How to avoid a turbulent relationship with your graphic or web designer

Many business owners have confessed to me how difficult it can be to work with commercial creatives. ‘Stroppy’ and ‘moody’ are words that come to mind. Some designers drop projects abruptly while others disappear into silence.

There is a lot of rage in that professional community, with sites such as Clients from Hell used as a venting platform. The levels of arrogance and lack of empathy shock me as clients by definition aren’t designers, so can’t know about the process.

To that end, I have 4 tips for anyone who would like to cultivate such a tumultuous relationship. Life will never be dull for you if you follow these tips. Alternatively, follow my antidotes and checklist at the end to land on a zen and calm runway. ...

1 – Fatal last words for anyone in the modern office world are " it will only take 5 mins" or, "just a few changes..."
Antidote: Never assume the time it takes someone to do their work
Context switching, file opening, information gathering, file management and file exporting to PDF and web sizes all take the same amount of time regardless of how many edits there are.

2 – Send a multitude of files and amendments at different times and locations.
Antidote: Gather your feedback promptly from all stakeholders at one time.
Strike while the iron is hot. Don't let it drag on as situations change, people go on holidays, get sick, work on other matters.

3 – Make a series of revisions over a long amount of time
Antidote: Be aware that each revision stage costs: whether in money or in relationship goodwill
Be clear on how many revisions are included in the contract or agreement. If unstated, assume more than 2 needs to be flagged. Give a heads up. If in doubt, use the phone or meet personally. Acknowledge the situation.

4 – Ambiguous instructions
Antidote: List all changes methodically
Check and agree with designer which notation method works best for them ( over phone, PDF, printed proof, in person ). Don't assume they know what you are talking about.

Orlagh's flight checklist for landing a design project to destination calm and published
  • Nominate one person on the team to co-ordinate changes.
  • Setup a shared folder to co-ordinate communication, dropbox for example. Send file links in an email to ensure receipt.
  • Establish the terms of the project: the amount of revisions included, cost per extra changes, and expected delivery times.
  • Agree a system to gather edits and changes
  • List file formats needed (e.g various social media, for email, for print )
  • When in doubt, do not email: tone of voice and humanness is lost and people mis-interpret easily. Pick up the phone or schedule a skype.
May the creative forces be with you!