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Just be creative! Things that make designers scream (internally)

You know what’s the most important thing when working with these special snowflakes called designers?
Trust & communication. Yup – that’s about it and I could just end up here, but then it wouldn’t be THAT helpful!;) Throughout the years of work as a designer there have been moments when I felt like “I’m the king of the world!”. There were also days when I was considering moving into the mountains to live as a hermit for the rest of my life (as long as my cave had wi-fi, that is). Don’t get me wrong, we designers, love to work with our customers, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this industry (or at least not for very long). Many times we will go an extra mile in order to satisfy people we’re working with. We will stay up all night just to finish something (or because we’re inspired and we wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway). And as much as we’re happy to go through the whole process of designing a piece for you, we do have a dark, cranky side. Call it our pet peeves, frustrations, designer’s first world problems or whatever you like, the point is – these little things are sometimes crucial to the outcome of our cooperation.
Let’s talk about the dark side today, shall we?

1. Make it pop!

This, along with “wow factor” and “make it more sexy” is a designer’s nightmare. We would love to “make it pop!” for you, but it’s not really clear what you mean by that. The “pop” means…well, not much – do you want fireworks? Brighter colours? BIGGER fonts? Or unicorns jumping out of every corner of your website? We seriously cannot tell from that simple phrase. 

Solution: Be more specific in your feedback. Tell us what the mythical “pop” means for you and YOU specifically, as this might be rather subjective thing. Usually, more seasoned designers will ask questions at that point to be able to deliver exactly the “wow factor” you want. But it would save us both a lot of time if you told us details or provided a sample of design that “pops” for you. Instead of “make it pop” say: “I want to see more colours/I like the font used here: *link to whatever you googled and liked*/I want it to feel more energetic”.

2. I’ll know what I like when I see it

As a girl with a soft spot for shiny/geeky/cute stuff I totally get that statement – when I go shopping for a new shoes or a piece of jewellery, that’s how it is. But if I was about to hire somebody to build me a house, this kind of statement would get me nowhere. Not to mention the poor architect and construction crew would probably get so frustrated with building, breaking, rebuilding and so on, that eventually I’d end up trapped in a wall (the wall I would still not like on top of everything else!).

Solution: We’re really happy to give you a design you’ll love, but at the same time we’re no magicians nor mind-readers (even though that would be awesome!), so we really can’t figure out what you like if you don’t point us in the right direction. You’re important, your design is important and we respect your time, so make it easier for both parties and simply show us few images/links/photos from google that you like, so we know where we’re going.

3. Be creative!

Now that one is tricky. It does sound like a blessing to a designer – “use your creativity, you’ve got the freedom”. But it turns into a nightmare when we do our best and you simply don’t like it. Not only it hurts our feelings, because, you know – every design we make is a little bit like a child to us and now you’re telling us this little creation of our mind is “blah”. It also gets YOU frustrated, because you thought you’ll get a steak, and we deliver you a salad.
You see, we creative peeps will probably have at least few ideas for whatever you want us to design for you – giving us the freedom is great, but also means we’ll pick an idea we feel great about at the moment and not necessary the one you’d like.
This usually happens upon the first time cooperation, when we don’t know each other yet. With customers we’ve done several designs for, there is not so much of a problem – you know what we can do and trust us, we know what you like and what you expect from us.

Solution: Whenever you get to work with a new designer, say what you have in mind – it doesn’t have to be a clear picture, but some keywords, impressions and general vision are really helpful.

4. Make the logo bigger

We know your brand is the most important thing for you and we understand it. This doesn’t mean that your logo has to be the most prominent element of a design (unless it’s a scientific paper and it’s a cover page or something). Good design implements your branding – which means not only a logo, but your brand’s colours, fonts and feeling into whatever the piece is. Plus – it looks much more professional. Think of Lacoste t-shirts – the logo is tiny, but you know it’s original because of the fabric’s quality, a fine stitching (and the price, but that’s a different story).

Solution: Trust us. We’re working with you, not against you. We want to make your brand look great and professional and we know how to achieve that. The logo is a part of a well thought composition and your target audience will see it, even if it’s in the footer or corner of the design.

5. Fill up that space!

Sometimes it may look like there is a lot of empty space that BEGS to be filled with whatever elements and it’s as if we didn’t work hard enough on your design. That’s not true – actually minimalism is the hardest thing. And the “wasted” empty space is as important as the filled up one. It lets your eyes to “breath”. It makes it easier to read and to process the information. It is not WASTED. It’s called WHITE space and it’s your friend. The only exception I can think of are the flyers with description of use and side effects you find when you buy medicines – but in that case it’s not about design or conveying a message, it’s about fitting ALL of the information on a tiny piece of paper, and let’s face it – have you ever read any of those and thought: “wow, this is a great design, that brand must be amazing”?

Solution: As long as all of the important content is there and it’s perfectly readable, you don’t have to worry about it. There is really no need to fill up every tiny little space on your design, on the contrary – white space makes it look more “airy” and easier to read. You’re not paying us per quantity of elements/photos/patterns, but for quality - making the right impression and passing the correct message.

6. We know what we want (so they say).

Tweaking and changes are a part of a designing process and it’s rather expected to be asked to move some elements here and there or change colours etc. What comes as a great surprise and a really frustrating experience, is when we hand a ready, polished and finished design to our customer just to find out they completely changed their mind about what they want. If this happened somewhere in the middle of the process, that’s fine – we can apply changes pretty fast and adjust to new requirements. But when after sending samples and receiving feedback everything seemed fine, we suddenly find out your brand won’t be selling toys but construction materials instead, then there is a big problem. We have to start from the beginning, because there is no way to make the initial design to match your new target audience. And then we have to face a really tough choice: whether to be nice, make a new design and simply swallow up the fact we already spent a lot of time on a previous one which is not going to be used ergo: paid for, or to be cold business and request a payment for the first design before we even start a new one for you. This is not a pleasant situation for either side.

Solution: Make sure you know what your brand/product/target audience is before you ask a designer to create something for you – especially when it comes to logo. If there will be some text included in a design, have it ready – changes of phrasing and/or adding/removing few lines are not a big issue, but if a few paragraphs we agreed on suddenly grows to few pages, this requires redesigning everything from the beginning – wasting your time and ours.

7. Take a logo from our FB page

Or any graphic element from web and implement it into something that will be printed. Without getting into too many technical details – the quality of most of the graphic elements on web is not sufficient for printing, even if it looks really nice and sharp on your screen. We need a high quality logo (best if you’ve got a vector based version) and photos from you in order to deliver an equally high quality end product.

Solution: If you’ve got a proper files, provide them – we’ll give you specifications. If you don’t have them – let’s discuss how to work around the problem – maybe we can recreate a logo in quality that is needed, maybe we can find similar stock photos to ones you wanted – unfortunately this takes times and may cost a bit.

8. Use some pictures from Google

Contrary to the popular belief, things on the internet are not free. Especially when it comes to graphics and photos. So basically, we cannot use them unless we pay for a license. We don’t want to get into legal problems for violating copyrights, plus we think of how it would feel if someone stole one of our designs – because this is what it really is – stealing. There is plenty of CC0 (public domain) pictures and these can be used in your design freely, but if you want a specific photo or element that is protected by copyrights, we cannot remove its watermark and use it – we need to buy it, which increases the cost of the whole design.

Solution: If you can provide your own photos, then great! This way not only you hold rights to them,  so we don’t need to buy any license, but also you can be 100% sure that no one else will use the same photos, which makes it original and can help building your personal brand.  If it’s impossible and you don’t want to pay for the photos, then we can resort to photos marked as public domain. If you’d like to use a specific graphic element or photo that is protected, then in order to use it there is no other way than buying it.

9. Send me a file in Word/PowerPoint/whatever

Sometimes we’re getting such requests – our customers want their designs to be send in popular formats, so they can play with them, edit and make changes. Designers are very hesitant when it comes to this – not only because every creation is carefully put together and changing it may destroy the fine balance (plus it’s not going to be “our” design anymore), but mostly because it’s pretty much impossible. In our work we use specialized software and the files are not made to be translated into popular formats like .doc or .ppt.

Solution:  Where is a will, there is a way! We can always make an agreement to make some changes off charge or for discount price – i.e. if we’re creating a flyer for you that you’ll use several times with minor changes of the text every now and then. This way you’re going to get always the top quality and our help/advice when it comes to building your brand. In most of the cases we can also provide the source files (it depends on the legal regulations of a country we’re working in though) – it’s not very likely that you’ve got the software to open and edit them, but we are able to send them if you really need it.

10. It’s an emergency, except it is not.

This is pure annoyance – we get a call late afternoon, or Friday evening, or even weekend – it’s an emergency, the customer needs something to be done ASAP or the hell breaks loose! It happens, we get it – there are times when something unexpected occurs and you need a design within a day or even less – short deadlines, last minute deals etc. We’re really willing to help! Designers can usually work under such pressure and with short deadlines, we also understand that things happen at the last moment. And it’s very likely that we will take the “emergency” task over the weekend or late afternoon, just to help you solve your problem. What’s annoying, it’s that many times what supposed to be an “emergency” turns out to not be so urgent. So we end up pulling an all-nighter or sacrificing plans we had when it wasn’t necessary – this can really piss one off.

Solution: We respect your time and it would be great if you do the same in return! When it’s a real emergency, do not hesitate to make a call – we’ll do our best to help you, but when it’s really not a matter of life and death – please leave it for the next day/after weekend/holiday/whatever. Think of our sanity and famillies y’all! ;)

That’s it! Now you know how to deal with designers in order to ensure a win-win cooperation! It’s not that hard – as long as there is a mutual understanding, respect and smooth communication everyone will be happy! :)

Are you a designer? What are your pet-peeves?

Are you a customer? Are you happy with results of your cooperation with designers?

Share your thoughts with me! :)

PS. If you find the pictures in this post amusing and you'd like them as a wallpaper, I got you covered! I made a pack containing all of them in 1920 x 1080 resolution and you can have it totally free! The only thing you need to do is to subscribe to my newsletter below (I'm not sending spam, like EVER! ;) ) and you'll get an access to download page!

Write comments
  1. This was really interesting and nothing I've ever read before. The one thing that touched a cord with me was when your clients want you to send their designs to them in a format they can manipulate. Personally, and this is just my feeling, yes you designed it. You put your blood, sweat and tears into the design but it's ultimately theirs to change and/or destroy your work of art. I u derstand where you're coming from but I guess that's part if being an artist.

    1. I understand and agree with you - we design for the customers and in the end they can do as they please with the design we give them :) The problem here is not so much our hurt feelings & ego, as the simple inability to translate specialized file formats into popular ones - some things just cannot be done in Word or other editors. We can (and many times we do) provide editable source files, but in most cases the customer won't have a software to modify them at home.

  2. Ahhhhhhhh the make it pop definitely hits home!!! I can't tell you how many times I've heard this come out of people's mouths!

  3. Hahahaha I have a graphic designer friend who designed my blog's logo and she has told me some of these things. I mean how vague can you get? I think there are a lot of non-creative people out there that just want to hand it over to someone else, so they're like "whatever. Just be creative." But then those people end up being super picky.


  4. The customer is always right, right? I guess for those in these types of industries, the customers come first..
    Reading this, I totally related to each and every point as an writer and content creator. There have been many times when I've heard this, its been said to both me and my other colleagues at the time. I do understand the frustration and annoyance, sometimes it could even just be your boss who seems more indecisive than even the client. Often asking you to "tweak" things in order for it to be ready for the client... Great post and I'm sure it's a light in the darkness for all those creative types who have been at the mercy of indecisive clients...


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