War Stories of a Graphic Designer

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What is it about marketing and graphic design that makes every Joe Blow think that they can do it? Is there any other profession where you are constantly second-guessed, overruled, or made to do things that are completely against your expertise and training? Yes, yes — you’re the client. We get that. But, why are you paying my invoices if you don’t want to hear what I have to bring to the table?

I think it must be because good graphic design makes design look easy to do. A well-designed piece isn’t noticed as much as a poorly designed one. And some clients, no matter what, will not let a piece go without thier inane “input.” Not all, but some people feel they have to change something to make them feel superior — even if the input given is actually detrimental to the design. Try walking that tightrope with a client who has no clue that they suck at design.

I had a client once that gave me what I thought would be a great job — a complete branding of a business that was not only sophisticated, but fun as well. After my shpeel about having control over the design and layout, I began on the hardest part– the logo. Suprisingly, this part of the project goes smoothly. I then begin what I condsider the easiest part of the whole project: letterhead and business cards. This is where the trouble begins.

I’m not sure if the guy had been electrocuted or something, but he suddenly became impossible. I would send three prototypes for letterhead, he would pick one — and then, before signing off, sit on it two weeks and then tell me to move some basic design element like 1/8th of an inch or something. Uh… OK, whatever… I do it – send it back – two weeks go by until I get a scrawled note to move the elements back 1/8th of an inch. Huh? Did he forget he wanted them moved before or was he realizing that the first way was better? Or, is he just a control freak and enjoys making me crazy? I do what he asks, he now “loves it” and it’s “perfect”, so I ask him to sign off so we can begin production. I hear nothing for another week or so. Then, I get the dreaded call. He’s been “thinking” and getting all “creative” on me. I am now to add a new very special tagline to the bottom of the letterhead that he came up with all by himself. And, not only is it completely stupid, it’s in French.

I try and talk him out of it, but he’s adamant. And he doesn’t know how to speak French – what he’s written is gramatically incorrect. I try and explain it to him, but he thinks he knows French and wants it to stay as is. I try and explain that it makes no sense and has nothing to do with the branding of the company – he doesn’t care. So, I swallow my pride and put the idiotic, gramatically incorrect French tagline at the bottom of the letterhead and now he says he loves it. I ask him to sign off on the design so we can begin production. I hear nothing for over a week.

Now I get a memo telling me to move the tagline to the top of the letterhead. (This was another tactic – he never would contact me in the same way. One week it’s a call, next time it’s a fax, then it’s an email… What, is this guy schizo?) This now means we have four elements on the top of the letterhead and none on the bottom. I suggest we move the address block to the bottom to even it out again. I get denied. It is starting to look like a third grader designed this. I soon realize the third grader is my client.

To make a long story short – I had to decide if the obscene amount of money this particular client was paying me was worth the bullshit. It wasn’t. I packed up all his files, put them on a CD, sent them back via FedEx along with a check for what he had paid me so far along with a nice, professional letter explaining that I no longer could perform the services he wanted. I just couldn’t put my name on something that I knew was going to look like shit. I never heard from him again, but I did notice that he kept my logo, which was fine by me. But, as I figured would happen, he found someone else to sell themselves for the money, and they created shitty looking marketing materials for him like he wanted. I guess in the end we are both happy?

Where does the line get crossed between what I am being paid for and what the client wants? Aren’t I getting paid to give my professional opinion on design and layout? Is the client always right if what they are asking reflects poorly on them? Maybe – but I can’t work like that, and I don’t (or try not to.)

And, don’t even get me started on working for a corporate marketing department… that’s for another day.

ALERT: The Kraft Spiral Racket

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Yep – it’s true. My friends at consumerist.com have ripped the lid off the spiral macaroni and cheese conspiracy! It seems that Spiral Mac n Cheese costs 37 cents more per box than good old traditional elbow Mac n Cheese, and weighs 1.75 oz less. That breaks down to 24% fewer noodles, with a 133% price increase.

My favorite part of this story?

Obviously, cheese spirals are a technological marvel and Kraft needs to recoup the cost of building an entire spiral factory, not to mention the research and development.

Ha ha … very funny. But seriously, fuck the spirals. I only like the elbows anyway – anything else and it doesn’t seem like Kraft Mac and Cheese to me. And, have you ever had an “off” brand Mac and Cheese? Back when I was a young 20-something, broke and living in Chicago, I couldn’t afford the expensive Kraft stuff. I had to buy the Town House brand. It was just plain awful, but it was half the price of Kraft. It seems only Kraft has unlocked the secret to the neon-orange goodness of processed cheese powder. Well, that and Cheetos.

Read the full article here.

Go Ram’s!

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Well, it’s that time of year again… Time to travel to Denver in a couple of weeks and watch my poor beleaguered CSU Rams try and beat the annoying CU Buffs.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you aren’t from Denver. The Rocky Mountain Showdown (or as my good freind JMo calls it, The Rocky Mountain Letdown) is one of the biggest sports events in Denver, selling out the 76,000 seats at Mile High Stadium each year. (Yes, I know it’s officially “INVESCO Field at Mile High”, but I can’t bring myself to say that ridiculous name.)

The college rivalry has been going on and off since 1893 – where CSU didn’t win until 1912 – and is now considered a cemented rivalry game since 1983. Total record? Buffs: 57, Rams: 21 (I counted the two ties to CSU for obvious reasons.) And, I might mention, the Rams lost 3 out of the 4 years I attended CSU.

So, why now do I go each year and put myself through the agony of these games? Because the win is so much more special, I guess. You see, CSU is not only the underdog in Colorado, but the forgotten proverbial red-headed stepchild of Colorado sports. CU and CU Buff fans are always considered the top dog in Denver because they are considered the “rich” and “cool” school while CSU is the state school with the state school budget and the state school fans. Never mind the fact that most students that attend CU are there for the sole fact that their parents have money and most likely weren’t smart enough to get into anything east of the Mississippi if you know what I mean. I mean, where else in the mountain states do you see assholes driving Porches to class and wearing Burberry to a test?

So, for us — the sad CSU fans — the win means we weren’t the underdog for once. We beat the guys with the Burberry and Porsches in our Toyota Tercels and Cherokee, and for once money and influence didn’t mean anything. And, even if we lose, which is more likely than not, we keep coming back each year with that pure hope in our hearts that this year could be different. As my friend Beej says, “We may not be a good lookin’ folk, but we got spirit.”

Amen, Beej.
And, as my Gramatically Incorrect Foam Finger says, “Go Ram’s!”

Flight of the Conchords Rule

” You know when I’m down to my socks, it’s time for business, that’s why they call ’em business socks OOOH!!

If you haven’t watched Flight of the Conchords on HBO, do yourself a favor and tune in. It’s brilliant, hilarious and like nothing else you’ve seen on TV. The songs stick in your head, too. I hope HBO signs them up for another season.