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December 21, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

To: Creative Director
From: Designer
Subject: Holiday Card Approval
posted by pts (50 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cute.
posted by Fizz at 8:52 AM on December 21, 2011


Been there.
Endured that.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:53 AM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

Or that they have more time to bitch, because they are mainly freelancers?
posted by smackfu at 8:53 AM on December 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Hooray! Been on both sides of this, this video is a fun take on what can be an exasperating process.
posted by Mister_A at 8:55 AM on December 21, 2011


I am not a designer, but have seen the complete lack of understanding non-designers have for the ways in which they could communicate effectively with designers, resulting in frustration and wasted time.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:56 AM on December 21, 2011


Oh look, a perfect example of why I don't do design work anymore.*

They forgot to MAKE THE LOGO BIGGER

actually the tipping point was when I was doing deliberately bad work and it got praised
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or that they have more time to bitch, because they are mainly freelancers?

No, we just know how to use computers to communicate.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:58 AM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Or that they have more time to bitch, because they are mainly freelancers?

In my experience it's because they stop doing the project, send it in for approval, and then start doing something else (ideally a project, but often a game like Solitaire). And then they are so engaged with the something else that when a revision request pops up in their inbox, they get irritated.
posted by melissam at 9:00 AM on December 21, 2011


Hmmm. Nice post, but could you flesh it out a bit more?
posted by orme at 9:01 AM on December 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?


No, we just work with art directors. I've been a designer and an AD, and I can truly say that all common sense leaves your head when you become the latter.
posted by littlerobothead at 9:08 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

I think it's because graphic design seems to be unique among professions in that, seemingly EVERYONE in an office appears to have creative authority over the designer. I can honestly say that, in one office, I had to follow "creative" direction given by the part-time secretary from HR.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:12 AM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think it's also that designers are pretty invested in their original idea, so every little change is a battle. They already tried out a bunch of font sizes before submitting it, so getting asked to change the font size is like a personal affront.
posted by smackfu at 9:15 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

They don't necessarily bitch more visibly, but they do bitch more visually, making it easier to grasp and more absorbing, so you're more likely to find it interesting rather than just another person bitching about their job.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

Or that they have more time to bitch, because they are mainly freelancers?


Nobody outbitches graduate students.
posted by Kwine at 9:24 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whelk: amusing related story. I was creating title screens for kid's software in the 80s and had a mutual loathing relationship with the creative director at the time. Time after time she'd pick the clinkers that I threw into the mix as ones I absolutely hated but added just to flesh out the portfolio. We had a good awkward laugh after I told her this one day. And then I quit.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:37 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They already tried out a bunch of font sizes before submitting it, so getting asked to change the font size is like a personal affront.

Not so much a personal affront, really. But more of a "Do you really not think I tried various fonts and sizes already?" It really does seem like non-designers think all we do is click the "make a design" button and forward-on whatever InDesign spits out.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:42 AM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


There's also a lot of conflict between "I don't want micro-managed changes (e.g. font sizes)" and "I don't want vague requests (e.g. make it happier)."
posted by smackfu at 9:47 AM on December 21, 2011


the "make a design" button

My favorite feature in the latest release!
posted by Fezboy! at 9:48 AM on December 21, 2011


Let's enhance.
posted by howling fantods at 9:49 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hmmm. Nice post, but could you flesh it out a bit more?

Some context would be nice. And maybe a different font. Strong tags are in this year.

Somewhat more seriously, I have a friend who used to do design for a state agency. She would draw (this was back in the day, kids) the design, then copy it, adding some obvious errors -- a misdrawn state border, for example, or a slightly lowered text line, then send it off to the committee. They would make suggestions, having played "find the errors," she would send back the original artwork, and everyone was happy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:50 AM on December 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


As some who designs myself and who has taught other people how to become a designer (print & web), I have had the occasion to think about some of the things people have brought up.

One of the reasons people love designing is because when it's good work, you get the chance to learn about *other things*, history, business, movies, etc.

However, at its root, good design is about finding the essence of something and trying to capture it in visuals. Hence, this is where designer with thin skins begin to lose it: i.e. being convinced that they have found the one true essence and everyone is wrong.

The problem is, many people are also convinced they understand the "essence" of something, they just don't have the tools or experience to make it or even talk about it. This is where the problems start occurring, but a good designer can deal with that and adapt. But imagine a job where everyday you are being told that way you are doing something isn't good enough and you need to try something else. Maybe you're a furniture maker and after you've built a custom made wooden chair, your client asks why it doesn't also rock, and could you just go ahead and change that?

Or maybe the occupation just attracts people who like to bitch a lot, there is that.
posted by jeremias at 9:51 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a designer, or even in a vaguely design related field. But for various reasons we hired a designer for a quick project, just something we needed done. We did, unfortunately, ask for a change in font-size (it turns out 9pt font is a bad idea for older people, or as we call them, our customer base.) This guy lost his ever-loving mind. It was crazy. When we requested a few follow up changes I received some of the bitchiest email I've ever seen. It was actually kind of funny. I was deeply tempted to ask for certain changes just to sit back and watch the reaction.

I don't mean that this experience can be generalized across an industry, but through this experience (and some others) I've come to conclude that many designers are, um, touchy. And since we are a small business with minimal design needs it became easier to just buy Adobe CS and read the books and change the font size ourselves.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:54 AM on December 21, 2011


There's just a lever that artists have to make changes, so it's all just a matter of making them move it faster. Same thing happens in web design--I just have a button that I press to make the Photoshop document into a working HTML site.

And I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but could you make the logo bigger?

PS: It's a short hop from these helpful messages to Design Hell.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:54 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just graphic designers. I work with traffic engineers, and their common lament is that "Anyone with a drivers license thinks they are a traffic engineer."

Graphic design is the kind of thing that anyone thinks they can see and understand. While there is some truth to this - pretty much anyone can look at something and then have feelings about it - the hard part about design is learning how to identify and articulate the properties of design elements and their relationships.

The other part about design experience and education is learning that some things are good even if you don't care personally for the style. Separating your visceral, personal reaction from the rational takes practice and experience.

The other part of this is that people think they have to add a comment, or they aren't contributing. It takes a particular kind of self confidence to look at a draft copy of the company Christmas card going around and say "This is fine, go with it." Most people don't have that - designers are trained to do that. Everyone wants to have their say.

I was just thinking about this this morning. One thing I should think about telling clients or other consultants - "don't mistake my ambivalence for indifference". I know that there might be many solutions to a problem. I don't really care which one the client chooses - I wouldn't propose a solution that wasn't going to work, so I am not going to argue when client picks an alternative. Somehow it seems they always want some sort of debate.

I suppose that's human nature. I have gone through the process so many times, I don't want, need, or have time for the debate over simple, straightforward design issues. Folks want to feel they contributed to the solution, so they have to go through the process.
posted by Xoebe at 9:57 AM on December 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


I just sent the link to my girlfriend.

..then I remembered the 13 or so overlapping impossible deadlines that will likely keep her at work until 10-ish again, not to mention preclude her clicking on an email with the word "funny!" in the subject today.

TLDR: it's funny 'cuzz it's... erm... true.
posted by herbplarfegan at 10:10 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't the old Saul Bass quote "everyone's a designer, not everyone is good at it"?

And it's true. Everyone thinks they're creative. The only thing unrealistic about this video was the feedback they got which said "less is more." You'll never hear that from anyone who isn't a designer themselves.
posted by maxwelton at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean I have literally done the thing where you send an old version of the design that was previously deemed to need tweaks and then the client is like 'Perfect you should have done this in the first place.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:18 AM on December 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


...learning that some things are good even if you don't care personally for the style...

That may be the hardest lesson to learn, especially for non-design staff at agencies (account execs mostly).
posted by Mister_A at 10:19 AM on December 21, 2011


Oh god. Just yesterday I sent out our holiday e-card to clients and associates. It was godawful. One of our directors (6-figure salary) decided that it made sense for her to spend hours 'designing' it. I think she used MS Paint. The one saving grace was that she didn't use Comic Sans.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2011


I think this sort of thing is fundamental to any service requiring creativity. In law, we mitigate innocuous comments by a concept we refer to as the billable hour.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:38 AM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


@GenjiandProust Your friends game, "find the errors" is a common trick I use when editing videos for people. I call it "adding in bait" though.

It's important to understand that these people expect to be apart of the process, you need to make it easy for them to feel like they've contributed. Once they're satisfied, you both get to move on. This also actually makes directors feel like you're better at your job, since revisions feel quick and painless. I can easily say doing this has added weeks back to my life.
posted by SteveFlamingo at 10:44 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The other part of this is that people think they have to add a comment, or they aren't contributing.

This, a thousand times this. I'm an art director, but often end up doing graphic design work as well.

Another dynamic that happens in the corporate world interacting with an ad or creative agency is that the delivery of new creative product, and especially the presentation of it, is literally the most interesting and exciting part of their jobs. Generalizing of course, but most people in the marketing departments of big corporations spend day after day, year after year in sterile office cube-world, pushing papers about budgets, spreadsheets and reports. A few times a year, some of them get to see new pretty pictures and words and films about the stuff they're trying to sell and it's like Christmas, a stressful Christmas where to not criticize or "build on" something someone else nitpicks means you haven't played a part in the project.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:54 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had to make the agency holiday card once.

Just once.
posted by spilon at 11:11 AM on December 21, 2011


Devil's advocate here: "everyone thinks they are designer" is true, including young (and old) professional designers who aren't any good and have trouble following directions. The video here actually depicts a creative director (once a designer themselves?) and not a clueless small business owner. Do what you are told kid!
posted by solmyjuice at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite incoherent demand when I had to shuttle proofs around at the office was, "Make it pop more."

And at the old mag, seeing the advertisers who didn't understand that sometimes you don't need to fill all the available space with copy in order to have it be effective.

But the trick my art director buddy always uses is to just make three options, and to ask the client what they like most about their choice. Gets them thinking about all the good things in it, and usually gets approved with no changes.
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite incoherent demand when I had to shuttle proofs around at the office was, "Make it pop more."

Ah, the familiar call of the sales staff.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:59 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the trick my art director buddy always uses is to just make three options, and to ask the client what they like most about their choice. Gets them thinking about all the good things in it, and usually gets approved with no changes.

Or, you end-up with a frankenstein of all the "good parts" from all three designs.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:01 PM on December 21, 2011


My favorite incoherent demand when I had to shuttle proofs around at the office was, "Make it pop more."

Other classics:

"Make it more maroony."

Make it stand out more."

"Make it look nice."

"Needs more edginess."

"I don't like that color."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:09 PM on December 21, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "My favorite incoherent demand when I had to shuttle proofs around at the office was, "Make it pop more."

Other classics:

"Make it more maroony."

Make it stand out more."

"Make it look nice."

"Needs more edginess."

"I don't like that color."
"

"It needs to be 20% cooler."
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:25 PM on December 21, 2011


And, then, there's the special hell of negotiating complaints about color from managers looking at the design submission on their uncalibrated, cheap-ass Office Depot monitors with the brightness cranked to 11. "Everyone's fucking orange!!!! You call yourself a professional???"
posted by Thorzdad at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

Or that they have more time to bitch, because they are mainly freelancers?
I was about to make a pithy remark like "nah it's 'cos they're all pricks" but I was interrupted by an overexcited decision monkey who wished to give me his sparkling insight in how best to do the job that I have been doing for about 20 years.

I realised how horrible it would be to work in an industry where everyone mistakenly thinks they know how to do your job rather than just the newly minted graduate fuckwits I have to deal with*


Remember the phrase "I. Do. This. Shit. For. A. Living."

*it's like opposite world Dazed and Confused, I keep getting older the fucking idiots stay the same age.
posted by fullerine at 1:17 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the most brilliant part of this is that legal communicates with a paper note, not with email or instant messaging.
posted by mrbula at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They would make suggestions, having played "find the errors," she would send back the original artwork, and everyone was happy.

I think peons from all kind of different fields have learned to introduce "errors" just to make their supervisors feel competent and useful.
posted by francesca too at 2:16 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The other part about design experience and education is learning that some things are good even if you don't care personally for the style. Separating your visceral, personal reaction from the rational takes practice and experience. "

This is most of the issue. Non-designers don't know how to separate their subjective feelings about the aesthetic elements of a design piece from what it is trying to accomplish. Design is a visual message, and a good designer is going to convey that message to the appropriate audience. "Like" and "Dislike" should have very little to do with it.

Of course, there are a lot of designers that don't understand that either. Design is communication and if you can't communicate, both in the design and with the client, you're going to have some issues.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

I think everyone has had a "my boss/manager/supervisor is a big dumb know-nothing jerk" moment (or career?).

What's different about design, especially design in the digital age, is that it's non-binary and relatively quick.

Most jobs have a binary completion - i.e. "is it done, or not?". As a web designer, I've had times where I'm jealous of the programmers. They don't have people who have NO idea how to program standing over them asking about their usage of camelCase, particulars of code indentation, ending if/else brackets on their own line, things like that. What The Boss wants to know is "does this thing work?".

if($works == true) {
emailBoss();
return true;
} else {
continueWorking();
return false;
}

Design is a gradient, really. Just because I've put all the words for your ad onto this here banner, and I've used your logo and your colors, doesn't mean I'm done. Now comes the minutiae of all the tiny little decisions I had to make along the way being poured over in detail. Multiply that by every person who I have to email for approval. All of them, by the way, are not creative types and think Photoshop is the Magic Make Things Pretty Machine. And, of course, it always "just a quick little change" - so the guilt of revising your work incessantly is lifted.

We all - people, I mean - want to be proud of whatever it is we're doing. Most of the time, you can take pride in knowing you dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's and you did it relatively quickly and voila! Next! But as a designer, you want to look at what you've made and say "yes, this presents the intended message and it's visually appealing". But visually appealing to whom? Therein lies the problem.

After awhile, you just want to slap things on a blank canvas and say "fuck it - you guys figure it out" because you don't want to be involved. Getting involved means making decisions from a personal perspective, and really thinking it over and taking pride in knowing you did a good job and you're a talented professional (one hopes). But, you're just going to be told that 20 years of honing that perspective are useless in the face of the decision-maker's opinion and the opinion of any arbitrary person they ask "what do you think?" over the course of that decision making (their cousin, their wife, the secretary, you name it - they're all suddenly qualified to weigh in).

The other careers that bitch a lot are the ones w/the same issue : screenwriters, illustrators, copywriters, things like that.
posted by revmitcz at 4:01 PM on December 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it's a job where "is it done" is open to interpetation and everyone, for whatever reason, has their own interpretation.

I have sworn to myself that, if and when I come to a position where I have to sign off on these things, I will either say "Yes" or "No" and I will give a detailed reason why in the case of "No" using exact, quantifiable values.
posted by The Whelk at 5:07 PM on December 21, 2011


using exact, quantifiable values

"It's too maroon-y."
posted by maxwelton at 6:38 PM on December 21, 2011


Do designers bitch about their jobs more than other fields, or is it just that they bitch more visibly?

No sir. In the Country of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is the designer.
posted by rahnefan at 9:59 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everything mentioned here about design work is also true of copywriting, only when the client doesn't like what you've done they just write it themselves.
posted by Summer at 5:36 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


@revmitcz Don't think programmers get off scott free. It's called Feeping Creaturism.
posted by howling fantods at 7:46 AM on December 22, 2011


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