Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

Let’s talk about Customer Service February 12, 2009

Filed under: inspiration,jobs,marketing,method,opportunity — Beth D @ 4:43 pm
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I met up with a friend last night and we sat and talked over drinks about our respective design careers. My friend is experiencing a transition from a full time gig into freelance web design work and is doing very well for himself. I’m fairly busy as well with design, but took the initiative recently to get a part time job to get my credit cards out of my life.

We were talking and he made the remark about how he was impressed with my ability to segue into the world of dealing with the public – specifically in a fashion that he hadn’t expected as I’ve become so accustomed to working in a solitary manner.

I said this: “It’s all about customer service, whether you’re working in retail, wholesale, or hospitality — as long as you give your customers what they are paying for, treat them with respect and go the extra mile to make them happy, they will come back because you’ve given them a pleasant experience trading with you.”

And I think a lot of designers forget that maxim. Everybody wants to feel like they are appreciated.

There is a restaurant here in town that I used to frequent. I never really cared for the place – the food isn’t very good, and the staff is downright rude – I only really went because a few friends of mine like the place. I wrote the restaurant off around Thanksgiving because I just got sick of the attitude by the wait staff that they could care less about whether a customer is happy. The final straw came one Thursday night when the restaurant was not busy. A staffer walked past me 5 times before asking me for my order. It was so blatant that even the customer sitting next to me commented on the behavior. I decided then and there this would be the last time I darkened the door of the establishment, as there are too many restaurants in town who are happy to see people come in to spend their money and treat their customers with at least a modicum of hospitality.

The same is true for designers. Over the years, I’ve had clients tell me about their dealings with other designers and how “they were only interested in my money and the project never got done after they cashed the check.” This behavior is unacceptable, pure and simple. The bottom line is this: You have to care, you have to give your client attention and you have to provide the basic customer service that makes your client realize that you are going the extra mile to give them the best you possibly can.

If you don’t appreciate them, someone else will. And in this economy, people are looking for the most bang for their buck. Part of that bang is service with a smile and a “thank you” at the end.

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In Which I Respond to A Craigslist Ad on My Blog February 11, 2009

I’ve been surfing through Craigslist again & I read this little gem this morning: (I’ve bolded my favorite part)

Book designer (XXXXXXX, TN)
Date: 2009-02-11, 9:07AM CST

We are a progressive, up-and-coming book publisher located in the XXXXXXX, Tennessee area. We are showing steady growth this year, and find ourselves in need of a book designer with the following characteristics/qualities:

– Applicant must be familiar/knowledgeable/preferably expert at InDesign software. A knowledge of Quark would be beneficial as well. You will be designing the interiors of books. You will also be given the opportunity to design covers as well.

– A knowledge of Photoshop/Illustrator is a plus, a big plus. You should be able to edit photos and illustrations for use in hardcover/paperback books.

– You should be knowledgeable about of the book industry – how books are produced, distributed, marketed and purchased. You should know what an endpaper is; you should know a mass market paperback from a trade paperback. You must know that (bookstore name redacted) is not a country western duo.

– You will be designing the interior of books – layout, font selection, rules, styles, parts of a book, type, etc. You should be able to provide us with a few samples of your work that is similar in nature.

– You should be able to work at an acceptable rate of speed. Not sloppy fast, but reasonably quickly with an emphasis on quality. We often have deadlines. You must be able to meet them.

– You must not be a flake. You must respond to emails within one day, preferably sooner. You must be available. Projects must be done on time. Always. No exceptions at all. Again, we work on deadlines.

– You must be able to send/store large files easily and securely. You must be able to send files in a PC format. You should be bondable. You must be comfortable handling copyrighted material. You must not lose the material that we give you. You must take this seriously, very seriously. Our authors depend on us.

– You may be asked to correspond with authors directly. You should be able to do so in English, using proper grammar and sentence structure. Some of our authors are rather well-known, and since you will represent us, your writing skills must be up to snuff. You must copy us on all emails. You must know how to correspond with people in a timely and professional manner.

– It would be a plus if you can design book covers, and can provide samples of same.

Benefits:

– In return we can offer little pay [at present], but lots of opportunity for the future. We are growing, and expect to be around for a long, long time.

– You can work out of your home. After all, it’s probably all ready set up as a studio,so you are most comfortable and productive there. No reason to upset the creative boat.

Our emphasis is on quality, beauty, and content. You will be encouraged to learn all you can to keep your skill set fine tuned. Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about.

Hope to hear from some qualified candidates soon,

(name redacted)

* Location: XXXXXXX TN
* Compensation: Contract per job
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a contract job.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Did you hear a bang earlier? That wasn’t the weather, it was my head exploding.

Look, I get it – we’re in a financial crisis, and everyone is looking to get the maximum amount of work/stuff, etc for a good price. But to write a laundry list of tasks and then have the, for lack of a better word, BALLS to say “we can offer little pay” – well, all I can think is “no wonder they’ve apparently worked with flakes before – ONLY A FLAKE would answer this ad — you’d have to be crazy to sign up for this!” I mean really… why not, when writing this job description, Mr Job Poster, didn’t you say “Cure Cancer” and “Solve Middle East Peace”?

Oh, one of my favorite parts of this ad is how the job poster even went as far as to throw the “celebrity angle” in there in the sentence: Some of our authors are rather well-known. Yawn – Still doesn’t make me want to bite. This makes me realize that only the well-known author and the publisher will make any money even though the designer will be doing the grand majority of the work to make the book marketable to the average customer — after all, we’re the ones that make a book jump off the shelf and grab a consumer’s eye. And in my experience in design, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, so to speak, the more work there is to be done. And the project takes even longer to complete — for the same amount of money, usually.

I’ve looked around at other postings for jobs in other categories other than “art/media/design” and I never seem to find this low-balling fascination when people post jobs in other professions. The reason we chose to be creative is we like to create. Most of us are damn good at it. And, while we might have gotten used to the term “starving artist”, no one is striving to be one. And honestly, I can go work at the mall for more money than this joker is probably offering – AND when I leave the job at the mall they won’t call/email me around the clock – NOR will they expect me to do MORE and MORE work for the same amount of money. That’s almost always the case when a designer low-balls him/herself.

So, to all you job posters out there, with the audacity to write, well, a book of qualifications and job responsibilities like the one above, here’s a newsflash: most reputable designers have a little thing called “self-respect” and we’ve all met your kind before. You are a joke to us. Stories about you become the “worst client ever contest” of storytelling at our cocktail hours. And we’re not flakes either — but people like you, Mr Job Poster, make us so mad that we turn flaky… of course, what you call flaky is what we call “being compensated for the hard work we put forth for piss poor pay.”

After all, the job poster said it himself: Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about. I suggest all designers stay ahead of the pack by steering clear of “jobs” like this.

UPDATE
The job has been reposted, and now the compensation reads “$100-$300” per book. Seeing as my minimum hourly rate is $75 per hour, I think I’ll pass. I’ve designed brochures for more money.

 

Archiving your work – the Old Skool Way January 12, 2009

Most of my friends know that I can be a bit of a pack-rat. It’s a trait I got from my family – so I got it honest. But as of late, I’ve been purging around here – cleaning out closets, going through boxes and just simplifying in general around here. I filled 3 laundry baskets of with clothes, separated computer cords to take to the Goodwill – hopefully someone can use those, and about 87 cosmetic bags from the freebies from Clinique. I even found a Syquest drive from 1997 – the discs are only good for use as coasters at this point – Remember when 280 MB was a huge amount of storage?

Anyway, in a box in the back of my closet, I found a box with stuff from college. Inside, I found slides and photo negatives of stuff I’d done in Drawing I & II and Design I & II. Somehow, back then I had a wise professor that had the foresight to have us take our artwork to have it photographed for posterity. I gasped when I found this stuff. Immediately I began scanning the photos to put them in my archives of work.

I don’t know how stuff is done now – that is, if having work photographed is still the norm as I’ve been out of school for a little over ten years. But, to all design students out there, take your stuff and have photos taken. Or do it yourself. Don’t just rely on a hard drive or a disc to store your stuff. Have hard copies – slides or negatives – of your stuff. You never know when a hard drive will die on you – or fires or natural disasters – I have a friend who lost all her photos in Katrina, for example.

I am so thankful someone told me “Take it & have it photographed” – who knew?

 

Must Read – Designing Thru The Recession January 11, 2009

If you’re a designer, especially freelance, go read this now

 

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.

 

“Objectified” + my theory of how the PT Cruiser design was born

Filed under: artists,fonts,HA!,I'm jazzed,time waster — Beth D @ 7:50 pm
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There’s a new movie coming out by Gary Hustwit – he’s the guy that did “Helvetica” – the new film is titled “Objectified” and the trailer was sent to me this week. Looks great, can’t wait to see it. Click here for the trailer.

I was en route somewhere the other day, with my friend the Film Producer* in the car, and we found ourselves beside a PT Cruiser in traffic. The Producer started this complete diatribe about what a piece of crap car the thing is. I’ve never driven one – never even been in one for that matter – but a few months back, The Producer & her significant other, The Austrian*, had car issues – days dragged on and they found themselves in the possession of a rental PT Cruiser. But not just any PT Cruiser – this was a turquoise blue PT Cruiser. And not only was the outside turquoise blue, the interior was as well. It burned my eyes. I was ashamed to have it parked in my driveway. The color is not found in nature, UNLESS there is some undiscovered bird somewhere in the Amazon that has this particular shade of metallic speckled clear-coat somewhere on it’s body.

At that moment, sitting in traffic, en route to I forget where, the theory of the design of the PT Cruiser was born:

Whoever designed the thing is a ZZ Top fan — Like the #1 fan of ZZ Top – the President of the Fan Club. I imagine “Legs” was blaring as the sketches and clay forms were made, his crazy ZZ Top-esque beard flying in all directions.

Remember the ZZ Top videos from the ’80s? They all involve what I dubbed the “ZZ Top Mobile” – some lady in a miniskirt (leopard print was involved as well as pleather) was in distress at her job selling shoes and viola! The men of ZZ Top appeared in their ZZ Top Mobile – it rolls up, cue the close ups of the side, front and rims of the thing – the details of the car were always highlighted in the videos. Then, they tossed some schmo the keys as they got out, and the keychain – in the shape of the “ZZ” blinged in another close up. And by the end of the video, all was right in the world. They were like rock n’ roll Texas superheros – perhaps their beards and keyring were their superpowers? And, of course, they got the girl, a blonde in the leopard print and miniskirt in the end – after a makeover, of course.

Long story short, the PT Cruiser is the poor man’s ZZ Top mobile.

That is precisely what the guy that designed the PT Cruiser was going for. Except, he didn’t realize two things:

1) men won’t drive it – too girly (even gay men won’t even drive it!)
2) women would drive it – and what this designer failed to realize is this: the women of the ’80s had grown up and they were now middle aged moms driving his version of the ZZ Top Mobile – taking their kids to soccer practice. Not very rock n’ roll at all.

Since MTV won’t let you truly imbed a video, I’m not linking to their website. Seek out their videos on other sites if you haven’t seen them and need a refresher course.

* the neighbors