12 Most Frustrating Things Designers Hear from Clients
In over 30 years as both an agency client and a graphic designer, I’ve seen brilliant designs and I’ve seen, well, hideous ones. The bad ones happen when the designer hears any of the following from the client.
1. I’ll know it when I see it
The number one reason for bad design is the lack of clear direction to the designer. Asking a creative professional to work without a strategy brief — in writing — is like asking the guy painting your house just to start splashing color on the walls until you see what you want.
2. I hate green
Unless someone is knitting you a sweater, your personal likes and dislikes aren’t really the issue; don’t hamstring the designer by giving your own personal design preferences. There are really only two things — once the creative strategy is agreed upon — that matter: the target audience and your organization’s branding standards.
3. What do you mean by “branding standards?”
Every organization, no matter how small, should have rules — in writing, with visuals — about how the elements of its brand may be used: logo, fonts, colors, spacing, voice, and general content guidelines. These standards should be communicated to everyone in the organization and to every vendor or other entity that uses the organization’s brand. (See #2 above.) McDonalds doesn’t have the Purple Arches and Coke doesn’t do its logo in green.
4. My nephew can design my website for free
The bad news is, it will be obvious to a visitor to your website that you didn’t think enough of your organization to invest in how it is presented to the public. The good news is that, unless your nephew is an expert at search engine optimization (SEO), nobody will see it anyway. It’s sort of like building a tar-paper shack at the end of a dirt road.
5. How much does a logo cost?
The real question is: how much is a logo worth? How much would you be willing to spend for a beautifully — and strategically — designed logo that communicates exactly what you do and tells every prospect what your brand’s promise is? Excellence takes work and shouldn’t be cheap… it should be worth what it brings in return. How many sales would it take for all that work on your logo to be worth the price of creating it? One? Five? A hundred?
6. Could you do some mock-ups so we can decide whether to hire you?
Doing work on spec is working for free. The client asking for the free work is usually getting paid.
7. I paid for that white space, now fill it with something
White space isn’t wasted space. It’s an active and very useful part of the design. What’s not there leads the eye to what IS there. A designer who hears “fill ’er up” will never do good work for that client.
8. We have to put all the product specs in the ad
Actually, you don’t. In fact, the more you put in, the less effective the communication becomes. Engineers, product managers, and business owners are proud of what they have created and want to show it off, but they aren’t the customer. A billboard isn’t an essay; the message should be clear while the prospect is whizzing by it at 70 miles per hour. A single focus beats “kitchen-sink” advertising every time.
9. The CEO wants it this way
This one is the hardest to overcome, because the CEO controls the purse strings and the pink slips. The only real hope for a CEO who is saying any of the above about a designer’s work is to present the boss with a thoroughly researched and well-articulated strategy brief before the work begins; see #1 above. That way, there may be a hope in hell that he or she will find that the completed design is on strategy. It doesn’t work every time, however.
10. $30 is too much to spend for a stock photo; I’ll just take my camera
Ahh, the days of hiring an actual photographer to take original pictures to illustrate a point are… sorry, I was lost in a moment of nostalgia. Get good shots. Hire somebody who knows how to take them. Creating proper images are part of the process.
11. Can you try some other fonts?
Why? (Dang it, where are those brand standards? I know they’re here somewhere.)
12. It just doesn’t hit me
Why, I oughta… if the creative strategy for a project was articulated in advance and the people responsible for judging the work agreed to it, they have something against which to judge the work. People who can’t say what they want seldom like what they get.
There they are, 12 comments that have been the bane of every designer’s existence since the first creatively-inclined cave man scratched something on a wall. The only real change has been that, with the dawn of the digital age, more bad design can be created faster and seen by more people. Strategy shortens the process, saves money, and produces a better result.
Are you a designer? Have you heard any of these? What would you add?
Featured image courtesy of asta.adamonyte licensed via Creative Commons.