The Client Is Always… Um…

Shout out to Ross Nover of The System for helping me out with that absolutely insane design brief. Design is a funny kind of business. Most problems boil down to mismatched expectations. Designers expect their clients to be reasonable. Clients expect designers to be fucking magical. I understand that people hire designers because they don’t know shit about design. I think that if designers are proactive and spend some time to educate their clients, a lot of these insane requests can be avoided. But sometimes you get a client who depends on their kid for color choices and it all goes to shit.

For more insane, yet true, client horror stories check out Clients From Hell. It should be required reading for all designers, illustrators, freelancers, et al.

↓ Transcript
Panel 1
KANE: Finally! Time to get some work done. Let's open this brief and see what we're dealing with, here.

Panel 2
DESIGN BRIEF: The design should depict an exponential growth curve to show our level of success. But it shouldn't be too exponential or nobody will give us money. So it should have some straight, horizontal lines. Oh, and no purple. My son hates purple.

Panel 3
No dialog. Kane looks perplexed.

Panel 4
KANE: Never seen those words in that particular order before. Gonna need coffee for this to make sense.

  • kuakkgom

    Is it a sad thing that I’ve seen design specs with even less information than that?

  • MikeyD

    Hahha I use that phrase all the time.
    “I know ALL of those words, but in that order they mean nothing to me.”

  • Jenova

    As an IT guy, I do know EXACTLY what you mean…
    (If you ever heard “stupid” stories about IT clients… they are fu**ing TRUE!)
    Quote by me to a fellow sufferer / employee:
    “Wonder IT powers ACTIVATE!!!” – DAM! It´s not working!”

  • Jamie

    @Jenova, IT work seems to get the lion’s share of clients with horribly unreasonable expectations. I guess they think it’s magic. It’s a computer, it should do everything I want it to!

  • Minato

    I’m quite used to having absolutely-no-sense-whatso-fucking-ever in requests from people, be it clients or bosses. I should put “Experience in doing MAGIC” in my resume.

  • Drezz

    Ugh. I see this sort of stuff ALL the time.

    My job as a Creative Director is to decipher those requests into something that won’t force the designer into wanting to hang themselves. It’s job reports like that which make me want to quit my job and start a new career in pummeling stupid people.

  • Jamie

    @Minato, You should have that on a shirt every time you walk in to a client meeting!
    @Drezz, you’d never be out of work. Freelance stupid pummeler!

  • Kimba

    Yea… I’m a graphic designer… but I’m fortunate enough to not have had any absurd design request yet. Now, I’ve created designs with elements my employer or the client wanted that I thought would look stupid, but I put it in (making two versions, mine, and theirs… but I figure whatever, my opinion is irrelevant in most cases).

  • Rosscott


  • Wilt

    oh god that is all to familiar… i’m going through that hell right now. =*(

  • Jamie

    @Wilt, Gambare! “Brace up, Wilt!”

  • teax2

    Kane’s face in panel three is f^*&ing priceless. Did you make several variations on “perplexed” expressions in the mirror and draw the best one?!

  • Jamie

    The perplexed face is my specialty! Yeah, I have a little hand mirror with me at all times when I draw so a lot of the character expressions are variations on my expressions. Even the ladies.

  • Samuraiartguy

    “I understand that people hire designers because they don’t know shit about design. I think that if designers are proactive and spend some time to educate their clients, a lot of these insane requests can be avoided.”


    Having been relieved of corporate indenture post-9/11… I re-entered the freelance ranks. After a few crazed interactions with some truly disconnected from reality clients. I realized that I spent about a third of my total time on a project educating clients on how it all worked and the basics of decent taste and the technical realities of digital production. So I gave up, took a deep breath, learned to love the bomb… and slapped “Consulting” on the Business Card next to Graphic and Web Design. And promptly raised my rates.

    I might as well get paid for suffering fools gladly. “Bullshit pay” is pay you get over and above what you get for just doing your job for putting up with the steady diet of BULLSHIT that seems to come with the territory. Higher rates also seemed to help act as a bit of a yahoo filter for the more unhinged, that and insisting on deposits!

    But soooooooo familiar.


  • reynard61

    This seems apropos: “We the unwilling, led by the unqualified, do the unnecessary for the ungrateful. And having done so much with so little for so long, we are qualified to do absolutely anything with practically nothing.”

  • Jenova


    Yes, it really is like people think we do magic sometimes, I expierienced exactly what you said “It´s a Computer, it should do everything i want it to!” on the phone last week. It´s incredible what you have to endure sometimes.


    I like the Idea of putting that in my resumee as well. ^^
    - And a T-Shirt with that is the most horrible but fun Idea EVAR!
    (My Workplace is very cool on every end, we´re mostly some nerds, a few Heavy Metal guys – like our Boss and me – and only a handfull “normal” employes, so we wear Shirts like that all the time. ) Dam, that IS a good slogan in general. ^^
    You should get a copyright on that.

    P.S.: I incidently called you a girl sometime ago, I really don´t know why I did that, so I´m sorry. ^^

  • Drezz

    Samuraiartguy has got it down.

    If you feel people are wasting your time, then make sure you charge them for it. You won’t get many of these idiots knocking on your door – and if you do, you’ll be compensated for it.

    Consulting is basically saying, I will answer all your stupid questions and humor your stupid requests for this price. :)

  • Jamie

    That consulting trick sounds awesome. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I finally pull the trigger and decide to do all this stuff full time. Making some mental notes for the future.

  • FmF

    I think instituting all your client to provide a crudely drown thumbnail of what they want will cut down on this but This isn’t my profession so i don’t know how well that will work.

  • Jamie

    Oh god, no! That’s a whole big can of worms. Your client can’t draw. That’s why they’re coming to you!

  • Kimba

    @FmF…. they sometimes don’t know what they want.

  • Charlie

    I love how you define both sets of expectations as polar opposites — “reasonable” vs. “fucking magical.”

  • Charlie

    Clients From Hell is great!! Thanks.

  • Jamie

    I’m totally biased so of course I’d defend designers and artists as being reasonable when eveyone knows we’re fucking nuts!

  • FmF

    Well at least you get stuff to hang up on your cubical wall to remind people why your here.I was told way back by a teacher who used to work in this field to do a dozen thumbnail as a project.His definition was a crudely drawn draft and fit them all on one sheet so it was all pretty small and draw with the skill of a 8 year old.So i was thinking along those lines.Now i look back on that i feel bad i use to draw the swot kat jet all the time but for the project i drew what look like a hot dog with wings.

  • Johnny

    A vet that I know charges an “internet discussion fee” of $10 when clients come in and think that they know what problem their animal has because they “read about it on the internet”. He then has to explain in depth what their animal actually has, wasting his time, so he figures that he should charge extra for it :D
    I’d suggest doing something like that in your design jobs. As Drezz pretty much said, If people are knobs, surcharge them!!

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