Working with a designer can be scary, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’re not entirely sure how this whole thing works, and you don’t want to ask silly questions. But if you’ve found the right designer, they should either have already explained the process to you, or made it clear that questions are welcome.
Well, most questions. There are a few things that people say to designers that can terrify us creative types more than the scariest of horror movies. Here are 6 things you should never say to your designer.
1. Can you make it pop?
Pop? Right, yeah, what does that even mean?
Words like that are really subjective, and what you mean by ‘pop’ might mean something entirely different to the next person. So if you’re going to say things like that, make sure you give examples. Try to explain what you mean by ‘pop’ and why the current design doesn’t fit that. For example, is the text not bold enough, are the colours not bright enough etc? It’s even better if you can show some visual examples of things that you think do ‘pop’ so that you and your designer can be on the same wavelength.
True story: back when I was a pixel monkey working for someone else, I was asked to design something and make it look ‘high end’. I asked for visual examples so I knew what he meant by that as it was almost certain that the phrase meant different things to him and me. He agreed but never sent me the samples. After I chased up those samples I was basically told to just get on with it. And you know what? He didn’t like the design; it wasn’t what he considered high end. Big shocker, eh?
So either stay away from totally subjective terms like that, or make sure you and your designer have a good chat to make sure you both understand what you mean by them.
2. It’ll be great exposure for you
Great – my mortgage payment is exactly 300 exposures!
To be fair, I haven’t heard this one in a long time. It’s usually reserved for younger, less experienced designers who may be sucked in by the lure of someone else promoting their business.
But unless you set out an agreement of what exactly this exposure is, how you’re going to promote their business and what kind of return they should expect for it – preferably with examples of how this has successfully worked in the past – it’s just not worth considering.
It’s much better for the designer to get actual cash for their work and take care of their own ‘exposure’. So the designer is unlikely to take kindly to the offer and may send you on your merry way to find someone else to work with.
3. We don’t have a budget for this project but we’ll have plenty more work for you later
Most designers have heard this plenty of times. And if they do give a free or discounted project in the first instance, it rarely does turn into more work later. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single example of this situation turning into a long term relationship.
It’s far more likely that the client takes their free/cheap project, then moves on to a new designer for the next project to get another free/cheap bit of work. And then another designer… and so on.
You might well be the exception to this, but any designer who has heard this one already is probably unwilling to take the risk and will start running in the opposite direction as soon as you say it.
4. Can we see some samples?
When you’re hiring a designer you might get quotes from a few people. And you may want to see their ideas before you decide between them. But please don’t ask designers to create a sample for you.
That’s spec, or speculative, work. Designers deserve to be paid for the work they do, just as you deserve to be paid for the work you do. But when you ask people to do work with no guarantee of payment, it’s bad for the designer, bad for the whole design industry, and more importantly, it’s bad for you, as you may not get the quality you’re looking for.
Instead of asking designers to create samples for you, check out their portfolio to see the quality of the work they normally produce, or ask them if they can show you samples of similar projects they’ve completed.
5. We need this tomorrow
Sure, let me hop in my time machine so I can start working on this two weeks ago.
If you know your usual designer tends to be booked up a few weeks in advance, telling them you need some work done, like, yesterday, isn’t likely to go down well. If you have a good relationship with them, they probably want to help you and may well try, but sometimes it’s just not possible to drop everything and work on your stuff instead.
And it’s not actually fair to the designer’s other clients, is it? You wouldn’t be happy if you were one of the other clients getting pushed aside for someone else’s last minute project, would you?
Same thing goes if you tell your designer that you need to bring a project schedule forward. If you’ve already agreed on a deadline with them, then later tell them the work needs to be delivered earlier, you’re likely to completely piss off your designer.
True story: several years ago I started working on a client’s logo in December and work on their website was due to start on January 8th, after the Christmas hols. I always take 2 weeks off over Christmas and tell people upfront before their project starts that I’ll be closed. But in December this client told me their situation had changed and they now needed their website to launch on January 3rd. They were demanding I work through my holiday. Not asking. Demanding. That I cancel Christmas. Hell no.
Some people thrive on pressure and short deadlines. Other people hate them; it’s just too stressful. But however your designer feels about it, if you’ve left things to the last minute, please don’t try to dump on the stress to your designer and make it their problem instead.
By all means talk to them. Explain your predicament, ask what could be possible and together you could work something out. But don’t make demands, especially unreasonable ones like that. You might just find yourself fired as a client.
6. Can you just copy [website name]
Please don’t ever ask your designer to straight up copy someone else’s design. That’s plagiarism. Otherwise known as copyright infringement. You know, stealing.
As well as being unethical, ripping off someone else’s work leaves you open to getting sued. Your designer too. I’m sure neither of you wants to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit.
Same goes for using images that you found in a Google search. Someone owns the copyright to that image so don’t use it if you don’t have permission. There are plenty of places out there to find good quality images that you can use, so it’s just not worth the risk.
Don’t be offended if your designer refuses requests like this. They’re just protecting your reputation and your business.
Be clear, honest and open
The best client-designer relationships are forged on open and honest communication and a healthy dose of mutual respect. Good designers will welcome questions and try their best to help out if you have a problem, so don’t be afraid to talk to them. Just stay clear of these 6 phrases and you should be all set for a great project.
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