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Help Me Help You

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Photo from Global Pillage

 I’ve been fantasizing about writing a post like this for ages. No, that’s a lie. I used to imagine having a lecture series in tandem with some of my favorite clients (one already said yes!) about maximizing client-supplier relationships. I don’t market myself as an authority on good design practices (but if you trust me, that’s awesome), but I have a grand total of 7 years of both employment and self-employment to yank a lot of insights from.

I really think everyone will be able to work together better if we kept these following ideas in mind whenever we sign new projects:

  1. You are not our only client
    Clients, I get it, I really do. In fact, I wish with all my heart, that it was only your project that I’m handling. In extremely rare circumstances, that may be the case, but it’s always wiser to think of yourself as the norm and not the exception. Whenever we tell you things like it will take a week to submit revisions, it doesn’t mean it really takes a week. We need a week because we also have other submissions to take care of and like any person in a creative field will tell you, 80% of our work is research and thinking things through and the remaining 20% is actual pixel time in front of our programs. Please also realize that we’re human too and during the week, we still have to squeeze in grocery trips, doctor’s appointments (especially in my case), bank errands, other client meetings, and sleep.
  2. We’ll be able to address your concerns more if the criticism is constructive
    There are times I wish I was a mind reader. Joel and I have pretty good intuition and we’re skilled at reading body language, but we have our limitations. So whenever you tell us things like, “I’m not feeling it” or “I feel like it needs to pop,” we expect those to be an opening line to a series of concrete suggestions. I’m not sure how it is in other industries, but working in design is tricky enough as it is (since we work with visual elements, it’s too easy to go subjective with our appraisals), and if we don’t ground ourselves with certain parameters, we’re always going to go around in circles trying to figure out things based on personal preferences that don’t necessarily match what we’re trying to achieve. For example, I forbid designs where I select colors just because I felt like it. Every time I utilize a color palette, I always cite color psychology as my platform so that there’s a guiding principle behind my choices.
  3. Police your own deadlines
    We draft timelines for all our projects and Joel always puts them down on Google Calendar. We’ll do our best to remind you of milestones we need to hit in order to make our deadlines, but if you don’t do your part, then the whole project collapses and we’re wasting each others’ time. We’re not perfect and ever since I got pregnant, we’re struggling more to turn over things as quick as I used to, but we respect deadlines. I rarely ever kill projects but the last time we did was over a client who would take weeks, or even months to get back to us regarding revisions, but would demand quick turnovers on our end. Joel and I, we’re just two people, and at the end of the day, business is business and when a check that was supposed to come in at a certain time doesn’t arrive, it screws us up in ways that debilitate our lives. Please be considerate of people’s time and it took me a while to understand that in some ways, it’s more valuable than anything else.
  4. Consolidate your feedback
    In design-speak, the term FA means “Final Artwork.” When I hand over FA files, these are files that are print and web ready. FA work isn’t something I fart out magically — when clients approve a design, I often take one whole day (sometimes two) rendering these files for production. When I had these files over, it’s me saying, “Yay, we’re done!” Imagine then, how we feel when we turn over these files, and you go, “Oh wait, I forgot to add something.” Design work entails a lot of commitment and decisiveness and that’s why we give our clients period of deliberation to figure out what will go to press. In our contracts, we only give clients 3 rounds of revisions (everything after that gets charged an additional fee) so that they will be mindful of the changes they want and squeeze into those three given revisions so we can meet our deadlines.
  5. “Here, educate yourself!”
    That’s my favorite line from Lilo & Stitch. We do our best to hold our clients hands every step of the way, but there are some information that we wish people will retain for future use. E.g., please do not send me your “high-res .jpeg logo” embedded in a MS Word document (the images lose their high-res qualities when we extract it to our other programs) or that for billboard sized graphics, we do not generate artwork in 300 dpi (all our computers will crash, including your printer’s). Imagine how sexy and knowledgable you’ll sound the next time you work with a new designer!

Ok, now it’s time to get off my high horse. I’d like to think though that these principles are useful for any work situation. I’m finally entering my second trimester and I’m crossing my fingers that the nights of vomiting and migraines are behind me but now I’m concerned about how to navigate my work situation when we finally welcome the little binker. I would still definitely work, but there is now an urgent need to streamline how we do things better than we used to.

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