Design Tip du Semaine #4: The Designing Client

All clients would like some say in the piece that you are working on–the piece they will be paying big bucks to print. It’s fair enough to let them have their little say, in the same way that it’s kind to not tell your child that no, you will never be as big or as clever as me. Nor will you ever get to have sex with Mommy. Some, however, would like to have too great a hand in the process, moving things around, changing colors and making everything bigger. The “make everything bigger” urge most likely comes from their deep-seated belief that they will never be as big or as clever as me, combined with, you know, that Mommy thing.

There are ways to handle this that are completely gratifying and do not involve stashing loosely-bound ravenous wolverines in their bathroom.

Say, for example, that you’re designing a brochure for a high-end product like, oh, I don’t know, perhaps touring theatrical productions. What you’re selling is season subscriptions, and to do that you need to sell the shows, and to help with that, you promote the name of the series they’re familiar with, and a headline that says something like: “Buy season tickets frequently! Buy them all!” The bottom priority would be the venue’s logo, photographer credits and a tiny recap of what went on your cereal this morning.

The problem arises when the manager of the venue in a fictional Idaho city that rhymes with “noisy” insists that his logo must be the largest thing on the page. To save you the trouble of having to think, he instructs you to put the series logo at the bottom (after reducing the size considerably), as well as the headline. Since it’s now at the bottom, the headline may now be called an “assline.”

The best way to handle this is to start with realizing that The Customer Is Not Always Right, But You Usually Are. Free yourself from the tyranny of pleasing the client, in favor of allowing yourself to actually sell their product. Taking the client in a firm half-nelson, use a kind, but echoey God The Father Voice of Ultimate Authority to explain the principles of design you learned in kindergarten. They will, ironically, begin to see the figurative light just as the real light seems to go blotchy, as the pressure on their carotid artery causes them to grow faint.

If, however, you have to deal with the situation through a third party who would just rather make the stupid changes to keep the peace, the game will take on a more urgent tone. Women often believe that peace is the best thing, even though war gives such a full-body feeling of immediate gratification. In this case, use the wolverines.