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  • Writer's pictureSener Soysal

The Gouda Metaphor in Designer & Client Relations

There are essential differences between the buying process of a retail product and a service, such as graphic design. It is always pleasant for the client to compare tangible products with their equivalents. As a designer who took a bachelor’s degree in engineering, I believe explaining a design service by comparing it with a product purchase makes things more straightforward. I call it “The Gouda Metaphor.”

Let’s move forward by looking for answers to some questions!

Why gouda?

I am sure you have tasted different kinds of cheese so far. They all look different - They taste different and also transform the other flavours they accompany. For instance, gouda is springy, blue cheese is smelly, and cheddar is melty. While cheddar is best for a toast, gouda is better with wine, and parmesan is with caesar salad. As a result, even though there are many kinds of cheese, you make your decision based on the taste accompanying it. You consider your taste and your experience.

Now imagine that you will get a logo design service for your company instead of cheese. If you know about what kind of logos you like, which ones will be more compatible with your company, and which one will appeal to your company clients more; it would be quite possible to find a designer who would apply this! It is also possible for the designer to meet your expectations. Yes, there are many designers, and there are many different logo styles that they can design for you; but just like when choosing the gouda, you now have criteria!

If the client cannot provide their designers with accurate information about their companies, values, target audience, and media; designers can also try to make gouda. However, perhaps what would be needed is cheddar.

Cheese. Yes but which one? What will it be served with? Who is the target audience? How much budget do you have? Image:

Is one block of gouda enough?

Cheese is a measurable product. You can buy both a block or only a small can of cheese. You can determine the amount you demand according to your consumption, and when it is necessary, you can buy extra to stock up. Of course, by checking the expiration date.

And let’s go back to design. It is impossible to reduce your requests from the designer to a unit like “one block”. You cannot fit both the logo and the catalogue in the same block. Or imagine that you buy a service for a business card, an envelope, and a letterhead besides the logo. Here, the logo is the piece that the designer puts the most effort into, and it shapes the whole concept. Therefore, it is impossible to regard each of these items as “equal” to each other like one block of cheese. Likewise, it is impossible to expect the budget to decrease by a quarter when you give up one of the items.

There is no scale of service you receive. Nevertheless, you can be sure that it affects your company if you proceed with the right choices and collaborations.

There are goudas in all aromas and sizes. Which one is the best?

If one of the things that distinguish the gouda from each other is the aroma it has, the other is the process of washing. Besides that, there is also a term called “ageing”. Cheeses with much higher prices are aged in specially constructed spaces that make them more intense and delicious. Apart from this, it is discussed that the cheese may also contain additives that harm to health. Such technical conditions affect the prices of the products we see on the grocery shelves. Between two products that all these conditions are identical, the price difference is determined by the brand value.

That is also the case for designers. Designers diverse according to their experience, skills, and expertise, and their payment demands have varieties. Some designers may specialize in typography, others in realistic figures. Some embrace simplicity and minimalism, while others make mixed layouts; some embrace orientalism, others futurism.

The education they have on their subjects, the workshops they attend, the communication they build with the clients, and their experiences may also differ. My personal preference is simplicity, functionality, and typography. Although I have been interested in graphic design since my childhood, I can say that I have been working in this field professionally for eight years. I attended many classes in this field, and I did a master’s degree in industrial design. I am interested in text and photography, which is a part of visual communication for a long time. You should choose according to your needs and budget as well.

Their approach and target audience is different, right? Which is bad design? I guess none.

By the way, did we talk about brand value? Just like the price gap between two technically identical cheese, the designers may be diverse based on their brand value and or the gift of gab. You can see similar style designers who provide almost the same service for £2000 and £200.000. But it is better to question the technical competence of those who say they will design a logo for £49! Cheese in Waitrose and Tesco may be the same, but the quality of cheese in Lidl can be questioned. If you are lucky enough, it might be possible to find a great boutique producer at an affordable price in the local market.

Is your brand like Tesco or like Waitrose? Which brand is your target audience similar to? Do you think both have the same cheese? I don't think they have any such claims.

Can I have a bite of that cheese, sir?

If you buy your cheese from a delicatessen, it is quite possible to try the taste of cheese with the generosity of a salesman and buy accordingly. You may encounter the same thing with cool stands in supermarkets. It is a promotion of cheese companies and hero groceries. Most of the time, the expense of that bite and other advertisements are already included in the product price. It is quite possible to calculate the cost of a mass-produced product and to include it in the prices.

What about requesting a free trial service from the designer? Do we have the luxury of saying, “Let’s design the logo. If I like it, we might work together,”? It looks like asking to have the whole block of cheese under the pretext of tasting. On the other hand, the design is not a mass-produced product. Therefore, when you “have a bite of it”, neither it gives an idea about the whole design, nor the cost of that “bite” can be reflected in other clients’ purchases.

A design makes sense as a whole. As the production path has different milestones for each designer, the process may not always make sense when looking from outside. There should be a sense of trust between the designer and the client. The work should start after that. The things that the client can taste are the designer’s previous references. If the style and approach in previous works create satisfaction, you have already had a bite and liked it! If you do not appreciate the references, the questions you should ask yourself are above: “Why gouda? Which one do I need from all those gouda types?”

That attitude emerged after one of my clients did not want to make the payment we agreed on because he canceled the project after finalizing the design. I was thinking about how I can explain this. “Let’s suppose that you bought a block of cheese on credit from the grocery store. You did not eat it, and it got mouldy. Would you go to the grocery store and say, ‘This is what happened. I will not pay for it’?” I asked. Obviously, if one part of our job is to express ideas by visualizing them, the other should be conveying labour and ethical values.

There are still many more things to ask. You can also share the questions coming to your mind with me. (

But this essay cannot be completed without asking this question: “Can we make the gouda a bit bigger?” Under this circumstance, your grocery store either makes it a bit bigger and gets its money; or tells the supplier to add more additives. So it does not taste better when it gets bigger. That is valid for cheese, kids, logos, and so on.


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