Frustration & You; Design Clients

Making the deal.Hello! So I suppose it’s time for an update; I’m still living the dream as a graphic designer. The weather is cooling down nicely, allowing for much more jacket wearing as of late, and I got a new car (which is long overdue…or so I thought it was.) One can generally check my twitter feed for things like that, so what I’d like to touch upon today is the perception of the designer/client relationship.

In my time designing for actual clients, which has not been long by any means relative to some, so (I won’t claim expertise I haven’t) I have been able to pick out a few topics that may be of interest to a fellow designer, or even the general public. As my client interactions are no more different from most in  even a semi professional setting. Let me begin by saying this: I do NOT believe that the customer is always right. They are wrong. Often. They are not designers, and when they think they know what they want, it tends to look like they may as well have just printed it at home and distributed it that way. Many can insist on their opinion, leaving me…er, “one” frustrated, and not happy with the work you’re turning out because of its lack of quality. I’ve been trying to find a happy medium within these boundaries, and I’m pretty sure any creative professional can relate to the customer insisting on their choices over yours. I’ve found a few ways of dealing with these issues, but keep in mind; you have to be good at reading your clients, and ideally, people in general. I’ve narrowed it down to a trifecta approach.

C'mon get happy.

The Optimist

One strategy I’ve found is to level with them, use phrases like “we” and “us.” Tell them that “you like their ideas, maybe it could be improved upon by… etc.” While this is leading and could be considered hand-holding, candy-coating, and the like, I generally have the most success using this method. You’re not openly insulting the client’s intelligence, you’re creating a cooperative environment during a vital decision-making stage in the design process, and you’re keeping positive. Everything is ‘improved’, and ‘better’. I’ll call this one ‘The Optimist.’

The Sneak

Another method I’ve been able to employ is The Sneak. This method is quite risky, but involves more up-talking in the end, much like The Optimist. The Sneak operates not fully buying into the clients ideas, and offers small suggestions along the way. I’ll usually leave the initial meeting with a proof agreement (generally three rounds, unless more are agreed upon contractually) and use the first round of proofs as a side-by-side comparison of my work with theirs, which sometimes works, but, if the client is anything like me…they will still like their work better. This may seem in many ways like The optimist; but the chief difference being that it is a process that happens in small steps over the course of early development. Not waiting until proofs are ready to be reviewed to fuss about the clients “interesting” logo using their cats as the focal point.

The Ass

The Ass

Well here it is. The ass. This is not necessarily the best route to take, but sometimes necessary. Don’t forget that above, I said that I do not believe the  customer is always right, especially in this sense. They came to you for expertise…right? Here is how I look at it: If they are going to fight me at every stage to put forth a mediocre idea, I won’t stop them, but I will tell them that they came to me for my expertise, and that if they truly want their money’s worth, they’ll defer to it. Now that may sound arrogant, cocky, what have you, but sometimes it takes a little conviction to get the point across! I won’t be shy about telling you that I think you’re doing your business harm by using that Facebook photo of your cats as your logo. It would be a different story if I were not approached in the first place…then I would plainly be an ass. In the case mentioned above, at least I’m being a professional ass.

This dives into the dichotomy of a designer’s role to different clients, which I’ll be focusing on next week.

Until then!

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Time for Change!

So. I’ll lightly touch on the subject of not posting in a while by apologizing; blogging about design, of all things, is not for the moonlighter who works in retail full-time. That being said, I am now a full-time creative director at a local printing/embroidery business, and am very eager to lay down my thoughts to fellow designers and simply those who may share the interest!

This will have been my second week in my new position, and being my first real, on-the-grid design position (save for contracted work,) I can honestly say that the years of sleepless nights, insurmountable debt, and more procrastination than I care to admit were well worth it! I dare not call this work; I enjoy everything that has been handed to me thus far, and its only getting better. I hope to use this space from here on not just discussing my personal relationship with design, but walking readers through some of my projects and processes. I look forward to keeping readers and passers-by entertained, and hopefully, contributing to the industry in more ways than simply churning out work.

Tommy

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Capitol Building Wrought Iron & Marble Stair

Capitol Building Stair

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I shot this photograph on a trip to DC to get shots that could later be post-processed in a Digital Darkroom class I attended. This is the wrought iron stair railing on the marble stair of the capitol building, just in front of the fountain. I think that the photograph is a good combination of concepts, in both the metaphysical nature of natures materials bent to human’s will, as well as the physical shapes contrasting with each other, such as the ornate floral designs in the iron against the straight lines of the marble and the supporting iron.

The image was post-processed using Adobe Photoshop, and shot using a Nikon D200 with a 200-300mm lens.

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Self Portrait in Large Format

Large Format Self Portrait

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I shot this at the end of 2007 in a large format class I was attending at the time. I shot the photo with the lens plane slightly shifted off-center, as you can see in the aberration of the blurred, right eye. I would like to take another self-shot portraiture piece now, as much has changed since then for me, and this is one of very few photographs in which I appear.

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“Best Friends” Still-Frame Video

This video made by shooting 150 still frames and composing them in Adobe Photoshop only (which meant frame-by-frame). Thanks to Meg and Angelica, who helped me on camera, and to Sam who helped me off camera!

The video took about 8 hours of editing to put together, not counting the publishing, so 12 or so hours total.

The video was published to DVD using Adobe encore.

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Shoe Pair Vector Trace

Vector Shoe Trace

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I created this piece as a demonstration of Adobe Illustrator’s flexibility in creating line art from simple photographs, which this was taken from. I shot a reference photograph of a pair of shoes I owned at the time, and then traced them into a vector object. I also have experimented with painting the piece using various color schemes, but the line art alone is worth mention, I believe.

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‘Live Green’ Event Poster

Live Green Poster

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I designed this poster in theme along with a select few other pieces (you may have already seen the magazine cover I posted a couple of days ago.) I was shooting for a natural, textured look to go along woth the theme of eco-friendly and renewable, and the textured/recycled paper fit the bill perfectly! I was able to scan in the torn edges from a very handy scrap-booking paper book of my fiance’s (she’s okay with it, I think…) and then separate the edges to manipulate them. Now, I have an awesome poster and textured paper stock photos to use again later (I have many colors, mind you.)

The poster was assembled in Adobe Photoshop, though the logo was created in Adobe Illustrator. The paper is self scanned stock, under royalty-free vector brush set. Copy set in Photoshop.

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Environmental Awareness Poster

Environmental Awareness Poster

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Environmental awareness poster designed as a call to action for a college Space & Layout course. I wanted to keep the design as minimal, yet concise as I could, while not being ambiguous as to the nature of the problem. Also, just to note; the URL in the poster is just a commentary, not an actual site! Just a word of warning for those who will inevitably try that URL.

I used Adobe Illustrator exclusively with royalty free stock imagery from Stock.Xchng.

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‘Living Green’ Magazine Cover

 

Living Green Magazine Cover

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I designed this mock magazine cover with simplicity in mind, as cluttered magazine covers tend to lean toward the tabloid classification, and that tends to strip away credibility. I created the masthead logo in Illustrator, which I was able to carry over to a cross promotional project poster that I will post later on. The appeal is a magazine that is dedicated to educating everyday consumers about more economically sensible living and solutions to the lack thereof.

I used a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create the cover, and the image of the hands were royalty free stock from the agency Stock.xchng.

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Directed Photography

The Green Ladder

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This photo was taken as part of a series of color studies that I shot for a digital photographic production class. I was pushing for a contrast between the organic flow of the grass and the hard, geometric angles of the ladder, which is also manufactured, opposed to the grass. The asymmetry of the ladder also keeps the photo alive, particularly as it is presented on its side, which also negates a definite focal point.

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