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Client/designer relationships explained. Finally.
October 7, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe


 
Engineers build from specifications

Fuck you, we have Agile now!
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on October 7, 2010 [26 favorites]


Sorta.

I mean, I had one client who's goal was to turn any work into fitting the templates you'd see on MS Publisher that best fit a garage or bake sale. Like, magazine quality layout would get the boxes, the checkerboards, the painfully red type face, etc.

At that point, it's not about genius-awesome vs. moron plebs. It's really about not having everything you do transformed into a Geo-cities-like assault upon the eyes.
posted by yeloson at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


He links to Hyperbole and a Half, which has the same drawing style without the SEO-ish lists.
and it is funnier
parp?

posted by emyd at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Oh yeah... customers totally suck. How dare they expect to get what they want? In the good old days, it was all "You can have it in any color as long as it's black." Then Burger King came along with that effing utopian earworm jingle, and it's been downhill ever since.
posted by crunchland at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Graphic Designen: the only profession that believes the customer is always wrong.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:43 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Designers might quite possibly be the most hyperbolically-overrepresented demographic on the internet.
posted by schmod at 1:44 PM on October 7, 2010 [21 favorites]


What you need to have is a common specification language everyone knows and agrees to. That way you can avoid the "that's not what I meant" arguments and head directly to fist fights and lawsuits.
posted by tommasz at 1:44 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


That...registered on the amusing spectrum.

Why was there a plug for robot purses in the middle of the comeek?
posted by everichon at 1:47 PM on October 7, 2010


Design advice from one of the ugliest comics on the web. Hm. Well, thanks for your two cents, Oatmeal.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 1:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Designers might quite possibly be the most hyperbolically-overrepresented demographic on the internet.

This is because an insane number of people who have and will never design anything that anyone gives a damn about consider themselves designers. See also: "creative" as a noun.
posted by phrontist at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Why was there a plug for robot purses in the middle of the comeek?"

It's know as marketing. Monetization if you will.
posted by vectr at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2010


Also, Mr/Mrs Client spell check your brief. If your brief document says "a picture that shoes a payment being made" and that gets passed to a French Project Manager working with Argentinian designers who use Google translate, do not be surprised to find a picture of shoes in your design for a payment system.

You wrote shoes. You got shoes.
posted by jontyjago at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


>What you need to have is a common specification language everyone knows and agrees to. That way you can avoid the "that's not what I meant" arguments and head directly to fist fights and lawsuits

LOL.

He actually addresses this in the comic. Once you get out of engineering-land, people start asking for website designs that "taste like the color aquamarine" and "get a feeling" about your work that magically never goes away, no matter how much you listen and adapt to their needs.

I saw this happen once and I realized that I was witnessing a personality mismatch. As soon as the freelancer came in, the client formed the opinion that the freelancer was not going to be their new best friend. So:

1. The client asked the freelancer to make some very specific changes (I don't like potting soil in the background, can we use clipped grass that's sort of muddy?)

2. The freelancer did exactly that.

3. Problem still not solved, because the soil wasn't ever the problem in the first place. The client asked for more time to think.

4. The freelancer was replaced by another freelancer who didn't have half the skill.

5. The final product looked terrible. Everyone at the client's company hated it.

We concluded that the new freelancer's personality was so much like the client's that the client just felt more comfortable with them.

Designers have to put up with this stuff all the time. Engineers and IT guys don't have to, because what they do, they can do to specifications.

High-end engineering is much different -- if you were an Apple engineer and had a wonderful product idea and used a "common specification language" with Steve Jobs, he'd still walk all over you.
posted by circular at 1:53 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Graphic Designen: the only profession that believes the customer is always wrong.

Well, being a designer technically means it's your primary job and function to tell the customer when they're wrong - but also why. It's not just about aesthetics or making things "pretty", it's about things that are hard sciences like optical legibility, color theory and taking into account the environment and end use of the design. A billboard or sign has different specifications and limitations compared to a business card, and both are different from a web page. Meanwhile you have to match the design to the look and feel of the company, often to existing designed materials that may or may not be to par. And this needs to be done while keeping the end goal in sight of actually communicating the message and trying to stay under budget.

The shit clients put their designers through is pretty ridiculous sometimes. "Make it bigger" or "change the font/color/background to this hideously noisy and inappropriate thing" or "my kid drew this. use it." isn't just a blase stereotype - those kinds of hovering helicopter clients are the vast majority. It's really rare when you get a client that says "I trust you, you're the designer. I'm not going to suggest you use comic sans in purple as a oversized headline font."

Those rare clients are the ones who get the discounts, the free rush jobs, the extra attention - because those are the projects that are a joy to work on and end up looking best in a portfolio.
posted by loquacious at 1:57 PM on October 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


everichon: "Why was there a plug for robot purses in the middle of the comeek"

Because The Oatmeal is at its heart a SEO scheme for driving folks to his (or his friends') merch. See this.
posted by barnacles at 1:58 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Really, all this talk of the magical land of engineers and how it is shielded from arbitary changes and poor decision making is just killing me...
posted by Artw at 2:01 PM on October 7, 2010 [24 favorites]


You wrote shoes. You got shoes.

Actually, I would hope that a client who wrote "shoes" would get a polite email asking them to clarify their intent, since the phrase "a picture that shoes a payment being made." If the point of contact on the agency side has poor enough comprehension of English (or whatever language is being used for these discussions) that they think footwear is involved, and is confident enough of this viewpoint that no clarification is requested from the client, that person should not be in that job.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


ARGH. Poe's law in effect. That should have been...

...since the phrase "a picture that shoes a payment being made" does not make sense.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2010


It's not just about aesthetics or making things "pretty", it's about things that are hard sciences like optical legibility, color theory and taking into account the environment and end use of the design.

Your point stands, but I'd describe those as soft sciences, not hard. And I'm a designer.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Designers might quite possibly be the most hyperbolically-overrepresented demographic on the internet.

Well, it's design. You're taking something that's not refined at all (be it raw data or whatever), and refining it. You are making it less crude, less vulgar. If you're designing and not refining, you're really just decorating.

But in order to do all that refining, you have to be pretty refined yourself.

People who are really refined actually don't have much choice in the matter -- they pay attention to details naturally. They know the difference between iPod and Zune before they open the box.

People who pay attention to details really, really well can be said to be obsessive about detail.

Thus you create a fertile career area for obsessives.

Obsessives tend to think in black and white. They go into therapy, and the therapist says, "isn't your thought process a little bit black and white?" And they nod their heads and are stunned by how absolutist their thought patterns are.

Hyperbole deals with absolutes. And in the end you get Oatmeal comics, and the people who read them.
posted by circular at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Eugh. Oatmeal.

I like the stuff in real life, but ever since I saw the presentation barnacles links to, I don't want to give this douchebag any more attention. (which means, I guess, I should flag and move on...)
posted by Fraxas at 2:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


How to talk to the internet: Put everything in the context of designers and engineers.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Designers might quite possibly be the most hyperbolically-overrepresented demographic on the internet.

While this is likely true, and people like network engineers probably should get a lot more attention on the internet - look around you. Look at your computer. Look at your mouse. Look at the screen.

Every last curve in your mouse or computer, every button, every pixel in your mouse cursor, every single pixel on your screen was placed there by a designer of some sort. The OS, the browser, the web pages themselves, the colors and photos, the graphics, the user interfaces. Every single element you interact with on the graphical web was placed there by a designer.

Granted - quality varies widely, but the vast majority of the sites you use on a daily basis are heavily and very intentionally designed through experience or trial and error. Try rendering MetaFilter without the CSS code in your local font and browser settings - and it's suddenly much less legible and usable even if the underlying functions are the same.

Consider freeway and road signage. There's a huge heap of science behind that. Bad road sign design can kill people. Our lives would be a fucking mess without designers in a thousand different domains. Good design not only makes things usable and orderly, it saves lives.
posted by loquacious at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'll read this comic after I finish my graphic design homework.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2010


I'm kind of curious about this world where there is a single conversation and the designer just sort of disappears off and returns with a product a little later. OK, so we're simplifying stuff here, but no wireframes? No multiple rounds of mock-ups? Who the hell works like that?
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on October 7, 2010


What you need to have is a common specification language everyone knows and agrees to.

Microsoft has their own legal, thank you very much.
posted by nomadicink at 2:09 PM on October 7, 2010


I feel like, at this point, linking to new Oatmeal comics is kinda pointless. I mean, if it's the kind of thing people like, they'll probably start checking out that website, right? Meanwhile this is like the 8th FPP or something that's basically 'Hey look popular webcomic updated!'
posted by shakespeherian at 2:15 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


He thinks designers have at thin skin? Most designers are extremely opinionated and obnoxious about design, more so than any client. Look at the pile-on that happens any time a logo is produced that's deemed ugly by the design community, there are whole websites devoted to pointing out anachronistic use of fonts in Mad Men, etc. And yet designers submit themselves to this kind of far more brutal kind of critique on a regular basis, because it makes design better (mostly). Designers hate feedback from clients that makes the design worse. This is the design equivalent of the Dilbert scenario that engineers deal with where clueless person in power sabotages a professional, often due to office politics, preventing them from doing a good job according to the standards of that practice, the project predictably crashes and burns, so blame is passed to the professional or the practice itself.

It's interesting that the central problem for this comic is that designers get attached to the design. As if being a designer is being a photoshop monkey rather than making something engaging so the audience will want to look at the message the client wants to send, and when the client sabotages this they should just let go because that doesn't matter.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:17 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good design not only makes things usable and orderly, it saves lives.

Give me a break. When you're making a website for a mom&pop petstore, say, you're not designing the STOP sign. Do what they ask, they'll give you money for it, and you will have the bonus of "not being a pretentious fucking asshole."

Every last thing you do doesn't have to be an example in your resume.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:19 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel for designers. Really. I've put together tons of websites for many different people, and the design is generally: a) All the client cares about, without regard to content; but b) They're totally unable to articulate what it is they want it to look like. Even as a non-designer, it's amazing how often people say things like, "It should be really simple, but not too simple" when I ask a client to BE SPECIFIC about what they're looking for.

At this point -- since I now only do work for family and people I know well -- I've stopped asking what people want in a design. I just show them a few sites with Wordpress templates and say, "Pick the one you like; we'll customize the images later."

This comic is a much better view of reality, IMO.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:21 PM on October 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I feel like, at this point, linking to new Oatmeal comics is kinda pointless.

Actually, this was my first brush with the comic, so it was new to me and hence the link.
posted by nomadicink at 2:23 PM on October 7, 2010


This post reads like a press release. Why should we care that this Oatmeal has posted a new comic? Metafilter is doomed, or domed, it depends on your perspective.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:25 PM on October 7, 2010


Give me a break. When you're making a website for a mom&pop petstore, say, you're not designing the STOP sign. Do what they ask, they'll give you money for it, and you will have the bonus of "not being a pretentious fucking asshole."

Design isn't just about making something that looks good. Good design communicates a message. That website might not be saving any lives, but it's going to make a difference in the business that the small pet store receives.

You might think that the client has the best idea of what message they'd like to put out there, and sometimes they do. But then it's the designer's job to translate that message to fit the client's purposes and appeal to the intended audience. And people can be really ignorant about design. Sometimes a designer has to put their foot down when the client insists on an animated gif of a dog wagging its tail or a terrible photograph of the owner's daughter holding a cat because it hurts the message they're trying to communicate. That's not being a "pretentious fucking asshole," that's having integrity.
posted by girih knot at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Give me a break. When you're making a website for a mom&pop petstore, say, you're not designing the STOP sign. Do what they ask, they'll give you money for it, and you will have the bonus of "not being a pretentious fucking asshole."



Got it. Make bad design and don't take your job or the client's job seriously because Threeway Handshake is a knob.

Or on preview, what girih knot said plus you're a knob.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:36 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's not being a "pretentious fucking asshole," that's having integrity.

Then this should be right up your alley.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Designers need to learn (and be taught) how to work with clients. The fact that you make amazing looking websites and have fffffound all the coolest shit and have your finger on the pulse whatever whatever may make you a good artist but that alone doesn't mean you should be accorded the respect of an elder.

Designers need to learn how to Don Draper up — or work with someone who can — and sell your shit. It's hard and it's a non-obvious skill.

Someone needs to write a comic explaining how to start designer-client relationships off right. That shit'll change the (design) world.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:39 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Engineers and IT guys don't have to, because what they do, they can do to specifications.

My conversations with engineers:

"I want to be able to..."
"That's the stupidest fucking idea I've ever heard."
"But..."
"We're not doing that."
"But..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:42 PM on October 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


Ah, Missing Missy. That one actually is pretty funny.
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on October 7, 2010


Cool Papa Bell - ah, my brethren doing their job well. It brings a tear to my eye.
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've been the instructional designer. I've been the copy editor. I've been the graphics monkey. I've been the Flash developer. I've been the all-purpose tap-dancing Esperanto-spouting go-between and chief interpreter for client and dev team. So I've just learned to point and laugh at myself a lot.
posted by maudlin at 2:45 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


>Designers need to learn (and be taught) how to work with clients.

I think you mean:

"Inexperienced designers need to learn (and be taught) how to work with clients."

I think you'll find that's The Oatmeal's audience, in large part: Inexperienced designers. Many of them will move on to other fields.

I work with a design veteran who has developed an amazing skillset for dealing with clients. She's been at it for almost 30 years, and she can turn "that color needs to look more like my fox terrier" into "I surrender" in about 30 seconds.
posted by circular at 2:48 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...

Actually, a lot of the time Engineers get to be Tyrell explaining things to Roy Batty...

Engineer: The facts of life... to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.
Batty: Why not?
Engineer: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutation give rise to revertant colonies, like rats leaving a sinking ship; then the ship... sinks.

/eyeball scrunchy, ominous music in lift etc...

Me, I make UIs. Just UIs.
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, MS Publisher is to blame for all those look-alike ads with the icky diagonal boxes?
posted by Cranberry at 3:02 PM on October 7, 2010


Heh. Reddit just linked Dilbert strip circa 1995.
posted by Artw at 3:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Open rant to no one in particular:

I hate self-important designers as much as anyone, believe me.
I also feel like people that carry too much of their personal identity from their career sadly paint their lives into the kind of corners they will (hopefully) live to regret later.

Having said that, after 15 years in this business I have had plenty opportunity to get tired of wanky types thinking of my field as a "fun hobby with pay". With the hours I put in and the skills I've had to develop?

What I do involves many, many different real skillsets involving real professional knowledge and real world experience and strategies. Oddly, alot of us handle the kind of work it would have taken a half dozen of us to do just 25 years ago and I'm sure you would have considered any one of them professional.

Now, I'm the furthest thing from a glassy-eyed "Designers Gonna Change the World, Yall" artschool twat, but you will acknowledge the professional nature of what my job entails or barring that, just shut the hell up about it. Having an opinion isnt the same thing as knowing remotely what you are talking about.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:06 PM on October 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Actually, this was my first brush with the comic, so it was new to me and hence the link.

I didn't mean re: you personally. Just as far as MeFi is concerned.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:07 PM on October 7, 2010


Ah, I'm very glad that for the most part, I've gotten to the point where I can usually find out whether the client is going to be a helicoptering micromanager who doesn't really know what they want within the first 30 minutes of talking to them, and can then say, "I don't think I'm the right person for your needs, thanks for your consideration."

Communicating with clients is really difficult, but it's the most important thing a designer does. It takes a while to learn how to surreptitiously and pleasantly interrogate clients to find out where their heads are at and whether they know what they want or understand the role of the designer in their process.

Your job is to serve their needs the best you can. However, you also have to be able to walk away if they've misrepresented what they're up to and you find the project descending into hell.

Make sure your contract has escape clauses, and keep a list of other designers to whom you can refer clients.

The instant anyone says, "Comic Sans," bail.

It helps to have a good agent to screen people, if you can get one. I also find that most of the really difficult types of clients are people who will crap a brick when you quote a proper, top-end hourly rate to them. You get a "WHAT?! That's ridiculous! My doctor/chiropractor/lawyer/masseuse doesn't even charge me that much! My kid/cousin/nephew/gardener will do the whole thing for $50 and a six-pack!" And you say, "Great, then I'm sure you'll get what you need from them. Thanks for your time and consideration." And get up, say pleasant goodbyes, and walk out with a smile.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:09 PM on October 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Having an opinion isnt the same thing as knowing remotely what you are talking about.

That's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by everichon at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then this should be right up your alley.

Every designer isn't David Thorne, and this exchange isn't representative of a relationship between a client and a designer. This is just a guy screwing with a coworker who expects him to work for free. Expecting free work because, Hey, you're a designer, this is easy for you, right? is dismissive and insulting to design as a practice. Thorne elaborates on that here.
posted by girih knot at 3:18 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Designing is funny.
posted by Sukiari at 3:19 PM on October 7, 2010


This is just a guy screwing with a coworker who expects him to work for free.

No, it is somebody being an asshole, and is exactly the glassy-eyed artschool DESIGN IS HIGH ART wankery that is exactly the issue why so many designers can't seem to "talk to normal people."

If I was able to translate being a Security Engineer in order to help find somebody's missing cat, then I'd do it for free without even thinking about it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:32 PM on October 7, 2010


Engineer: The facts of life ... to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.

Batty: Why not?

Engineer: Because by the second day of incubation...

Batty: Blah, blah, blah. Did I mention I can grab your skull and put my thumbs straight through your fucking eyes?

Engineer: Well, maybe we can ... I mean ... I mean it would just be a hack ...

Batty: Dude. Thumbs.

Engineer: OK, we'll throw something together and see if it even compiles.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:34 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


You do realize Threeway Handshake, that typing things you want to believe doesn't make those things true...right?

If the guy in the Thorne example asked for free design for a flyer to help find a missing cat (aas per your specious nonsense) , the exchange would have gone quite differently and you know it.

You're a Security Engineer then? I suspect you do free work for people that ask all the time right? Or is yours a "real" job?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:36 PM on October 7, 2010


No, it is somebody being an asshole, and is exactly the glassy-eyed artschool DESIGN IS HIGH ART wankery that is exactly the issue why so many designers can't seem to "talk to normal people."


Well, that's why I said not all designers are David Thorne. I also never suggested that "DESIGN IS HIGH ART." It's a profession, and making a flyer for a missing cat doesn't really require a professional designer.
posted by girih knot at 3:38 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Give me a break. When you're making a website for a mom&pop petstore, say, you're not designing the STOP sign. Do what they ask, they'll give you money for it, and you will have the bonus of "not being a pretentious fucking asshole."

I'm not a pretentious asshole, though many designers are, and there's a huge difference between technical knowledge, taste and being a pretentious asshole. I work and communicate with clients well - communicating with a client is actually the main bulk of the time spent on design. After thumbnails, concept and thinking about what is going on - executing the design itself usually takes a fraction of the time compared to communication.

But there's plenty of times where if I did exactly what an inexperienced client wanted they'd end up with a product that's unpublishable, useless and otherwise broken. Who do they blame in that situation? The designer.

If a client isn't willing to work within suggest parameters they're welcome to find another designer. I don't want to redesign the same logo twenty times because it won't print or render properly because the colors are out of gamut and unprintable. Just because they want a certain bright shade of teal that looks great on a LCD screen or as a solid color paint on some object in their lives doesn't mean it can be printed accurately in CMYK or it looks good on a finished product.

I'm not talking about foisting blocked-to-bleed Helvetica over a heavily vintaged, bokeh'd photo of some bullshit hipster street scene on a client, here, or forcing other trendy bullshit on a client, I'm talking about doing your job as a designer to prevent costly mistakes or irrational decisions.

Part of a designers job is to stop these kinds of basic mistakes and gently shut them down with rationality, authority and knowledge, otherwise you can end up with very costly mistakes and a low-paying job that ends up paying less than minimum wage after all the changes are put through again and again. It wastes the clients money, it wastes the printers time and resources and it wastes the designers time and paycheck.

That's not being a "pretentious asshole" - that's doing your fucking job as a designer.

Note we're still not even talking about the numerous tricks of the trade and black arts of design+marketing that gets people to spend money or trust a company more by use of shapes and color and facets of design color psychology, which is where the big money is made doing high end design. Then there's ease of use and consistent navigational layouts for UI and UX design.

Design touches your daily life in more ways then you care to know. Designers work on everything from bus, train and car interiors to emergency signage and directions used by surgeons on medical supply kits to the placement and shape of doorknobs. Toothbrushes. Toothpaste. Household cleaners. Medicine. Power tools. The knobs on your stove. The list is endless - nearly every object, information or device you use on a daily basis has been influenced by a designer.

When I was in the hospital recently they had a new kit for chest tubes that no one in the ER had used yet. I remember watching three ER docs and half a dozen nurses looking at the pictographs and reading the instructions puzzling over the new kit - and as a designer, even in the depths of excruciating pain I was thinking "Holy fuck. I really hope those instructions are clear and accurate." Otherwise bad design could have killed or severely injured me, because none of the docs and nurses on the floor had used that particular kit.

Design is not just about making pretentious, pretty bullshit. Whether or not you think this is bullshit is irrelevant.
posted by loquacious at 3:41 PM on October 7, 2010 [28 favorites]


You're a Security Engineer then? I suspect you do free work for people that ask all the time right? Or is yours a "real" job?

You're joking, yes? Not a week goes by without one of my family members or friends asking for computer/router/wifi/internet help. There are thousands of questions in AskMe where people do the same, and thousands more answers of people doing that "work" for free.

Nobody asks me things like "hey, can you harden this apache reverse proxy for me," that'd be something I wouldn't do out of charity, but that isn't what the person was doing in that Thorne thing.
All they asked was to put a picture up with words on a piece of paper. It would take me all of about 10 seconds to have done that.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:44 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Make the logo BIGGER!
posted by ryoshu at 3:45 PM on October 7, 2010


All they asked was to put a picture up with words on a piece of paper. It would take me all of about 10 seconds to have done that.


Oh so that's what designing a logo is?
Thanks for saving me any further time interacting with you.
You have just proven full stop that you are completely and totally unqualified to have this conversation. At all.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh so that's what designing a logo is?

No, that's what "making a Lost Cat flier" is.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:50 PM on October 7, 2010


Ooops my bad, I was relating the previous comments to the second Thorne link.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:51 PM on October 7, 2010


Sincere apologies for real.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:51 PM on October 7, 2010


Jesus Christ, Threeway Handshake, did a designer kill your family with a Pantone swatch book or something?
posted by loquacious at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


No problem. :) Have a good weekend.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2010


Shrug. Most of my nightmare clients weren't even about the actual design itself, it had everything to do with them refusing to believe us when we explained turnaround time or file requirements.

Example: "This will take about a week, we'll need .tiff files of X resolution" = "I want you to do this tomorrow, and I've got 72 dpi jpegs I've pulled off the internet that I have no copyright over."

"No, we can't do that. See the requirements we told you about 3 months ago?"

That led to a Boeing exec throwing a literal, jumping up and down, face-a-red, fit in my office.

...

The drama around content usually isn't that bad, though it's often trickier.

The problem is, when you -do- give the client something crappy they want, they hear about it from their clients later on, and suddenly, "I'm never paying that designer again! They gave me crap! What is this blinking dog gif? Huh!?!" etc.
posted by yeloson at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah Thorne was a cock in that cat poster link.

I'd never do that to someone. If I didnt have the time I'd just say i couldnt do it, but really that would have taken no time at all. Certainly less time than he spent not doing it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:55 PM on October 7, 2010


I should add that I'm mostly an illustrator these days, which creates a different set of problems.

But I'll give you an illustration related story. This happened when I was a staff artist at a former employer.

One of the "project owners" had an advertising idea, which required an illustration of some buildings in a sort of sci-fi-ish cityscape; each building would have "empty" space on it somewhere, where logos of various companies would go. The idea was to sell the space within the illustration as ad space on our website. In addition, a large photo or realistic illustration of a car was to go at the bottom of the ad. So the car would be sitting in this cityscape, integrated with the illustration, with vendor company logos all around it. Fine so far.

They wanted the illustration to be very high res, so they could use it for web, print, or trade show displays if desired. I explained and made very clear to them that this would require a ton of detail in the illustration as well as a lot of work to smoothly integrate the car, and that it would take 7-10 days to get the illustration right, maybe another 3-5 days to get the car done, and who knows how long to get the logos in. I stressed this over and over, and got sign-off on that from all involved.

I then did a set of pretty tight pencil/Photoshop comps of different ways to do the ad. One of them featured a curved horizon, with the buildings radiating up from the ground, forming a very nice composition that moved the viewer's eye to look at the car, passing all the vendor logos on the way. Everyone looking at it agreed that this was the way to go and gave me the thumbs up. Once again, I stressed that I'd be working on this thing until the end of the next week, please make sure this is what you want; I was assured that they were very happy with that layout and that I should get to it, as the meetings to start pitching this ad space to vendors were 2 weeks away.

And so I did. 10 days (with overtime) of exacting work later, I had a beautiful 5000-pixel high Photoshop illustration of interesting, detailed buildings with comped vendor logos, resting comfortably on a curved horizon and properly distorted to look right that way, leading down to a 'shopped tweaked version of a real car photo cleanly integrated into the shot. I was very pleased with the result, it was the best piece of commercial art I had done up to that point.

I turned it in to the project owner.

2 hours later, the owner came to me and said:

"We've decided we want to do the straight horizon and vertical buildings instead. You can just bend that back in a few seconds because it's digital, right? We need it by end of today."

I almost walked out of the building.

I mustered as much patience as I could and explained as calmly as I could that this was precisely why I made it clear up front that this illustration would take a long time and that they needed to be sure they really wanted the layout comp they had chosen. I explained that there was no way to make the change he was asking for unless I started over from scratch and totally redid the illustration. While I thought I could do it quicker than the original - it's harder to draw and render curved distorted things than rectilinear - I felt it would still take at least 6 full workdays to re-do the illustration.

I will be polite and say simply that there was much consternation on the part of this project owner, which included a great deal of profanity and physical threats against my person.

They wound up dropping the entire ad project concept and going with some kind of banner/tower ad space offering.

Sometimes even when you do everything right, it doesn't matter.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:43 PM on October 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


Engineers and IT guys don't have to, because what they do, they can do to specifications.

Oh I'm wiping away the tears of laughter. I work with electrical and mechanical engineers. We'll do things like, "Install a 500mw generator on the 5th floor of a building," and other things of such straightforward nature.

I can tell you having specs means very little. Suddenly you deal with things like, "What do you mean the generator doesn't have [insert ability to be controlled remotely with whatever vendor they use]?!" Well you didn't spec it out, and we went with the cheaper configuration because you didn't spec it out ...

I will grant you that design does become a bit personal since it is something you created, but you haven't talked to an electrical engineer who spent a long weekend going over drawings and making sure everything happens without mistakes, with work taking place during the day in a building that's occupied, only for a facility manager to come in at the last minute and tell you that under no circumstances is work being done during the day at my facility even though the contract specifies it and you're being paid up the ass to do it and it is actually so much harder to do, but someone over this guy's head made the decision and he wasn't going to have it.

The work is, however, easier when you work with a large company that has someone whose job it is to basically manage your work. As I'm sure when IBM outsources some marketing they have a robust and skilled marketing department to interface with it so you don't get Joe the Vice President of Operations approving marketing brochures.
posted by geoff. at 5:08 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm talking about doing your job as a designer to prevent costly mistakes or irrational decisions.

Well, that's why we get the big bucks. I'm the go-to in-house designer where I work, which means I have the benefit of being salaried which means I can say "No. That is a bad decision and you will have to find someone else to do it because I wish no responsibility nor want attached to my name such an awful, dreadful idea."

It's irritating that design is treated outside the rules of professional respect and courtesy just because everyone seems to think their idea is just as valid as anyone else's. I can only imagine the look of sheer horror on our DBA's face if Customer Service started dictating how he should be writing a stored procedure. What on God's Green Earth makes you think you have any allusion of mastery of a subject that someone else has been studying, practicing, and making a living at for 20-odd years? I got a checking account therefor I can tell finance how to design their credit/risk modeling, right? That's what people think about design. "Well, I've designed things, like, drew some stuff on some paper and went to a museum and used to read books and surf the internet. Therefor I am a graphic designer!"

The problem is it's hard to tell someone they have bad taste. We like to think taste is a subjective thing but it's not, actually. Oh sure, a particular taste is a random crapshoot of time and circumstance. But for someone to have taste, that indicates a subtle level of cultural understanding, history of the craft, most likely technical ability… that's a skill that some people have and others don't and won't, not ever. And I'll never be a race car driver. That's life.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, engineers get to deal with similar problems, if not more of them then mere visual designers. And I know a guy who sells big UPS systems. You can tell him a vague list of specs and requirements, or even just square footage and type/density of a facility and he could build the systems in is head. I'd consider him to be an artist. (He was an artist/musician outside of his day job as well.)

While bad visual design that failed to convey essential information could kill someone, delivered products like printed materials or bitmaps don't tend to catch fire, explode, electrocute, poison the air, collapse into the river or otherwise mechanically fail in such a way is to directly cause severe damage to life or property.

Then again I've seen some pretty bad direct mail fliers. Statistically speaking it's likely there's been at least one fatality from cardiac arrest or stroke when some designer with delicate sensibilities saw a particularly bad flier in their mail box.
posted by loquacious at 5:31 PM on October 7, 2010


loquacious: "every pixel in your mouse cursor, every single pixel on your screen was placed there by a designer of some sort."

Oh, I don't know about that. I use Linux, and graphic designers hate that shit. The term of art is "design by amoeba", or so I'm told.
posted by pwnguin at 6:04 PM on October 7, 2010


Best designer I ever worked with -- I'd ask him a question about the piece he designed and I was building, and I'd get one of these two responses: "Do this [with specific details and a justification]" or "Do whatever will work from your end." Always without hesitation. He knew what was important to his vision, and he knew that giving us leeway on the unimportant stuff made it easier for us to accommodate his important stuff.
posted by davejay at 6:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Since I have dumped on the whole idea of Design as a field several times here, I suppose it's only fair to tell my favorite horrible story of engineers not doing Design. (I suppose I do Design, I just don't call it that; my projects get finished, they have a look and feel which I spend a lot of time honing as I pretend to be my client or their customer or whoever, and people like the results. But I digress.)

In the late 1980's an engineering firm sent a spec to a manufacturer my company represented and as a result a bunch of crates arrived. It was a pretty complex system for its day, a fully automatic unattended truck scale where the driver would step out of his rig, present a RF card (the size of a hockey puck in those primitive days), punch in some info, and then load up with LPG and do the same thing to weigh himself out. It was intrinsically safe (everything in purged and bomb-proof boxes), fully interlocked with photo-eyes, and cost about seventy thousand dollars around 1988.

So we set it all up and put it in motion at the shop so we'd understand it before making fools of ourselves in the field; such systems were rare then. And it quickly became clear there were ... problems. One big problem in particular.

Among the bits of information the truck driver was meant to punch into the kiosk was the specific gravity of his product. (Truck drivers, remember.) Well it's on his paperwork, true. This was after entering a code for his product. And each product had a range of acceptable specific gravities. And if the value you entered wasn't in range, the system would just flip back to Specific Gravity:_ and ask you again. No error message, no explanation, no nothing, just erased what you typed and went back to the same prompt.

It got worse. Once the system was on that screen, it was stuck. There were keys labeled ESC and RESET on the terminal; neither did anything at this point.

If you drove off the scale, breaking the on-scale interlocks, it didn't matter. The next driver would see Specific Gravity:_ with no clue what to enter. Only he wouldn't even know the product code so as to know the acceptable range. At that point all you could do was go into the control room and unplug the computer (it was what we'd today call an embedded controller, one that weighed 20 pounds and cost USD$15,000 and didn't even have an off switch) to reboot it.

We called the manufacturer and said, "This is unacceptable. This will be a nightmare. Their response was well, for USD$3000 we will burn a new set of EPROMs incorporating the changes you're asking for.

The customer wouldn't pay for it. The system went in as un-Designed. We were out there on average every couple of weeks for the next eight years. The usual call was "You need to go to $CUSTOMER, scale's broke." On one occasion I found a footprint on the scale display, the one that liked to say Specific Gravity:_. It was mounted at eye level. Footprint. I am very certain what that VFD died saying.

Finally, after eight years, we prevailed on them to let us redesign it. Used mostly the same hardware, except replaced the costly obsolete custome computer with a PC, got rid of the truck driver data entry, introduced some error detection and message retries into the comms. (Here's a news flash: when you send a message down a wire, it doesn't always reach the other end. Pass it on.)

After we installed the "upgrade" which pretty much implemented exactly the same functionality they'd always had, it was two years before we had to make another call other than routine calibration checks.
posted by localroger at 6:29 PM on October 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


so many designers can't seem to "talk to normal people."
Yes, this is so true. I have met tons of designers like that. Sooooooo many.

*eyeroll* No I haven't. I have NEVER MET ONE DESIGNER LIKE THAT. Just what are you spouting off about? Do you not know that the entire profession is about communication? The situation described in this comic reflects almost nothing about the relationship between client and designer. It portrays the designer as a petulant, amateurish egotist for COMIC EFFECT.

And frankly, while we're at it, the "comic effect" is a cheap, gloppy mess that we've all had before. (But nothing that couldn't be helped with a couple of imaginative and surprising ingredients. Blueberries!)
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:42 PM on October 7, 2010


Engineers build from specifications

Fuck you, we have Agile now!


Thanks. You've ruined my supper.
posted by Netzapper at 8:14 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, the Oatmeal needs a new logo. How about helvetica with a blue gradient square on the end? I bet that would be popular.
posted by fungible at 9:53 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


My gf used to be the defacto art director at a coffee company. I wonder if the people she hired ever talked about her this way. Of course, she's an excellent artist in her own right, so she could whip out thumbnails of what she wanted on the fly.

Some of the stuff she directed is still being used, 20 years later.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:35 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't like designers? Maybe you can design without designers?
posted by juv3nal at 2:38 AM on October 8, 2010


Occasionally I am called upon to give design feedback due to the nature of my job (film/video editor who cuts a lot of mograph work). Despite having worked with designers nearly every day for the past 7 years I am consistently amazed at my ability to produce suggestions that, upon initial realization, are completely terrible.

I am somewhere between quite and extremely competent in Photoshop and After Effects and my suggestion is to leave the designing to the designers.

It is harder than you think.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:02 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


No, it is somebody being an asshole, and is exactly the glassy-eyed artschool DESIGN IS HIGH ART wankery that is exactly the issue why so many designers can't seem to "talk to normal people."

Obviously someone was stuck with the small box of dollar-store crayons in kindergarten.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:31 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Engineers and IT guys don't have to, because what they do, they can do to specifications.

Ha, ha, ha, no.

The assumption of BDUF is that the client knows how to write specifications. The assumption of Agile is that the engineer/developer can help clients write specifications.
posted by eriko at 6:18 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't do design for a living, in fact, the extent of design I do is in fact merely a "fun" hobby (I make t-shirts), but I've seen both sides of it, too.

I've known designers who had to learn to accept bad calls by their clients, that beyond suggestions from the gentle "Have you considered XYZ instead?" to "XYZ will make your site look like vomit" that there was no way around whatever XYZ entailed. I admit, I can somewhat relate: when your craft, beit your career or 'fun hobby' involves striving for tighter and cleaner design, increased skill, etc, you put a part of yourself in everything you do. For some people, this means throwing that 25 pt. system font over the thing you've spent hours on like one of Bob Ross's "happy little trees" is like an inflicted wound.

Me, I just get things in writing. If your design is lame, I'll attempt to gently advise you otherwise, but I have no "artistic" qualms about printing up a box load of shirts with nothing but the name of your band/club/etc in Comic Sans.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:19 AM on October 8, 2010


Give me a break. When you're making a website for a mom&pop petstore, say, you're not designing the STOP sign.

what would happen if a corporation was in charge of designing a STOP sign.
posted by wundermint at 7:54 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


That website might not be saving any lives, but it's going to make a difference in the business that the small pet store receives.

Is this the case though? I would have thought that, for a small, non-web-based retail concern, a website might be a requirement, like letterhead, but not that it is likely to generate business.

I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong. How does having a website generate business for ma and pop operations?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:08 PM on October 8, 2010


everyone wants to participate in the creation of "their" design....so a trick is to begin the design with a basic layout but choose colors or text font that you're sure they'll have issues. When you meet they will comment "i'd really like to have a nice grassy green instead of mustard yellow" and you can say "wow, you're right, that will look nice" and they will feel as if they've contributed.....now go on and design as you wish.
posted by loggy23 at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this the case though? I would have thought that, for a small, non-web-based retail concern, a website might be a requirement, like letterhead, but not that it is likely to generate business.

I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong. How does having a website generate business for ma and pop operations?


The website communicates the image of the company to the public. At the very least, it provides contact and address information for the store. Ideally, it makes the potential customer feel like they're making a good decision to shop there.

In the example of a pet store, a small mom & pop pet store might have found its niche by not offering animals born in puppy mills. The website is a vehicle for relaying this information. Design strengthens this message in layout, color choice, image use, language choice, and how the two paragraphs that say this directly are typeset. The website helps the store reach its target market, people who want to buy pets from a more human pet store. The store builds a stronger relationship with the customer, because the customer cares more about the store.

Letterhead and websites and other similar things are branding tools. Small stores might feel like they need them without knowing why, but there are reasons.
posted by girih knot at 1:35 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


from a more human pet store

more humane*
posted by girih knot at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2010


In a perfect world:

Client: I would like to see a big blunt, and a big glock, and a big flying octopus with lasers coming out of its eyes. And our name spelled out in blingy.

Designer/Service Provider: No problem!

Great art results.
posted by ovvl at 4:26 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


My conversations with engineers:

"I want to be able to..."
"That's the stupidest fucking idea I've ever heard."


I have that conversation with an engineer every single day. Though in my case, I'm the one pointing out that THAT, whatever that may be, is the dumbest thing that no one has never needed to do.

I also have to point out quite often that trials on cats need to be approved by the ethics board first.
posted by sonika at 8:28 AM on October 9, 2010


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