For those of you who don’t know, in addition to this blog, I also do a weekly design tip on YouTube as well as a weekly podcast called, Design Speaks. In this podcast my co-host asks me about design-related things that she wants to know more about or understand better. It’s my job to explain things like ideating, or what is a design element. In thinking about topics over the past weeks, I’ve also started thinking about things that clients or potential clients, or even just casual acquaintances might ask me that frustrate me. So I thought I would put together a list of a few things you should not ask or say to your designer or designer friend.
To be honest, many of these comments or questions are what I would call red flags when I am doing my initial consultation with potential clients. If I get the sense that the client has the potential to cause difficulty or they seem like all they are looking for is a technician (aka, I know what I want, I just need someone to make it, etc.), then it is a clear sign that I am not the designer for them.
All of these areas are either one of two things,
- A way to educate your client on something they may not know or understand, or
- A way to weed out the clients that could potentially be full of problems.
“Can you start designing a __________? I can get the copy (text) to you after you show us a preliminary design.”
Design is about communicating ideas. Communication in certain formats almost always requires the use of words/copy/text. If you are in need of a brochure, or poster, business card, website, or any number of things that require designing, it’s likely that you have informational text to go along with that item. If you don’t have the text for your brochure finalized, don’t ask your designer to start working on it.
We don’t design something and then just leave magical blank spots inside or around the design for whatever text you might give us.
We are supposed to design around and in harmony with the text. If all you say is, “I need a postcard designed, it’s for a product launch party, can you work on it while I wait for the copy?” a good designer will say no.
Let me preface this with a bit of clarification; I don’t actually start designing anything [on the computer] until I have gone through many stages of my design process. So when a client comes to me and says they need something from me, I will go through research and sketching and mind mapping before I get to a stage that is ready to be done on the computer. This is the stage that I know most designers start with and will gladly get started on before they get the text.
The problem with this is that if we create an incredibly successful or creative design without the text, it will inevitably get ruined once we get the text because we were not able to accurately plan our design, or our space in the design around that text.
Giving your designer everything they need to create something awesome for you is your responsibility.
If you want a design that will be well connected and creatively executed, make sure you give your designer the text before you expect to see what a final design might look like.
“Can you tell me how much it would cost to design a logo? I just want something simple.”
This is a two part answer.
- The reason this is probably one of the worst things you can ask your designer is because at it’s core, it implies that simple is cheap or easy. I think it’s really hard for people to understand that simple does not mean cheap. And simple does not mean quick.
“Simple” when it comes to design, pretty much always takes more time and effort and a much more experienced designer, which means it will not be cheap.
Creating something simple/clean/concise requires that the designer understand what is the least amount of visual information that is needed in order to still communicate clearly and solve the problem and appeal to the right audience. I’ve written before at length about Why Simple Design is not Easy, Quick, or Cheap. Simplicity takes a lot more time, thought, and experience to achieve. Why is this? Because most people when something doesn’t feel right in a design, think, “what’s missing”. But the experienced designer can say, what can I take out to make this better communicate the message more clearly. Simplicity in design is a skill that takes much more intentional thought, and therefore will cost more money.
2. The other part of this question is that I don’t charge a flat rate for “a logo”. For one, because every single business and every single brand is different and has a varied challenges in the creation of a logo for them. How does it make sense that I charge a local shop the same as I would a huge company downtown? For two, because I don’t just create logos, I help you design a branding package. I want to know and understand your company or product, I want to dig deep into the mission of who you are and what you stand for and what people you want to appeal to. And again, this will be different and will be more or less work for each client so I can’t just throw out a number when you ask for a quote until we’ve had a consultation.
“I don’t really know what I want, can you just make a bunch stuff and I’ll just know when I see it.”
No you won’t. If you have zero idea of what you want now, you won’t know if I give you 100 options. The funny thing about people is that we’re fickle. Sometimes we think we know what we want but when we are given that thing we often find it isn’t what we thought. It’s my job as a designer to not just give you a bunch of random ideas that look really cool. My job is to help you figure out what your goal is or what your problem is and help you solve it using design. When this is done right, I won’t need to give you twenty different ideas and hope that one sticks. If I’m doing my research on your problem, your target, your competition, your concept, and many other important aspects of the project, the options I show you (three or less) will be options that you can not only live with but actually be excited about because they are going to be of use to you beyond just looking good.
“I found this online, can you make something exactly like this, just with our name on it?”
This question addresses something every toddler is taught not to do if I want to be blunt, and I do— steal. With the abundant amount of content online, it is easy for anyone to pull something from a Google search and use it for their own purposes. Now I’m going to give many of you out there the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe you think that everything online is yours for the taking/using. I’m sorry to say that is not the case. There are copyright laws for content online as well as in any other area when something is created (music, inventions, etc.).
Asking your designer to use a photo or graphics you found online is not only stealing but it is also probably putting them in a terrible position if they use it.
You need to consult your designer on the photos you would like to use if they are not already asking you about them. I always ask my clients if there will be photographs they would like to use and where those photographs are coming from and if they own the rights to them. Besides the ethics of taking photos from the internet to use, the other downside is that photos found online, unless you know where or how to look, are usually low resolution and not suitable for any design purposes, especially for print.
“I’d really like my logo to feel like Apple.”
My primary issue with this one are that people think that having a logo “like Apple” will somehow make them an instant success. The problem with this idea is that it doesn’t take into account that the reason Apple’s logo is so successful is because Apple has build a brand around their logo, not the other way around. Your brand is not your logo, your brand is what your company represents to others. Your brand is what people associate with when they hear the name of your business. So you must understand that Apple’s logo is not what makes them successful — it’s their brand, their culture, their business model, and everything that goes with it. I cannot make you the “next Apple.” But I can gain an understanding of your business/company/product/service so that I can create a logo and branding around who you are and what you stand for. It’s not my job to try to replicate Apple for anyone, it’s my job to create something unique to you that will show you and your brand.
“Can we use blue and silver? They’re my favorite colors.”
This is an interesting one for me because I am very passionate about color. I know that color choices matter and that there are built-in feelings and associations with virtually every color in the spectrum. Unfortunately color is also one of those things that people usually feel very strongly about. Black is “depressing”, pink is “for girls”, or white is too “plain”. The thing is that color is psychologically very impactful in a design. Colors effect people in many different ways, from certain shades of blue being calming to orange which is energizing. When I choose colors for a design I do it with a clear purpose to communicate to the audience. I never choose colors because I do or do not like them or because it’s someone’s “favorite color”. It’s my job as a designer to solve problems, and color is a key part of that solution. So assumptions about color and requests based on likes or dislikes are frustrating because they don’t allow me to do my job in research and implementation to help solve the problem a client has brought to me to solve with a design.
“I already know what I want, I drew it myself, I just need someone to trace it on the computer.”
People that say this, don’t want me for all I have to offer them, they just want someone who has a program and can be a technician — a tool. They don’t want the skills I have in problem-solving and research, they’re not looking for someone to have a conversation about their brand perception or why we chose what we did together as a team, they just want to do what they want and what they think is right or cool. Potential clients that say this don’t have any idea what a real designer has to offer. Unfortunately, many designers don’t know that this is not something that they should be doing because it severely diminishes their worth and so they do these kinds of projects all the time and are seen as simply a means to an end, the end of which is usually “just make it look good”. However, for those of us experienced enough to understand what this question means, I often use it as one of those “red flags” that tell me whether or not the client is my ideal or not. If you do ask me to do this I will either let you know (depending on the project, of course) that this is either not something I like to do due to the serious and exclusive process I have developed for my clients, OR, I will do my best to educate you on what I do and how I can, if you’ll be open to it, design the best creative solution that I can for you to represent your company or solve your problem.
I’m sure there are more and perhaps I’ll write more about other things that are frustrating for a designer to hear from a client or potential client. I hope that these have helped you understand your designer better or will help you if you are currently looking for a designer. The point of this was not simply to vent or complain but to educate on these points that can make a designer frustrated by clients who simply just don’t know. But now you do so there you go! Design is a wonderful world. Thanks for joining me here, because design matters.
Visit my website brandisea.com for my podcast “Design Speaks” for links to my YouTube channel and lots more great content!