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.