Keep To The Code

Heat Design Group — May 22nd, 2014

You may have heard of the various ways designers approach a project from start to finish. Some may take the approach that allows them to stay…

You may have heard of the various ways designers approach a project from start to finish. Some may take the approach that allows them to stay ahead of schedule. They work hard for their money. They stay on top of things, respond to emails and telephone calls, and overall keep their clients in the loop of everything from start to finish.

Then you have other designers who choose to work in the sanctuary of a hobo. They will take in a project and sit on it. Then they will sit on it more. Before they realize it, the deadline that was agreed upon three weeks ago is now less than 48 hours away. They run like chickens with their heads cut off.  Lost and desperate, the designer eagerly searches for some sense of validity in their work with the help of stock photo sites. They whip up something, knowing in the back of their mind the work will not be worth much to them.  Their conjunction is their justification for their tardiness and laziness. Rather than use the simpler approach of creating a path for themselves to come up a with a visually appealing solution for their client, they would rather party like a rock star and when their 50% up front payment runs dry, they frantically search for something to justify their laziness by slapping some ideas together without any thought in mind.

What’s the point to all this needless jargon? Simple. A prospective client approached me last week to design a magazine for a small market. The client explained the situation, and to paraphrase what he told me:

“In the past twelve months we worked with a total of three designers. The first designer we hired decided to just take the money and run with it. What we got in return was a pencil of what the magazine would look like. And yes, we are tracking him down to recoup some of the money through legal means. The second designer seemed promising. The designer was very eager to get started. We gave them the files as well as a copy of the pencil sketch done from the first designer.  We explained our ideas and vice versa.  Everything seemed okay until the designer decided to charge us for consultation time and edits. Three weeks in, the designer then told us that he would be unable to finish the project because he received a project who’s compensation was more than double than ours.  In the end, we were left with a rough layout of the magazine and another designer who flew the coop. The third designer was by some accounts a ‘veteran’ in the field with over twenty-six years experience and had a good in-depth knowledge of magazine layouts. With this creditability, you’d think this designer had their ‘ducks in a row’.  As an added bonus, the designer was employed with a local print shop. Therefore, we thought we had both design and print covered. We gave the designer the ideas and sketches from the two previous designers as well as our thoughts and told him to run with it. Communication dropped off after two weeks into the project. Later, we found out the designer was fired for working on our magazine on his employer’s time. Four months later we were still without a magazine to publish.”

This example serves as a lesson for those out there who decide to take advantage of prospective clients. It is designers such as the three described that make me want to slam my head against the wall.  If the client had gone to a reputable designer with references, the magazine would have been completed and delivered as promised.  Makes me revisit a time where I read an article on the web where much of the debate was creating a certification process to establish and maintain creditability. After listening to this client’s experience, it makes sense to have some creditability in place. Perhaps using A.I.G.A. as a foundation to create that certification for those who truly work hard, who care for the client needs, who truly value the client’s brand, and who understand what it takes to work on the front lines and charge forward to roll out a successful project. Maybe its just wishful thinking or simply too much to ask for my fellow designers out there to take a more disciplined approach and truly understand what you’re getting yourself into once you commit to a project and work together with the client to ensure success.

Perhaps this is too tall of an order?