Client: I need something classic, but modern.
Me: Um... can you be more specific?
Client: Classic, but ULTRA modern.
I was contacted by a lawyer starting up a new venture (not the first time that's happened). The target audience was the catering industry, and they were adamant they didn't want a "corporate" looking site. They sent me lots of photos of spices and exotic foods.
Client: I want it full of rich, warm, vibrant colors, like these photos.
No worries. I designed a site full of rich, warm, vibrant colors. As far from traditional "corporate" as I could get, though still with all the usual elements and requirements.
Client: That doesn't look very professional. It's got too much color. It needs to be toned down.
This time they sent me photos of farms, with lots of produce. Not all that dissimilar from the spice photos. I designed another site, again using the color palette they requested, but winding back the use of color and introducing more white space. Still very professional.
Client: No, no, no.
Me: What don't you like? Those are the colors you wanted, and I've reduced the use of colors as you requested. What do you want?
Client: It still needs to be colorful. I don't want cold, clinical corporate. It needs to be rich, warm ...
Me: Both of those designs used rich, warm colors, just as you asked, using palettes from the photos you sent. The second one reduced the use of those colors, just as you asked ...
Client: More color, rich colors, not corporate, warm ...
Me: I don't think I'm a very good fit for your job. Maybe you'd be best served with another developer ...
A couple of months later I checked in on her new caterer's supply business website. White, black and blue. So corporate that it looked like something IBM would have had 20 years ago.
I worked with a client who did business coaching, designing their promotional materials and such. They were nice enough, but I have to admit - if they were good at business, I never saw it. It seemed to me that they were mostly good at throwing around buzzwords and self-help. That was fine for me, usually, but one time they gave me a full blast of nonsense:
Client: This really isn't good enough. I'm not getting "passion," I'm not getting "commitment to values." I want the design to really speak to excellence, to disruption, to transforming industries. I want this design to change someone's life.
I added red to the palette and sent it back.
Client: Perfect! I'm so glad you heard me.
Client: That isn't working for me.
Me: Okay, what don't you like?
Client: I don't know. I just don't like it.
Me: Is there anything about the design that you do like, that I can zero in on and expand?
Client: I'm not sure. It's not BAD, I just don't like it.
Me: Do you have an example of another design that you like that I can take a look at?
Client: No, I don't really pay attention to this stuff.
Client: I don't know. Try to come up with something.