250 747 1230 • 1561 Borregard Rd., Quesnel, BC • Hours M-F: 9:00 AM–5:00 PM southhill01@shaw.ca
Bob and Elselinde Michek of South Hill Graphics

What The Graphic Designer Needs From Their Client

Most graphic designers are pretty patient and easy. I know I try to be like that.

Hopefully this little read helps you understand the designer’s point of view on what they deal with daily. A Graphic Designer is usually part of a pretty nice bunch of people, willing to serve and make you happy. That is our job. Sometimes it is nice for you to know some of the things that affect us and the job you have asked me to do for you. 

So let me take you through some of the things you likely don’t even realize. 

Lead Time

A graphic designer is usually busy and usually needs time to fit you in when your design project starts. We do not possess a magic button that we press and your project comes out all shiny and new in a matter of minutes. First, projects take a lot of thought – a meditation on your words that you spoke or emailed when you first connected. When I design a project, I tell new clients I need time just to think about their project. That is amid all the other things on which I am working. I realize this sounds artsy-flighty, balloons-in-my-hair, bubbles and butterflies but I really do need time just to think. I absolutely must give myself a space in which to get inspired. Secondly, I need to think about HOW I’m going to approach your project. That takes time. What tools am I to use and how detailed is the presentation. You see, each tool I use produces different results and looks. Illustrator cannot do what Photoshop can do any more than a hammer can do what a shovel can do.

Lead Time and Logo Design

This is especially true with logo design. Computers sometime frustrate me because trying to draw with a mouse or graphics pen is not like drawing with a pencil or pen. Firstly, if I am using a mouse, well, I won’t even try with a mouse. So a graphics pen on a tablet then. Your hand is on the tablet but the result, with some latency (delay) comes out on the screen which is a foot or two away. Paper and pencil is organic and instant. Sometimes logo design just HAS to be done on illustration board sketched out initially, refined and rendered later by pen and ink. THEN it gets processed and perfected through a computer. Maybe it’s just me, but when this graphic designer comes up with an idea it rarely works out the first try. The groove starts to appear after the second or third iteration. More often than not, the first draft never makes it to the customer’s eye lest they like it and want to go with it. Here is an example of the South Quesnel Business Association’s logo development.

South Hill Graphics Logo Development ExampleThe point is this: Making your logo design once, twice and three or four times over to get two or three decent versions to show you takes time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. And that’s why I need LEAD time. 

Similarly, I need to schedule you in to my workload. A few years ago in April, I was completely stressed out and couldn’t figure out why. Then I counted up the number of projects on which I was working. There were 32 projects in various forms of completion. 32 balls up in the air! Logos, brochure design, flyer design, website design, name it. Now that is not constant all year long, but it shows you that a this designer, any designer can get pretty busy. 

When someone comes crashing in and wants a project done in two days and they cannot wait is gut wrenching. Saying “no” to a client is something that grates on me, but completing something in two days is simply impossible and leads to disappointment. “No” up front is the only option but that disappointment is less than the disappointment of being late with the project. Still, it is disappointing all the way around both for the client and the graphic or web designer. 

So please give your designer lead time to prepare your job. I would say two to three weeks minimum. 

Taking forever to complete a job 

I don’t want to chase you for your feedback. I really don’t.

When a project gets going in a healthy way, a groove develops, a nice back and forth. It’s like two people on a teeter totter or the hum of a well oiled engine running at cruising speed. Every part is working so well, you can feel it and it feels so right. I look for that when a job starts because it becomes more fun than work. You and I are getting something done. 

When a client gets busy or distracted with other things and the flow breaks, depending on how long the break is, that client sinks to the bottom of the job queue. Sometimes it is very difficult to go back to the original groove and get it going again for a few reasons. I might be busy and have new projects on the go taking up my work load, I might be on a holiday or a myriad of other things going on simultaneously. Pulling up a file with thousands of layers and complexity coming out of every nook and cranny of the universe, it is very hard to remember what the heck I was doing when a month or two goes by. To resurrect all that and try to give it traction is emotionally draining and difficult. Yes, it can be done but it is way harder. So please try to keep the flow going if you can.

Don’t Insist Your Designer Break Design Rules

A graphic designer goes to school for four years and learns their craft. In my case it was five because I picked up extra courses. When that student comes into the work field they have a wonderful toolbox in their minds for the rest of their lives. They now know how things work and the histories behind certain best practices. Design school teaches the back end and whys of design, not just the pretty stuff you see in the finished product. I can always tell a schooled designer from a person who picked it up on their own. Always.

A real great example where some clients ruins design is with white space. A designer learns the eye needs to navigate through the information in order to pick it out and decipher it clearly. The designer makes a path for the eye, in other words. The client says “fill that space with a picture or these words”. That produces a clash or an interruption in the flow. When a piece is so full of junk, it is no longer anything but a mess with no flow and the client insists that this is what they want. Don’t be surprised if the designer asks not to have their name attached to it.

Another example are certain typefaces a client wants to use that are either ugly, not relevant to the project, dated or have been overused. Comic Sans, Papyrus, Cooper Black come to mind. Now, kudos to the original writers of these faces and I am sure they are proud of their work. But these faces have served their purpose out there in the internet-o-sphere and can we please move on? Please?

Project Creep 

Now, most of the time if you ask me to throw in this little extra ditty I don’t have a problem with it. Usually it’s not a big deal. But when there is this thing and then another and another and “you won’t mind if I ask you to do this and this”. That starts to take more time than the quote and erodes my ability to look after other customers as well. That’s when we designers start to get a little feisty. So please be aware of that one, ok? Expect to rewrite the contract if that happens too much.

Respect my time – I don’t want to play with your idea and not be paid 

Some people will send me a file to see if I can fix it or “play” with it to make it look better. It might be a brochure, maybe a flyer design, logo design or something like that. Personally I will not touch anything without a down payment. When a designer is busy, they don’t have time to “see what you can do with it”. As stated previously, I look for the back and forth groove to happen and if it is not there, nothing gets done. Please remember, asking me to play with your idea means I have to say “yes” to you, and “no” to paying clients. 

In conclusion 

I love my clients. I love my job because it is not a job to me, it is how I was made. However, you need to know what me or any other graphic designer has to go through to get a job done properly. There is also that thing I call “pride in a job well done”. Most people are great that I work with but some just do not understand what I takes to get that piece out there into the real world..

Hope this helps!

If you’re ready to work with South Hill Graphics, contact us.