7 Things You Should Never Say To a Graphic Designer (And How To Respond)

Graphic designers around the world are familiar with the common things clients say—it comes with the territory to answer those frequently asked questions and help navigate people through a project. But there are things that pop up occasionally that go beyond what’s acceptable and are an insult to our creative profession. The kind of remarks that push our integrity to the limits. You know, about “doing work for free” or not understanding the depths and complexities of the design process.

As we share some of those eye-rolling comments, we thought it would be good to offer some advice on how to deal with them—not just to keep things positive and professional; but to perhaps turn things around in your favour. Here are seven sinful things you’re sick of hearing and ideas on how to respond.

“Why don’t you do this one for free; it’ll look good in your portfolio.”

Ah, that old classic. The presumption that you’re desperate for work.

Smile, be upfront but polite and explain that you have to prioritise paid work.

Then move the conversation to talk about a recent project with a big client, demonstrating that you’re in demand and have options, thank you very much.

“You just draw pictures, right?”

Now is not the time to get defensive. Join in with the joke and have a laugh. But once the giggles fade, have some hard facts ready to talk positively about the benefits of good branding. For instance, did you know that 77% of consumers make purchasing decisions because of the brand? (Source: crowdspring) Once your client considers how much is at stake, perhaps they’ll take design a little more seriously.

“I could do this myself, so it won’t take you that long to do.”

This response usually occurs when you’ve outlined how long a project will take. A client might see your day rate, acknowledge the predicted time and try and get you to speed up. Explain that you can’t reduce the time involved, as they wouldn’t get the same quality result.

One way to handle this in future is not reveal your day or hourly rate; just provide a fixed price for the project – but be prepared to provide a detailed outline of what the client can expect.

“I like it, but could you make it ‘pop’?”

Design can be so subjective. And finding out exactly what your client wants can be challenging. Some designers allow three routes during “phase one” of an identity project, for example, and then take all that initial feedback to develop “phase two”, hopefully creating a brand everyone loves. But now and again, the client still might not be happy. In which case, ask more questions. And ask some more. It’s your job as a designer to dig out the reasons why a client isn’t satisfied.

“We want an identity just like this company…”

In such cases as these, it’s important to talk through the process of creating an identity for a new business.

How it’s a collaborative exercise full of research and development, tailored exactly to that particular brand’s goals and audience.

You have to iterate how copying someone else will make them lose touch of their own brand values and purpose, which means they’ll forever be chasing the competition and wondering where they’re going wrong.

“We can’t pay you until we’re happy with the logo you create.”

A common remark and avoidable with a little planning. Before any work begins and you’ve agreed on a price and schedule, don’t be shy of explaining exactly how the entire process works. You are in control and can outline the stages you go through to create what they want. It doesn’t matter if you go into loads of detail – as far as we’re concerned, the more detail, the better. Put it all in writing, ask if they understand the process and that they are only getting three routes to choose from, then you can proceed. Also make it clear that any further routes require further payment.

“That’s too expensive. My 13-year-old nephew wants to be a designer and has the software. Send me the files and he’ll do it.”

Take a deep breath, smile and politely decline to help.

It might feel uncomfortable saying no to people who don’t respect your breadth of skills and expertise, but this classic “red flag” is one to avoid at all costs.

One final tip, to maintain professionalism and not burn any bridges, you could point the client in the direction of a stock template site or some other helpful online resource if budgets are tight.

What have you heard lately and how did you respond? We’d love to hear from you. Share your horror stories with us on Twitter @Shillington_.

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