Design Bad Words: “Make it Bigger”

I recently was contacted by a client saying: [quote ] “Hi I need your service ‘X’ and I liked your style. I’m kind of on a tight budget and a quick 2-day deadline, but I know exactly what I want, so you won’t need to do any research or extra concepts. Do you think you can help me?”.[/quote]

This is the kind of client I run far far away from. Why? Seems pretty straight forward right? Wrong. This client is the Art Directing type, that treats designers like order takers, instead of problem solvers. To them, we’re only artists who can use computers, but have no capacity for strategy. Whenever I get this client, I usually politely say my plate is too full (which is always true. I usually bite off more than I can chew.) but also refer them to friends who may be recent grads, looking for more structured work. I always end it with “please think of me again for future design needs”, leaving it friendly.

Here’s another scenario:

So you’ve just spent hours, possibly days perfecting your client project, and you’ve sent it off looking polished and professional in hopes that the client will love it as much as you do. Next, you get a laundry list of very specific changes somewhere along the lines of “make the logo bigger” or “I like it but make it look like this” *attaches picture of a Nike ad* . This is called Art directing and if you’re like me, it makes you squeamish inside. As designers, we hate making bad design changes based off client’s subjective taste instead of good design principles. While some edits are to be expected, clients should express them more as a problem, for example:

[quote ]The model seems too young for our target audience, can you find an older model, maybe in her 30s?[/quote]

But often, clients give us bad solutions to problems they don’t express:

[quote ]Here, replace that model with this one I found from google. I like her face better.[/quote]


After all, we’re the problem solvers right? That’s what we are hired to do as professionals. We are not order takers, and just because your client may like peanut butter and sardines doesn’t mean you should offer it up to the masses.

So how do you get out of this sticky situation, where your client decides they want to play art director? It comes down to a few factors:

1) Acknowledge your client’s vision/ideas. Some clients don’t want to relinquish creative control. Whether they see themselves as creatives, or have a very specific vision, you have to first find out what exactly that vision is. Only then can you determine in a logical discussion whether or not it is objectively best for the company. You do that by asking a lot of questions, not about what they think they want (because they will offer that themselves), but really what they hope to accomplish, who they hope to reach etc. Only then can you really get their whole vision. Essentially you are weeding your way though to the design problem.

2) When it’s time to deliver, give them what they asked for, then give them something better. It’s a lot more work, but when you back up your work with reasons why it will reach their target market better, or why the message is much more clear in your version, they will hopefully look beyond their personal taste to see that you are capable of not only creating good work, but that your strategy and judgement can be trusted. If they do end up picking their idea, you at least have a “conceptual” project you can put in your portfolio. You can even put “chosen” versus “suggested” versions to illustrate that when the odds were against you, you still were able to produce good work, even if it wasn’t chosen.

3) When they give you a handful of specific changes, first turn it around and ask them why they want the changes. It forces them to address the design problem they see and rationalize their decisions. If they struggle, suggest your best guess on why they wanted a change;

[quote ]You said you want a younger, sexier model on the cover. What do you hope that will accomplish? Are you trying to reach a male audience? If not, I highly suggest keeping this more attractive but empowered model on the cover, in order to not deter the female crowd. It’s proven that women don’t respond well to images objectifying women.[/quote]

4) Stay cool and Let it go. In the end, they have final say and if they are adamant that they know what’s best, give them what they want and choose not to work with them again. Atleast you got paid for the experience right? And you learned something.

This bad word was “Make it bigger” but really it’s all those horrible art directions that clients force upon us. Just take it with a smile.. and watch this: