Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

Graphic Design Horror Stories – Part 1 January 11, 2010

There’s a new blog in town – check it, if you haven’t already. In a recent post, the author, posed the question to designers to cite their worst working experiences. I’ve had my share of crazy clients in over ten years as a designer – or at least entertaining stories. But, a little over a year ago a project entered my life, and nothing else has quite compared to that experience since. Now that time has passed, the trauma is not so fresh, and I can actually laugh about it now – and share it with the internet.

The Worst Client I Ever Had…

About 14 months ago, shortly before Christmas 2008 vacation, a project found me.

The Client: A musician, specifically a songwriter that had one mediocre “hit”, needed a new CD package for his latest recording. (It’s probably a very loose term to call his one song that made it a “hit” — the song’s title was altered and then recorded by one of the largest jam bands of all time (1970’s?) – but anytime I’ve asked someone if they’ve heard of this guy, I get blank stares.)

The way this landed in my lap? Basically, a friend enlisted my help, with the blessing of the musician. As I am a master of editorial layout, text formatting, type treatments, etc., my friend considered me to be much more up to the task than herself — her specialization lies more on the business side of things (manufacturing, etc) and she brought me on to complete the design work. She had already put in about 2 months gathering quotes on the specific nature of what the artist wanted to put together in terms of a very specialized package for the music. The time had come for the design to be put together. This is when I stepped into the cow pile.

What said musician wanted was this: Remember those old school albums where the cardboard encased the record, and slid into another sleeve? He wanted a similar thing, but in shrunken down CD size format. Inside the album was to be a 4/4 (color, on boths sides, for the layman), 9 panel insert (18 panels total), which would fold out to be a poster. The original concept for the poster was photography of the album recording sessions with all the text (lyrics, liner note, whatnot) interspersed around the photography, in varying sizes colors and types of fonts. The musician had also cited examples of other album design he liked. The one that sticks out is Brian Wilson’s “That Lucky Old Sun” — really colorful, bright, happy, lots going on.

In other words, I was going to really get to unleash some creativity here, right?
Wrong.

The first red flag came in viewing the photographs of the sessions. Word to the wise: if you ever have photos come across your desk of a musician’s child and/or dog wearing headphones in a recording session, run the other way. (FAST! — I mean, GIDDYUP!) Not only was I bombarded with this ridiculousness, but the photographs themselves looked like they’d been taken with a disposable camera bought at the Circle K (no color correction, cropping, etc) by a drunken crackhead. Also, there were about 200 photos to sort through. Oh, and each person that played on a specific song was to have their photograph placed beside said song in the final design. In a few cases there was only one photo of that musician, so that photo would be repeated about five times because the musician played on five songs. (Lovely).

The second red flag was we had to deal with the musician’s wife (half his age, at least) as he was supposedly still in session in the studio, (couldn’t be bothered with the design of his own album!) while she was at their home – in the mountains – in another state – with a lackluster internet signal. Of course, this was much more than he had (Apparently recording studios in Texas have not been outfitted with the internet – so he said).

Third red flag – we were the 3rd set of designers to take on this album design.

Despite, the photography drama, I dove in head first into the design of the project and was really excited about it. And what I came up with for the design was some of the better work I’d done in a long time, photography non-withstanding. The first proof was sent to his wife – who forwarded the files to him.

Everyone has played the game “telephone” as a kid. One person tells another person a story. That person tells the next person, etc. and at some point the story ends up being, far and wide, a totally different tale than originally told. That’s how the design instructions played out in this scenario. The musician would tell his wife what he wanted – his likes and dislikes. Then she’d sit on that information for a day and then both to call/email and would disseminate the info again to us. And it was always all wrong.

At this point, the instructions somehow morphed into this conversation:

Wife: “We want it to look like The Beatles “White Album”
Us: (silence) “ummmm, right. Ummmm, ok. Ummm, (silence) it’s white”
Wife: “yes, we know”
Us: (!?!?!?!?!?!?!)

Long story short, the wife related to us that she had no idea a whole other designer (me) was brought in on this project (I had sat in on every single telephone call as well as carried on countless email conversations with her regarding the design of the project). The musician and his wife decided to kill the project, but I ended up getting paid for my work anyway, as I insist on the payment ahead of time. (yay me!)

My friend that brought the project to me and I had cocktails last month and the project came up in conversation. We scoured the internet for the final result. We came up with nothing. No surprise there.

(I googled him again, as I wrote this post. His website is currently down – as it’s “under construction” – I can only imagine his internet presence being handled by the 723rd web designer… all the while trying to communicate thru the wife again… from some lone, internetless studio in TX)

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The Vendor / Client Relationship – In “Real World” Situations May 27, 2009

 

A How To Guide: Credit Card Confetti April 14, 2009

ccconfetti

Supplies:

One Pair of Scissors
Twenty Seven x Infinity parts rage
Three credit cards
One champagne flute

Instructions:

Allow scissors to meet plastic credit cards, apply liberally

– Put champagne flute on desk where bills are paid.
– Stare at it daily as you pay down your credit card bills with money earned
by taking every extra job you can find and putting every penny into a savings
account specifically opened to build the money to pay off these soul sucking
devices.
– when all debt is paid off, in full, empty champagne glass of all credit card confetti, pour a liberal amount of champagne* into glass and drink until champagne magnum is empty.

Prep time: varies
Card cut up process: 3 cards, 30 minutes

Suggested music:
“You Make Me Sick” – Pink
“Money” – Pink Floyd
“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton
“Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)” – Pet Shop Boys
“She Works Hard For The Money” – Donna Summer
“Money Changes Everything” – Cyndi Lauper
“Taxman” – The Beatles

*champagne should be paid for with COLD HARD CASH<

 

A Little Education about Spec Work / Design Contests January 10, 2009

Every once in a while, I’ll peck around on job listings (cough, Craigslist) and see what’s going on out there. And every once in a while, when things get slow and a project sounds like it has some potential to warrant my time and energy, I’ll even send a response.

This week, I sent a reply to a job listing. It’s for a publication. I attached my resume’ and other information to an email and hoped for the best. I heard nothing, until last night.

I got a reply from the job poster around 7 pm. He apologized for not getting back to me sooner and expressed interest in the type of design I do. Then, here’s the kicker, he asked me to go to the MySpace page for his publication (cough, myspace is dead), view some existing mock ups and create a mock up of my own with supplied photos – so he could see “what my style is.” He even asked “could you throw something together?”

I decided not to reply at that moment. I was a little too hot under the collar. I needed to sleep on it.

This morning, I crafted my reply in a text edit document, tweaked the wording to tone things down, and when it was just right, I hit “send.”

In a nutshell, I told him this:

– I don’t conduct my business in this manner.
– what is being proposed is “spec work” – often disguised as a design contest
– I have over 10 years of experience as a graphic designer, listed the reputable clients I’ve done work for, and told him I would be happy to provide samples of my work so he could “see what my style is”
– what he is asking for is unprofessional as well as unethical

I also linked this website for further reading and education and threw in this for good measure

As designers, not just in my area, but everywhere, we need to put a stop to this. I don’t care what level of the career one is at. Spec work is not only bad for one designer, it is detrimental to all. Do not do it. And educate the client on why this is unacceptable.

A person wouldn’t go to Kroger, Whole Foods and Publix, buy a steak at each and tell the cashier “I’m going to take this steak home, cook it – and if I like your’s best, I’ll come back and pay you for it.”

Design is no different.

 

Are Southerners More Brand Conscious or Loyal? November 18, 2008

Last night I was doing my usual routine of watching “Nightline” – their second or third (I forget which) story was about how, no matter where we turn these days – we are bombarded by advertising. And then the story honed in on product placement in entertainment, specifically movies. Examples included E.T. with Reeses Pieces, Cast Away and FedEx, iRobot with Converse All Star sneakers and FedEx in the first 5 minutes — then the narrator pointed to several examples in the new James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace.”

This was all fairly old news to me — then my ears perked up. One of the talking heads had a sound bite — something regarding “. . . you don’t ask for a soda, you ask for a Coke or Pepsi.”

Actually, I think that should be edited. In the South, every soft drink is a Coke. This is one of those Southern things. We don’t call soda “Pop” — all soda is “Coke.” It’s like an unwritten rule. Always has been for me. For example, I’ve had the following conversation more times than I can count:

Waitress: “What would you like to drink”
Me: “Coke”
Waitress “how about Pepsi”
Me: “same thing. . .”

So, this poses a question — are we Southerners more brand conscious?

Growing up, in my home, we used Folgers coffee, AIM toothpaste, Joy dishwashing liquid, Pledge furniture polish. My mother has bought these items as long as I can remember. Those brands are still there when I go home. Also, fried chicken requires Wesson oil. And no other brand of English peas enter my parent’s house other than LeSeur.

I have many friends that are originally from Louisiana & their love of Community Coffee is astounding to me. You’d think the stuff was liquid crack.

There are even events that pay homage to our favorite Southern things, like the “RC and Moon Pie Festival” — I forget where it is, but I don’t like either of those things, so I didn’t make a mental note as to it’s yearly location.

I think we’ve all known someone that’s die hard when it comes to automobile brand loyalty — how many large pickup trucks have we all been behind, where the driver shows his/her preference for model by adhering the sticker of Calvin peeing on the competition’s logo?

In politics, there is that old saying “So goes the South, so goes the country” — so I just wonder, do marketing people have this mantra in mind?

 

Billions, Scmillions… October 7, 2008

I can’t remember if I wrote anything here about my favorite design/nerd documentary, but if I have, forgive the repeat — go here and have an ’80s game flashback.

I was reading several blogs, to see what other designers are saying about our economy. And I stumbled across this post — which includes the PDF of Lehman’s Bankruptcy notice.

The typeface of the document?

Helvetica

h/t: Design Observer

 

The debate contingency plan at Ole Miss September 25, 2008

I adore political cartoons. I can sit and scroll through Daryl Cagle’s cartoon index for hours.

And my favorite of all when it comes to cartoonists is Marshall Ramsey, from the Jackson Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

My sister in law is a huge fan — much moreso than I — and she sent this to me after the whole “McCain leaving the debate” debacle. Marshall Ramsey always seems to hit exactly the right note. He continually amazes me.

People of Belmont University, you have 2 weeks — take notes 😉

H/T Marshall Ramsey