7 things you should NEVER ask a designer!

Posted on 23 November 2016

For the most part, designers are lovely, amicable and keen to work. But ask them the following and you're likely to come away with a stylus inserted where the sun doesn't shine...

Clients - you've got to love them. Except when you secretly want to strangle them.
Yes, of course, clients are the people who pay our wages, and so even when they're at their most frustrating, we keep these feelings to ourselves, smile sweetly and remain calm, polite and helpful. But there are some things calculated to get our blood boiling inwardly - and here we've rounded up the biggest culprits...

1. Can we have the layered files? We just want to tweak them in-house

"You want my layers? You're going to have to come through me to get them!"

It's an old favourite, and one that clients will try so they can potentially get their in-house team (or more likely someone they know) to have a play with the files and potentially change the whole look and feel – even if it's just a font change that they don't like – of the entire project.

Your likely response will be: "I can't give you the layered files as they are too large to transfer and in an order only I can understand. If you want to tweak the final result, we can discuss this..
But you want to say: "Why should I give you the layered file when I just know you're going to change everything and f**k it all up?".

2. Could you do something in the style of [insert name here]?

Here's how this story goes:
a) Client sees something they love
b) Client finds out who did it
c) Client realises that designer would cost them a fortune
d) Client asks you to replicate this style for a fraction of the cost.

It's incredibly frustrating when this happens - you thrive on having your own style and aesthetic. Why would you want to copy someone else's style? Plus, you're bound to get some stick for it on social media and if you publish it to an online portfolio.

Your likely response will be: "I respect that style and think it's great - however, have you seen this that I did for [client]?" I think this style could work equally well."
But you want to say: "I'm sorry, ripping people off just ain't cool, man."

3. Can I have that in Word format?


"Oh dear. You just don't get it, do you?"

Sometimes clients just don't understand design. It's something that, unless you're very lucky, that you're bound to encounter once in your career. It's similar to the question above - but shows a further misunderstanding of the design process.

Your likely response will be: "I can't send you a Word file as this was created in [insert software here]. However, I'm happy to send you a PDF file that you can open in the free Adobe Reader application for review."
But you want to say: "Word? Word? Woooooorrrrrrrrrrddddd?!!!".

4. If you do this job, you'll get loads of exposure – so can you do it for free?

It's one of the oldest tricks in the books - trying to get a designer friend to do a commercial project as if it was a personal party invite.

There's no excuse for it - even if you're at the beginning of your design career. It will likely make your blood boil. And as for the exposure line - would you say to a bathroom fitter "I can't pay you, but when everyone sees my bathroom I'll tell them you did it," or to your dentist "If you make my teeth whiter for free I'll tell my friends and they'll come and pay to have theirs whitened." No. You wouldn't.

Your likely response will be: "Sorry, I'm busy and can't take on any non-paying projects."
But you want to say: This "*+#%*****"
(*Do not read if easily offended by profanity!)

5. This looks great – but can you add this image from Google please?

Note to non-designers: Google listing an image doesn't make it copyright-free

Another example of clients not understanding the design process and particularly IP laws. It's similar to clients asking for you to supply fonts rather than them buying them.

Here's the scenario. You've mocked up a project using stock images (that you've bought). But the client doesn't like them - even though they are a mock up and you've explained this several times. So, they do a bit of Googling and find the perfect image of a man in a suit at a desk - and want THAT image. Sigh.

Your likely response will be: "We can't use that particular image as it's the property of [such and such] and has been used on another campaign. If you want an image like that I have a photographer who I collaborate with – we could get a great looking image."
But you want to say: "Don't be such a fool! For one, that image is terrible. And secondly, you can't just take images from wherever you want and use them! Do you know anything?"

6. We don't have any content at the moment. Can you just design the site and we'll put it in later?

Yep, no problem. You don't have any content whatsoever, no idea on a colour palette, not even a slogan. You haven't even decided on a company name. But of course I can design you a site. I have no idea what it will look like - maybe I could add some teddy bears, flowers, and do the whole thing in Comic Sans? That would work perfectly with what you didn't have in mind, right?

Your likely response will be: "No, sorry, we will need to discuss the content of the site and your objectives before we can do any wire framing or design work."
But you want to say: "Get out of my office right now and stop wasting my time, you pea-brained moron!"

7. Can you make it 'pop'?

"My eyes! My eyes!"

Ah, the old 'make it pop'! A client's favourite. Basically it's the same old codswallop as 'make the logo bigger'. It's not going to make the design better, it's just probably going to make it a bit brighter, and in some cases, where the client gets really 'poppy' - ie, garish.

Your likely response will be: First, ask the client exactly what they mean - do they want it brighter in general? Try to explain things logically, saying there's a reason for the existing colour palette. If they are still insisting, ask them to come back in a bit and while they are gone either pretend to do it and see what they say when they see the result, or simply ramp up the brightness on your monitor. Of course you could just make some subtle Levels tweaks.
But you want to say: "Pop? Pop? I'll make it pop alright!" Then turn all the text flourescent lime yellow!