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Unfortunately, it has happened again. Non-payment of dues and threats from the client. Actually, the threats are a first – the non-payment isn’t. One of the aims of my blogging about a project that goes bad is to help other designers [ maybe they can pick out some signs of which projects can go bad ] and of course to get paid myself, if the blogging affects the client in any way. In one of the latest emails, the client also mentioned : “Of course you are free to carry out the actions that you may deem fit.” So here we are.

THE COMPANY / CLIENT

The company in question is Red Door Online. They do not seem to have any web presence online and are based in Mumbai, India. Contact details are : Premises of Hotel Beach Garden, Opp. Juhu Beach, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: +91 – 22 – 2617 7524 and 92233 33015.

THE DESIGN PROJECT

The deliverables that I was commissioned to design : a brand name, a tagline, a logo and stationery including a business card, a letterhead and an envelope. I was thrilled to be contacted for the project because it was one of those ‘start-to-finish’ ones that designers drool over.

The person who got in touch with me on behalf of Red Door Online was the CEO [ a lady ] and would be the CEO of the new brand as well [ this was August 2009 ]. After our initial email exchanges and one phone discussion, she put another person in-charge of the project [ I assume he was the Project Lead ] and from then on, all my dealings were with him, with some emails CC’d to the CEO as well.

Due to the multiple deliverables and the client’s request, the pricing was much reduced – instead of charging stand-along prices, I quoted an overall project cost, 50% of which was paid by the client upfront. Usually when the client pays the money quickly, as given in the terms and conditions, it’s a huge boost to the project as the designer does not have to deal with the anxiety of money not coming in on time. During this engagement, this was a huge plus to bolster my efforts.

BRAND NAMING
I was supposed to suggest just about ten brand names, as discussed. But I gave them more than ten options because there was some really good ideas even after I’d delivered the promised ten names – and they still stuck with the option they had thought of initially. They had already thought up GobbleIT.com They stuck with that for a week and then got back to me saying they would like to change and use the one I had suggested : Bitfang.com

TAGLINE
The tagline proved to be more of a consulting job because the client did not like any of the taglines I suggested, again more in number than agreed on in the terms and conditions. They had some taglines they had thought up and after all the discussions and email back and forth, they came up with a tagline on their own that they decided to use. While there was no deliverable from my side, the work was still done. The tagline they chose is “IT is better here.”

LOGO
With the logo, not only did I go overboard with the number of iterations – way more than those agreed upon in terms and conditions, I also gave them extra design options. This phase in the project took the longest to complete. As in any regular design engagement, sometimes, clients take time to get back with a final decision and then the design takes time work think about a design, tweak it some more and get back to the client with a more refined version – and then there are the iterations with logo placement, typeface choice, colors, tagline placement etc.

Some of the logo sketches that were presented to the client :

Some of the final-looking iterations for the logo that were presented to the client :

Following is the Bitfang logo :

STATIONERY
The stationery proved to be a little more taxing than normal – when I mentioned that extra edits would incur extra charges, I was told, via email that the client did not mind closing the project – they told me they thought the edits were not ‘design’ hence not chargeable – they were layout changes and are normally chargeable. At this stage of the project I did not want to cause any trouble, so I complied with the extra edits.

Following is the finalized stationery :

NON-COMMUNICATION

Towards the end of the project, after the stationery had been finalized, I had to leave for a vacation as I was getting married. The same had been communicated to the client – both the Project Lead and the CEO, who did not voice any objections. I only had to email the final files [ PDFs of the stationery ]. Since I heard from no one, without delivering the final files, I left for the vacation.

After I came back, I saw that I had not received any response from the client [ neither the CEO nor the Project Lead ] to my last email asking about the finalized stationery to be delivered. The Project Lead, eventually, called me up to let me know that he was no longer working with the company and that I should get in touch with the CEO [ which I already had by way of CC’ing her on all emails ]. I also called up the CEO but no one picked up the call. When I tried again after another week, the automated voice told me that the number was currently out of service and I assumed she must be traveling out of the country because she had done so a couple of times during the project as well.

NEW PERSON IN THE PICTURE

The gentleman I am currently communicating with – I am unaware of what his relationship with Red Door Online is – I assume he is the owner or Managing Director. I had his number with me from previous interactions with the CEO and when I did not hear from her for almost two months, I decided to call up the Managing Director who told me, on the call, that he had no idea about the project as he was not involved with the same. He advised that I should email the CEO once more – this was after I’d already written thrice to her, with no response.

I called up the Red Door Online office and was told that the CEO is not in India currently and that she is traveling in the USA. I sent another email, this time CC’ing the Managing Director, who’s email I got from the WHOIS page of bitfang.com. Screenshot below [ click on it for a larger version ].

After I emailed the CEO and the Managing Director that I would be blogging about this case unless someone at least got back in touch with me to tell me what is going on, the Managing Director got back to me telling me that he was shocked by the email and, “You have failed to deliver on Tagline, Logo Design and Stationary. The status on your file says “incomplete due to lack of timely deliverables”. This has been on account of various reasons attributed by you eg. “busy with other work”, busy with personal errands” “busy with marriage preparations” etc.” and told me to return part payment.

I was also told that “ and are no longer associated with the company.” mentioning that the CEO and the Project lead are no longer working with Red Door Online.

I’m being covertly threatened with stuff like, “The company also reserves its right to take various measures to safeguard its interests.”

All the invoices emailed to the client mention that copyright for all deliverables rests with me until full payment is received.

DISCLAIMER : This is a completely as-is post where I have not used any suppositions or adjectives to color opinion or create speculation. All proof of above dealings is available as emails to and from the client. Images used are for reference only. This post is in no way a reflection of the functioning of Red Door Online as a company. I am not an employee with Red Door Online and neither am I well-versed with their industry / sector. In fact, for all I know, Red Door Online could be one of the industry leaders and good luck to them with that. This blog post is based only on my interactions with them for this particular Branding & Logo design engagement and is not meant to berate any of the three people I have interacted with at Red Door Online. I have deliberately left their names out. This case study is meant to show how even the best of assignments that start out on a high tempo, with enthusiasm and a good creative brief can turn into a nightmare. This project is classified as “PAYMENT PENDING” and closed from my side. If there is an update, I shall accordingly update this blog post. SHIT HAPPENS sometimes I guess!