Client: For this job, I want you to throw your 'Web Design 101' manual out the window and listen to me!
STORY TYPES Design Disasters
I work for a dev company and a design agency has sent us designs for a website they’d like us to build for them. After receiving the designs, we asked the design agency if there were any designs for mobile and tablet views.
Client: Does it have to be responsive? I remember a time when a website was a website… It looked the way it looked no matter what you viewed it on. It looked bigger on a bigger screen with a bigger browser window and it looked smaller on a smaller screen with a smaller browser window, and it fitted the width of my tablet screen and I just had to scroll up and down to see more, and if I viewed it on my smartphone it looked tiny in portrait and better in landscape.
Yeah, we just changed how we do things for no dang reason. After all, people LOVE holding their phone in landscape.
I’m doing a logo and corporate design project for a client right now. He keeps trying to negotiate the already discounted price down. Not only that, but he wants his logo to be in orange and blue… and guess what font he ABSOLUTELY wants in the logo design.
That’s right, the blast from the past: Papyrus.
I thought this kind of client went extinct ten years ago.
I worked in the publications department of a non-profit organization, as the production manager for a weekly newspaper.
A new CEO was hired who turned out to be a micromanager. He had worked on his school newspaper when he was in university, which made him an expert in graphic design and advertising, so he decided that he would revive the newspaper, which had been suffering from declining advertising revenue (along with every other newspaper in the world).
He kept imposing new "design ideas" which invariably looked ugly and made me embarrassed to have my name on the masthead. The weeks that we were allowed to operate without his input, he would take a hard copy of the newspaper and scribble all over it, writing things like "NO!" and his own set of proofreading marks which meant nothing to us.
Because it was printed on a web press, it had to be a multiple of eight pages, which meant that sometimes we had to use filler pages, and he didn't understand that and would fly into a rage because those pages had no revenue. He actually argued with the press foreman at our printing company, a man with 40 years' experience in the industry, insisting that we should be able to do multiples of two pages.
I spoke up against some of his ideas because I thought they would mean less paid advertising rather than more. I became part of a large-scale, multi-department layoff shortly after that.
After I was gone, some of his ideas were implemented and indeed the advertising kept declining rather than increasing. The newspaper folded a year and a half after I was let go.
Client: We’re having a show soon, and we’ll be bringing a big banner to highlight the sale on our products.
Me: Exciting. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.
Client: I wish we could have gotten your input on this, but here’s the banner we have ready for the show. I don’t have a background in advertising, so it was a little weird for me to be in charge of it, but I think it gets the message across.
He rolled out the large banner that took up half the retail floor.
The banner said “SALE – TODAY ONLY!” in huge chunky red letters on a white background. It was one of the most depressing and un-inspiring printed advertising projects I had ever seen.
Client: What do you think?
Me: Well… that’s a departure from the type of advertising that I like to work on. But thanks for sharing it with me. I hope it works out.
Client: As long as it makes us money, that’s the important part. I think it will really catch people's attention.
Me: I like to think about things in terms of long-term customer relationships and creative concepts. But I do hope it supports your sales.
Throwing up in my mouth as I speak.
A client reached out to me to make her a website. Her budget was extremely limited and well below my normal rates, but I helped her to pick out a template she could afford and offered to take care of uploading it and all her initial content for a low price.
Client: Great, please send your invoice.
I sent the invoice and the client paid in full right away. How nice.
Me: Your site is ready to be uploaded! Please look at the link I sent you for the staging site and let me know if I can go ahead.
Client: Oh no, this will absolutely not do! My website looks exactly like a template. It has none of my brand personality.
Bear in mind her only "branding" was a logo with a generic and very overused medical symbol that did not fit her business at all. Even worse, it used Papyrus.
Yep, you read that right folks... it's 2020 and we still haven't escaped good old Papyrus. I even offered to redesign her logo for free. She refused.
Me: Well yes, you paid for a template. Did I not use the correct one?
Client: It's just I thought if I pay for the template you would redesign it to look like something completely unique.
Me: I'm sorry but that was not the agreement. Plus you were clear that you could not afford my rates for custom development, which is why I offered you an alternative at a VERY reduced rate.
Client: Just make it look like my business card with a huge logo on the front page and my contact details.
Me: OK, I must advise though, that is not considered a very good design. It won't help your brand.
Client: Do it.
Luckily, doing this only took about five minutes - which is why I agreed in the first place.
Client: Was that so hard? Jeez, I don't see why I should pay you anything since I told you everything that needed to be done. I basically designed it myself!
Me: No problem, you paid me in advance though so we're good. In fact, if you want to take credit for this one, be my guest. I don't need my name on it.
A client had made a logo for themselves, but because it used clipart and comic sans they discovered they needed a redesign once they tried to patent it.
Client: Can you jazz it up?
I sent 10 concept sketches.
Client: These are great but I really wanted you to touch up my original design.
Which, I'll remind you, was clipart and comic sans.
Jump to a few weeks later, I was finishing up a logo that I had meticulously redesigned and was awaiting final revisions.
They had me remove all the elements that make it visually interesting. I had to color it to their specifications, changed the text to make it I have to color it to all specifications, and I have to make the text damn near illegible so that it would fit the patent office compliance to be just like their original - bad - logo.
I should have just traced the original logo and called it a day.
At my last graphic design job, my boss (who doesn't know anything about design) would constantly undermine my design decisions for our biggest client and would tell me how to design things, which resulted in our client getting annoyed with me.
One day I decided to go with my gut and design the client’s menus with what I though they wanted –which happened to be COMPLETELY OPPOSITE to what my boss insisted on.
He was furious and made me redesigned it the way he wanted. Luckily, he allowed me send both proofs to the client.
Client: Oh wow, this is night and day. This one, definitely.
They chose mine.
I didn't stay at that job much longer.
I’m a web designer doing work for an international company. They wanted different versions of their site for different countries – not just translations, but entirely new looks and feels.
Client: Use our corporate colors: red, black, and white. Make sure to stick to this.
I got to work. Soon, though, they heard that Asian countries didn’t like the use of red – leaving only black and white in the branding colors they asked us to use. I accommodated and showed them a version.
Client: It’s good, but where’s the color?
After much back and forth, they gave us a design from their artists. The color scheme? Purple, blue, and black.
Client: Why couldn’t you come up with something as good as that?
I recently worked with an Account Executive of a creative business on various painfully chaotic projects.
Their business didn’t seem to have a clear direction, with tons of dependencies to “figure out” what to do next in a variety of situations. Lots of shifting stories and egos.
One of the biggest red flags was that the Account Executive’s email font was in Comic Sans.
Big, bold Comic Sans.
And no, it had nothing to do with their overall brand message or identity.
In 2020, how does this happen?