our final outputs to function properly in order to solve their problems. For example, a partner might want an animation for online purposes but at the same time, have the consideration to use it for social media as well. Therefore, we need to ensure that our animation is adaptable for both platforms.
- Key/Unique Selling Points: Most partners have a set of key/unique selling points that they need us to visually address in the animation.
- Convenience: The need to have our service as a convenient solution to their existing problems (e.g. storyboarding, conceptualizing, sound design).
- Options: Certain partners have multiple layers of stakeholders to get approval and need the flexibility to have options or alternative solutions in some areas.
It is relatively easy to understand the needs of the stakeholders in a project. However, their wants are trickier because there are many factors that can influence or act as catalysts for such things. It can be as simple as wanting to exactly follow a reference because they believe it may work. Or complex like wanting to impress their superiors by trying to produce something spectacular with an extremely low budget.
The best way to go about understanding their wants is through frequent communication with our partners. Throughout the project lifespan, we will hold multiple meetings with our partners to share our progress. These are opportunities to engage them in open conversations regarding their thoughts and most importantly, their feedback.
We work with various partners, ranging from tech to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), all working on separate timelines and processes. Everyone of them have their own motivations and give will feedback based on the needs of the project or their own personal wants. Due to this, there are two main types of feedback that we will receive; objective and subjective. We will always prefer the former because it helps to propel the project towards a better direction. The difference between them:
- Subjective feedback: Influenced by personal tastes, opinions and even experiences. For example, a certain partner’s favourite colour is red and therefore, prefers different shades of red to be in the animation when his/her brand’s colour is blue.
A classic example of what subjective feedback would be:
“It doesn’t seem to be working. Can we make it ‘pop’?”
It is these kinds of questions that will raise red flags because of the lack of specifics. No rhyme or reason as to why it is not working, open to various interpretations of what ‘pop’ is and the actual intention for the request.
- Objective feedback: Often motivated by the goals of the project. It focuses on the work and the primary question of ‘Does it serve the overall intent?’. Aesthetics matter but has to address functionality and purpose.
Alternatively, objective feedback would be:
“The chosen primary colour is not working because it is too warm. Warm colours add a tinge of red to our product. To retain accuracy, let’s try using a set of cool colours or lower the saturation.”
More than often, it is a joy to get feedback like the above. The partner understood the issue, clearly indicated the intention for the change and provided solutions for us to work with. We can then work towards the given solution or propose new ones for the betterment of the project.
Undeniably, most partners tend to provide subjective feedback due to their position as paymasters in the relationship. This is where we make the effort in turning them into effective collaborators. We can change such feedback to objective ones by asking probing questions. These questions aim to seek clarifications and indirectly, educate our partners to craft objective feedback instead.
THE DEFENSE RESTS!
We highly encourage our partners to share ideas and opinions but the subjective ones can be rather tricky to tackle. It is definitely better to address them instead of letting such feedback fester in the background. If left uncontrolled, there is a good chance that the project will spiral out of control and sway to the wants of the partners instead of the needs of the project.
That being said, we do acknowledge that not all subjective feedback is bad. It can offer alternate perspectives on things and lead to new ideas, assuming all the stakeholders are proactive and aligned. Instead of leaving it to chance, a controlled balance of both can help to elevate the quality of the project. This is why a partnership approach is super important.
When subjective feedback is provided, it will be good to start asking questions (probing and diverging ones are the best!). Examples of such questions are ‘Is there a reason why there is a preference for this?’ or ‘Is it possible to explain how this fits the overall concept?’. The idea is to get a better understanding of the concerns that the partner has and identify if it is a want. Use the opportunity to realign everyone to the needs of the project again. This helps as a checker to keep everyone reminded that the end product is, first and foremost, meant for the target audience.
Graphics by: Benjamin Lim (https://www.thebenjmark.com/)
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