by Charyl Looper, Associate Creative Director
The most profound and painful lesson I learned about design and designers came while I was in school. In the Visiting Designers Program, real-life professional designers came to class and taught us lowly students what it was really like to be a designer working for —GASP— clients.
We slaved through all-nighters—tormented ourselves with font and color and slashed fingertips with XACTO blades—all to meet the ultimate deadline for “Class Critique.” Critique began when everything was posted on the walls. The Visiting Designer then proceeded to demolish our work and shred every beautiful element we perfectly crafted and fully believed in. We put our heart into that work! How dare he! Who did he think he was?
We were told that as long as we kept our work private, we could draw and paint and design to our heart’s desire, with endless love and boundless joy. But as soon as we presented that work to the public, it was no longer ours. The public owned it. And the public could do with it what it pleased. That might include praise and respect, but more likely, unkind commentary and harsh judgement. Or worse: complete indifference.
We learned to scrutinize our work and look at it from every light— especially the public lens. And clients? They are the CEO of that public realm. “Make the logo bigger” is their prerogative. They own it. Not you.
Ten Ways Designers Need to Suck it Up:
- Always remember that they own you. If you are getting paid, the client owns you and your presented ideas. If you want to keep it precious, keep it to yourself.
- This is work. It’s not personal. It’s not an attack on you personally if the client wants that particular blue to be green. Or neon green.
- You owe the client the absolute best design you can do. You should not dial it in just because they asked for 48 revisions, only to return to the original layout.
- You can sell your idea three times. Strongly. Be as convincing as you possibly can, but after three attempts and three misses, you MUST GIVE IT UP.
- Creative Directors and Art Directors: your job is to make the design BETTER. Not make it yours. Nudge it to greatness, but don’t pee on it.
- Collaboration can be amazing. Building things together can be a phenomenally rewarding and successful process. You don’t always have to have it your way.
- No one ever died from a poorly designed logo. Don’t take yourself so seriously— the majority of our work ends up in the trash.
- The best design is often the design that just WORKS, seamlessly and beautifully. You most likely won’t hear praise—or luckily, critiques—because it just works.
- Learn to work within a budget! Life has constraints. Deal with it.
- How many awards are enough? Stop looking for praise from everyone else and start doing work that is most meaningful to you. And your client. See #1.
Understanding and accepting that your design is for the public—and ultimately the client—can release you from much of the heartache and tears from endless revisions. And yes, “Make the logo bigger”.