Thanks But No Thanks
7 great reasons why you don’t want that logo design gig
Designing logos for our clients can be one of the most rewarding challenges of the graphic design field. It’s not always a bed of roses though, and sometimes gigs go south, leaving the client and designer with a nasty taste in their mouth about the entire affair. Some tanked projects are a direct result of the old maxim “you can’t please all the people, all the time.” Others, not so much. What if we were able to identify these projects from the get-go, and proactively eliminate the hair-pulling and teeth gnashing before it began? That would save the designer, and the client, a lot of grief, no? And maybe we can. Here’s the top seven reasons why a designer may not want to take on that new logo design project:
7: Buzzword Dissonance.
When a client uses conflicting buzzwords to describe the type of company logo they’re looking for, usually separated by the word “yet.” Here’s some examples of buzzword dissonance: Cutting edge yet conservative. Extreme yet simple. Fortune 500 yet budget minded. These are design dichotomies, and outside art school theory, usually can’t exist in the same logo at the same time. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take on a client who uses these phrases, you can. But in order to boil things down to one theme or another, an extensive ‘pre-flight’ session is usually in order.
6: The Library of Congress design samples.
Learning what logos a potential client ‘likes’ is a fairly decent (and fast) way to determine their particular tastes. If a client sends you a whack of logo design examples they like, make sure that there’s some form of common theme to the designs, be it conservative, iconic, text or illustrative. If the logos have no discernible connection to each other, the client is picking these designs for an emotional reason (Adidas may have made their favorite running show when they were a kid, they see the Apple logo every day on their iPod) and the samples they’ve sent you have no real visual bearing on the direction they want for their company. Probably not a deal breaker either, but proceed with a lot of caution. If a client sends you 200 logos as examples of “things they like”, we’re getting very close to deal breaking territory.
5: I’ll know it when I see it.
If a client has no idea what they want, what story they want to tell, or image they’re trying to build, exercise caution. If a client also tells you “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it“, you’re about to take a trip to revision hell, pitching idea after idea with no clear direction, input or feedback. Can also come in the form of “you’re the professional – I hired you to design something“. Probably best to bail before you’ve invested an otherworldly amount of time. A rudderless logo design project will continue for a long, long time, and the client won’t appreciate the extra time you’re putting into their project. They’ll become increasingly frustrated as the weeks go by and if they ever manage to select a final design, they’ll feel it was under duress (“I had to pick something”) and will describe your time together using phrases like “pulling teeth.” You’ll be utterly exhausted, having produced umpteen design pitches and preliminaries, using up valuable time and design energy that could be used elsewhere. The client will resent having to invest their time, and will see their participation as nudging you along, each and every step of the way.
4: Love your designs. BTW, how can I get a refund?
When a potential client’s first question is “do I get a refund if I don’t like your designs“, think twice. Maybe three times. While it’s a fair enough question at some point in the “tell me about your design process” Q & A, if this is the first question posed by your would-be client, it’s a sure sign of trouble to come. The client wants to ‘like’ your design proposals at first blush, rather than listen to your proposals with an open mind. They’ve also been tainted by some company they’ve read about on the internet, with their “100% money back guarantee” pitches (which are seldom 100% anything) and expect you to pony up. It also means that they don’t trust you to look after their best interests, viewing the process in the same light as haggling with a fish merchant at the local farmer’s market. Oddly, no-one ever asks “can I give you a bonus if I love everything you design?” Luckily enough, answering the question “how can you guarantee that Ill like the logos you design for me?” with the true answer “I can’t” (which is the only honest one) usually clears out the tire kickers pronto (see number 3 for more).
3: If I like, then I pay.
If a potential client inquires about any form of business arrangement that involves “can I pay you if I like your designs”, it’s probably not going to work out over the long term. Actually, that would be spec work, and generally not a good idea. You may be able to convince them that this isn’t how things are done, but even a resuscitated gig of this nature will rapidly become a headache. The client will see any rejected proposals as you wasting their time (as opposed to offering a wide range of options) and probably views the logo design process as some form of hassle to begin with. Invariably, they view their logo as an expense, rather than an investment, and will view every step as you “not getting it” as opposed to working together to a goal. Depending on your confidence level in dealing with clients, this one should certainly be looked upon as a deal breaker. So should any gig that begins with a variant of “I want a logo just like theirs“.
2: My girlfriend’s a designer.
Any variation of “my wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, son, daughter, buddy is a graphic designer” is a red-light. Big flashing one too. You’re probably stepping on some ego toes, and the “graphic designer” in your new client’s life isn’t going to take kindly to another designer invading their turf. Even though you’re designing the logo and they’re supposedly not, they’ll still want to get involved every step of the way, usually to point out how much better they are than you. Any request for their opinion by your client will probably be answered with “ooooooh, that kinda sucks.” Good luck if you take this puppy on.
1: I’ve been burned by designers.
When a potential client tells you that they’ve ˜been through” a logo company or designer before arriving at your doorstep, a little warning flag should go up. Still no ‘abandon ship’ grounds yet as there’s lots of logo design mistakes to be made, and not everyone can please everyone, all the time. Two previous designers, proceed with a little caution. It’s quite possible that your potential client managed to find two designers in a row that weren’t up to snuff, but the odds are getting longer. Three previous designers (or more) and it’s a pretty safe bet that your new client is impossible to please and is probably torpedoing their interaction with any designer they bump into. And even if they’re at the crux of the ‘problem’, chances are they’re bitter towards designers, design, and think we’re all on the flaky side. Chances are #3 and #4 will also apply. Take the job if you’re looking for a challenge, but don’t be surprised if you’re added to the ‘I’ve been through several designers” list when this client hires their next design firm.