250 747 1230 • 1561 Borregard Rd., Quesnel, BC • Hours M-F: 9:00 AM–5:00 PM [email protected]
Bob and Elselinde Michek of South Hill Graphics

WHAT THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER NEEDS FROM THEIR CLIENT

Most graphic designers are pretty patient and comfortable. I know I try to be like that.

Hopefully, this little read helps you understand the designer’s point of view on what they deal with daily. A Graphic Designer is usually part of a pretty friendly bunch of people, willing to serve and make you happy. That is our job. It is good practice for you to know some of the things that affect us and the job you have asked me to do for you.

So let me take you through some of the things you likely don’t even realize.

LEAD TIME

A graphic designer is usually busy and usually needs time to fit you in when your design project starts. We do not possess a magic button that we press, and your project comes out all shiny and new in a matter of minutes. First, projects take much thought – a meditation on the words that you spoke or emailed when you first connected. When I design a project, I tell new clients I need time just to think about their project. That is amid all the other things on which I am working. I realize this sounds artsy-flighty, balloons-in-my-hair, bubbles and butterflies, but I do need time just to think. I absolutely must give myself a space in which to get inspired. Secondly, I need to think about HOW I’m going to approach your project. That takes time. What tools am I to use and how detailed is the presentation. You see, each piece of software I use produces different results and looks. Illustrator cannot do what Photoshop can do any more than a hammer can do what a shovel can do.

LEAD TIME AND LOGO DESIGN

Lead time is incredibly real with logo design. Computers sometimes frustrate me because trying to draw with a mouse or graphics pen is not like drawing with a pencil or pen. Firstly, if I am using a mouse, well, I won’t even try with a mouse. So a graphics pen on a tablet then. Your hand is on the tablet, but the result, with some latency (delay), comes out on the screen, which is a foot or two away. Paper and pencil are organic and instant. Sometimes logo design just HAS to be done on an illustration board sketched out initially, refined and rendered later by pen and ink. THEN it gets processed and perfected through a computer. Maybe it’s just me, but when this graphic designer comes up with an idea, it rarely works out the first try. The groove starts to appear after the second or third iteration. More often than not, the first draft never makes it to the customer’s eye lest they like it and want to go with it. Here is an example of the South Quesnel Business Association’s logo development.

The point is this: Making your logo design once, twice, and three or four times over to get two or three decent versions to show you takes time. Sometimes it takes much time. And that’s why I need LEAD time.

Similarly, I need to schedule you into my workload. A few years ago, in April, I was completely stressed out and couldn’t figure out why. Then I counted up the number of projects on which I was working. There were 32 projects in various forms of completion. Thirty-two balls up in the air! Logos, brochure design, flyer design, website design, name it. Now that is not constant all year long, but it shows you that this designer, any designer, can get pretty busy.

When someone comes crashing in and wants a project done in two days, and they cannot wait, it is gut-wrenching. Saying “no” to a client is something that grates on me, but completing something in two days is simply impossible and leads to disappointment. “No,” upfront is the only option, but that disappointment is less than the frustration of being late with the project. Still, it is disappointing around both for the client and the graphic or web designer.

So please give your designer the lead time to prepare for your job. I would say two to three weeks minimum.

TAKING FOREVER TO COMPLETE A JOB

I don’t want to chase you for your feedback. I don’t.

When a project gets going healthily, a groove develops a beautiful back and forth. It’s like two people on a teeter-totter or the hum of a well-oiled engine running at cruising speed. Every part is working so well, you can feel it, and the interactions are working well. I look for that when a job starts because it becomes more fun than work. You and I are getting something done.

When a client gets busy or distracted with other things and the flow breaks, depending on how long the gap is, that client sinks to the bottom of the job queue. Sometimes it is challenging to go back to the original groove and get it going again for a few reasons. I might be busy and have new projects on the go taking up my workload; I might be on a holiday or a myriad of other things going on simultaneously. With pulling up a file with thousands of layers and complexity coming out of every nook and cranny of the universe, it is tough to remember what the heck I was doing after a month or two. To resurrect all that and try to give it traction is emotionally draining and exhausting. Yes, it is doable, but there is an extra layer of complexity. So please try to keep the flow going if you can.

DON’T INSIST YOUR DESIGNER BREAK DESIGN RULES

A graphic designer goes to school for four years and learns their craft. In my case, it was five because I picked up extra courses. When that student comes into the work field, they have an incredible toolbox in their minds for the rest of their lives. They now know how things work and the histories behind certain best practices. Design school teaches the back end and whys of design, not just the pretty stuff you see in the finished product. I can always tell a schooled designer from a person who picked it up on their own. Always.

A great example where some clients ruin design is white space. A designer learns the eye needs to navigate through the information to pick it out and decipher it. When a piece is so full of junk, it is no longer anything but a mess with no flow, and the client insists that this is what they want. Don’t be surprised if the designer asks not to have their name attached to it.

Another example is specific typefaces a client wants to use that are either ugly, not relevant to the project, dated or have been overused. Comic Sans, Papyrus, Cooper Black come to mind. Now, kudos to the original writers of these faces and I am sure they are proud of their work. But these faces have served their purpose out there in the internet-o-sphere, and can we please move on? Please?

PROJECT CREEP

Now, most of the time, if you ask me to throw in another little extra ditty, I don’t have a problem with it. Usually, it’s not a big deal. When there is this thing and then another, then something else and “you won’t mind if I ask you to do this and this.” That starts to take more time than the quote and erodes my ability to look after other customers as well. That’s when we designers start to get a little feisty. So please be aware of that one, ok? Expect to rewrite the contract if that happens too much.

PLEASE RESPECT MY TIME – I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WITH YOUR IDEA AND NOT BE PAID

Some people will send me a file to see if I can fix it or “play” with it to make it look better for themselves. It might be a brochure, maybe a flyer design, logo design or something like that. I will not touch anything without a down payment. When a designer is busy, they don’t have time to “see what you can do with it.” As stated previously, I look for the back and forth groove to happen. If that groove is not there, nothing gets done. Please remember, asking me to play with your idea means I have to say “yes” to you, and “no” to paying clients.

IN CONCLUSION

I love my clients. I love my job because it is not a job to me; it is how I am made. However, you need to know what I or any other graphic designer has to go through to get a job done correctly. There is also that thing I call “pride in a job well done.” Most people that I work with are great, but some just do not understand what it takes to get that piece out there into the real world.

I hope this helps!

If you’re ready to work with South Hill Graphics, contact us.