You Got Three Designs Back From The Designer And You Hate Them All
Do you fire the designer on the spot? Run straight to vista print? Go to some other website and find a better design? The short answer is no. This could get expensive and can be avoided.
First, you need to have a direct and open dialogue with the designer about their designs. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re unhappy with but also give respectful critiques. What parts do you like? What parts do you not like? This is exactly the kind of feedback a designer needs to hear in order to produce your desired result.
Contrary to popular belief, designers are not easily broken. Designers aren’t people who cannot take the slightest bit of negativity without setting off on a tearful, emotional tirade. In fact, designers pride themselves on being chameleons in the business. They have to constantly adapt to new scenery to produce the best possible design for each client.
Here are the five things to consider when addressing your designer about the work you absolutely hate.
How to get back on track:
1. Set a clear theme for the design
Tell the designer what you want the designs to convey. It might be beneficial to go over some of the basic design principles together. This could help develop creative concepts that can serve a purpose.
2. Provide photos of things you like
Showcase images along with specific ideas that you envision for your designs. This can give the designer a clear vision of what you want. This can inspire their creativity and motivate them to create powerful designs that capture the essence of your images.
3. Tell the designer the parts you like
Before you give criticism, try to find aspects of the designs you like first. Be descriptive. Don’t just say “I like it” but actually give specific examples for why you like the designs. Tell them something like, “I like the teal color of the buildings and the round shapes of the windows.” The more specific you are then the better the results may turn out. Then move into giving constructive criticism.
4. And the parts you hate
If the design isn’t what you envisioned, then be honest with the designer. Try not to be too harsh. Rather than saying you straight up hate the designs, provide constructive criticism. You should always remember to be mindful of the designer’s feelings. Be respectful by providing professional critiques.
5. Communication is key
It’s important to have strong and consistent communication when consulting with a designer. Whether meeting face-to-face or remotely, there has to be a solid team collaboration. This is the only way you’ll be sure the designs meet your expectations.
Remember, just because you didn’t like the first round of design doesn’t mean the project is doomed. Through set goals and clear communication you and your designer can accomplish what needs to be done.
Choosing Logo Colors
Why Three Should Be Your Limit
Designing your business logo can be a daunting task. After all, your logo symbolizes your entire business essence. No pressure, right? Even if you start with a clear vision, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by color and font choices. Let’s start by tackling color selection.
Many businesses find themselves leaning towards, flashy eye-catching designs with shadows and gradients. These designs may look nice on a computer screen, but they don’t always translate well to business cards, printed advertisements and other printed collateral. That’s because printing is always done with either Pantone or CMYK. When it comes to consistency (which is key for brand recognition), Pantone is the way to go. However, there’s a separate charge for each color match. If your logo has a lot of colors, this can get expensive pretty quickly. While CMYK printing is generally more affordable, CMYK doesn’t always work well for logos with blue colors – they can often take on a purple tinge.
Valdez & Treviño logo in full color as well as black and white.
As a designer, my challenge is to create a design that meets my client’s criteria while ideally using just two pantone colors plus black. The black can also be gray if the opacity is adjusted. There’s also nothing wrong with a stylized black and white design. In fact, all logos need to look good this way and still be recognizable, because they may one day be printed on a black and white machine. This is one major reason that the vast majority of businesses only use one or two colors in their logo and more than a quarter of businesses use black or grayscale.
TheraCare logo color / black and white comparison.
Whether you’re a designer trying to nail a client’s logo color scheme or a business, keep these three things in mind when selecting logo colors:
#1: Memorability: Keep this rule in mind throughout the logo design process: the simpler your logo, the more memorable it will be. One or two color logos are more powerful because they are simple when compared with five or seven color logo. You want people to say, “That’s so clever, why didn’t I think of that?”
#2: Printing cost: The more colors your logo contains, the higher the printing cost. The difference could range from a reasonable hundred dollars to several thousands, depending on the number of colors you’ve selected and the printing quality. Early in my career I was directed by my then boss to create a multi-color logo for a client that featured a pinwheel design. I spent a ton of time and energy optimizing the exact color combinations. When we went to print, the quote was astronomical. While our client loved the design and colors, she was much less than enthusiastic about the cost. Now I don’t hesitate to caution clients that they may not love their multi-colored design once they see the printing price tag!
#3: Color significance: What does your color selection say about your business? The following are common emotions evoked by popular logo colors.
- Red: Action-oriented, energetic and eye-grabbing. Red can evoke a passionate response but it can also be considered too ‘aggressive’ depending on the brand or context.
- Orange: Energetic, friendly and confident. Orange is often associated with a strong, engaging work ethic and productivity. Gold evokes feeling of prestige, high quality, wisdom and wealth.
- Yellow: Optimistic, warm and motivational. While darker yellows can be almost too attention grabbing (there’s a reason taxis and road caution signs are painted yellow!), lighter yellows are associated with intellect, freshness and joy.
- Green: Nature, serenity and good health. Lighter greens are considered to be more peaceful while darker greens are typically associated with wealth or prestige.
- Blue: Trust, dependability and strength. Blue is universally well liked and extremely popular for branding. However, studies also show that blue can suppress the appetite so it is a less popular choice for brands associated with food or cooking.
- Purple: Combining the stability blue and energy of red, purple is associated with power, luxury and royalty. Lighter shades are associated with femininity and nostalgia.
- Pink: Feminine, romance and youth. Lighter pinks are more delicate and sentimental while hotter pinks are high energy.
Finding Cool Typography
How to Select the Best Type and Where to Get It
In the world of design, the way you say something is just as important as what you say. In fact, the wrong typeface can completely obscure the substance of your message. Typography is the art and science of typefaces; it’s about a lot more than just selecting a pretty font. Typefaces have personality. Select the wrong typeface and that’s the equivalent to showing up at a Black Tie gala dressed in Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt. Yikes!
At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Why does Katie keep talking about typefaces – doesn’t she just mean fonts?” In the world of typography, typefaces and fonts are actually two different things. An easy way to think about the difference is that typefaces are actually the name for an entire font family (just like how an album is a collection of songs on a single record). Sure, when you choose between Times New Roman and Arial on the computer, Microsoft Words says you’re selecting a “font.” But that’s only half the story. Back in the dark days of analog printing, printers had to set every page with block metal letters. If you wanted to print a one-page advertisement, for example, you would need different blocks for each size: a Helvetica 10-pt block in light for the caption to a photo, a Helvetica 16-pt block in bold for the headline, etc. In this example, Helvetica is the typeface you’ve selected and Helvetica in 10-pt light is a different font from Helvetica in 16-pt bold. Desktop publishing has muddied this distinction a bit and typeface and font are often used interchangeably at this point. But you’ll make a designer’s day by knowing the difference – and they might just put a little extra effort into picking the perfect typeface for your project!
Ever wonder where designers get all their cool typefaces? These are a few of my favorite places:
For the best free fonts...
You can’t go wrong with dafont.com. It’s my go-to destination for free fonts.
For the best paid fonts...
Ready to invest a little cash into building your typography collection? Hoefler & Co. has hands-down my favorite selection.
For the best everyday fonts...
MyFonts has great everyday fonts that and be used for just about any project. While these fonts aren’t free, they won’t break the bank, either. Plus, thanks to their versatility, I find myself coming back to these fonts time and time again.
For the best specialty styles...
House Industries has more specialty styles ranging from styles that mimic cut-out ransom notes to punk rock record labels.
For kick-starting your font collection...
If you’re just getting started with web fonts or stuck on pairing suggestions, head over to Google Fonts for a quick solution.
What’s your favorite typeface?
Don’t Be a Flake
Seriously...Your Reputation Depends on it
Artsy people are a colorful bunch capable of producing incredibly creative original works and making the world a happier, more vibrant place to live. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world without color or creativity? But in order for creativity to happen, we must be inspired which often times comes into conflict with our more regimented, left-brained friends who are more concerned with deadlines and budgets. The business world is full of black-and-white, left-brained types, so much so that creatives have developed a bit of a stereotype as being unreliable and someone that can never be trusted to complete a project on time and on budget. Knowing that this is the environment where creative firms must operate, my number one piece of advice to creatives trying to make it in the black-and-white business world is this:
Don’t be a Flake!
It seems that every new client that I meet has been burned in the past by an unresponsive designer or web developer that seemed to vanish into thin air after receiving payment for a job even if it wasn’t finished. Irrespective of your quality as a designer, you will be amazed at the response from clients and prospective clients by simply being organized and reachable when they need something. It’s common courtesy and professionalism which everyone in the business world understands and expects! Here are three specific things I’m talking about:
1. Open and Timely Communication
Always respond. Period. Not tomorrow or next week or next month. If you are working during the workweek and do not have a little automatic ‘out of office’ message up, you owe it to your clients to respond to their inquiry as soon as possible. First and foremost, it builds trust and removes the flakey stereotype from your business. It also speaks your client’s business language as they expect a response when they have a question. So always respond and in a timely manner.
Secondly, always maintain an open and honest dialogue with clients. To put it bluntly, never ever lie. There is nothing that can be destroyed more quickly in the business world than your reputation and the only way to go down in an inglorious blazing fire of ineptitude is to lie and lie repeatedly. So don’t do it! Again, open and honest communication builds trust. Your clients would rather hear bad news immediately from you (in addition to a plan to rectify the situation) rather than dragging your feet and telling them at the last minute. This last point brings us to the next anti-flake topic:
2. Manage Your Client’s Expectations
In a trusting creative/client relationship, you must set your client’s expectations at the beginning and throughout the course of a project. This does not mean sign up for a date and continually push it out because you’re not going to meet it. Quite the opposite. Every proposal should start with a realistic budget of how long the project will take to complete as well as your own bandwidth to produce the work. You own the relationship with your clients because you are doing the work, so set each project up for success from the outset.
Set achievable deadlines and once these are in place, stay on top of the work until it is finished. If the client is in a hurry and needs to get it completed sooner than you’ve budgeted, charge them more for your time and work your butt off! On the contrary, if there is no rush, it is still a great idea to allocate time on your schedule to complete the project in a timely manner...otherwise it might never get done.
3. Honor Your Contracts
Lastly, always honor your contracts. This seems obvious, but contracts in business determine whether or not you get paid at the end of the day. It also provides your clients recourse to come after you if you decide to become a flake midway through a project. Even if you in correctly budgeted the time or work, still finish the project and learn from your mistake. Again, common courtesy and professionalism applies, but the business world (especially in the US) works on a contractual basis. It will help a creative significantly to learn to establish good contracts and complete the work according to plan.
At the end of the day, always maintain your integrity. This holds true for not only creatives, but for all people, especially those who own their own businesses. Your business is an extension of yourself, so never gain a flakey reputation!
...but Katie, I’m a total flake and there’s no way that I can handle these things!
Then my suggestion is to go become a starving artist in a country with great social welfare programs...like Sweden or France. But seriously, if you find yourself in a bind with clients on account of some flakey tendencies, please do not exacerbate the situation!
I’ve seen some pretty weird stuff over the years working as a designer. I have never entered into the flakey death spiral myself, but plenty of other former business acquaintances have not been so lucky. If those former acquaintances were guests on this blog post, here would be some of their words of wisdom:
"If you totally flake out on a project after getting paid for work you didn’t do, don’t sleep with your client in an effort to make amends. They can and will still sue you for breach of contract!"
"Don’t lie or flake out on the government. You can’t sleep with them to make everything better."
"If you have a project where you get paid half up front, half upon completion, don’t use the 50% advance to buy a brick of weed and proceed to smoke your brains out for the next month until you can find another sucker to trust you with such a deal."
Okay, so these may seem like extreme examples, but there’s a great lesson to be learned here: if you want to a creatively AND financially-fulfilled designer (and not a starving artist), treat your clients like you want to be treated. A little common courtesy, open communication and mutual respect will go a long way.
Translating Client Speak Like a Pro
Earlier I wrote about how important it is for creatives to not totally flake out on clients. Open and honest communication, setting expectations, and meeting deadlines is important. Your business is an extension of yourself, so never gain a flakey reputation!
But even the most prompt, responsive creatives can be frustrated by clients who can’t seem to communicate what they want. How many times have you had a client say “I’ll know it when I see it” or “This needs to be sleeker” only to make changes and have the clients still unhappy with the results.
The longer you’re in the business, the better you’ll get at decoding client speak. Not sure what your client means? Here’s one of my favorite infographics (thanks, tickld) to the rescue:
The Art of Communication
How to Present Yourlsef Positively to Clients
Poor communication is a leading reason for clients to jump ship. Even if they love your designs, if you’re unresponsive to their concerns or take days to get back to their messages, your clients are likely to take their business elsewhere. Great communication can be tricky for creatives. We can’t be on email 24/7 – we need time to unplug and focus on actually creating work for our clients. At the same time, we still have a business to run and can’t disappear for hours (or days) on end. So, how can you strike the perfect balance? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, here’s what works for me:
1. Set clear expectations. Let your clients know how your creative process works. If you do your best creative work in the mornings, for example, let clients know that you’ll check email first thing in the morning and then follow-up on non-urgent messages in the afternoon. By being clear about your availability from day one, everyone will be on the same page about communication.
2. Never assume. While email is usually the quickest communication option, sometimes it can be difficult to get a complete picture for a client’s likes and dislikes regarding your design. When in doubt, pick up the phone – or better yet, meet in person to present your designs. While in-person meetings may not always be possible if your clients are on the opposite side of the country, video conferencing can be a good stand-in.
3. Be proactive. If you haven’t heard from a client for a few days and are awaiting their feedback, shoot them an email or give them a call to touch base. Sometimes clients need a little prompting to get the conversation started. I find it helpful to keep a client communication chart logging each time we talk (or email) and a brief summary of our conversation. This way I can see when I last spoke with a client and whether there are pending issues I need to address.
4. Always be professional. Did your client just veto all the design options (again)? Difficult clients are a given in any business, but they can be especially frustrating for creatives. After all, you just spent days developing five different logo options and now they’ve shot them all down. Even if your mind is thinking, “What does this guy know about design anyways?”, keep it together! Never shoot off an angry email or lash out on a client call. Take a deep breath, step away from the computer, practice your favorite yoga pose or go for a run. In the creative business, your reputation is everything – and you certainly don’t want to get a reputation for yelling at clients! You may not love every client, but you do need to treat each with respect and professionalism.