I’ve had a glimpse of what it might be like to work with uncompromising standards in the design industry. Where client’s don’t take you for granted, give you all the information needed to make the project a success, don’t relegate design decisions to weekends and most-work hours and pay you on time without arguing how the designer owes them money instead. But, working on a country like India, where professionalism is an oxymoron at best and the attitude of “Chalta hai” [ everything goes ] is etched onto our very bones, day-to-day work as a designer is painful, demoralizing and seemingly-futile.
Not only do Indian clients treat Indian designers unprofessionally, even clients from the West tend to do the same probably because the last Indian designer they worked with, was exceedingly unprofessional. In either case, even a remote attempt at professionalism leads you to getting stared at like you left your brain somewhere – anywhere but not here. I cannot even begin to describe how difficult it is to go on doing what I love doing, in such an environment.
Reminders from people like @andyrutledge are what keep me going. To read what he writes and to feel what he writes is to believe that all is not lost. I am waiting – desperately – for his http://designprofessionalism.com/ project to launch. He might not know this but it would give some direction to countless designers who want to do the right thing even in the face of unprofessionalism not only from clients but from other design industry ‘professionals’ as well.
Advise, educate, and be unapologetic about getting the information you need to make the project a success.
But what does an aspiring designer do when they don’t know what information would be needed to make a project a success? Without a benchmark, the designer, improvises. Usually, based on the standards he / she has seen / worked with earlier. Which are usually pathetic. There are so many designers in India who, let alone have an understanding of professionalism, don’t even have a creative brief format / questions that they administer to their clients prior to the project! For most, what matter is that they are getting a project. Everything else is dependent on client whims.
I have a fairly detailed creative brief that I use with my clients. Almost ALL my clients have complained about the length of that brief and many have explicitly told me they don’t see why such detail is necessary. Most clients do not bother to answer even half the questions in that brief. Some return it entirely empty, tell me they’ve made the 50% deposit and expect me to start. And in most cases, when repeated “Please fill the brief” emails / phone calls have fallen on deaf ears, I have started. Which is a bullshit thing to do but at least I know I am in Plato’s cave. link courtesy @andyrutledge
If everything runs smoothly, but the client repeatedly makes bad choices, then I am failing to adequately communicate the reason why those choices are wrong.
I’ve had a similar encounter where the client insisted on picking what they wanted and all my attempts at explaining / recommendation-reasoning were thrown away. I was told I was “preaching” and trying to use colorful language to create a meaning that was not there behind the suggested shape / logo. Yes, I finished the project by delivering the EPS file of the design he wanted – as soon as possible – and I did not ask him to settle the bill either. I was happy he was gone before I could beat myself up more.
Yes, a client may not be familiar with the nuance of typography or social media, etc., but that lack of experience is why they hired you.
Yeah? Then why do almost all of them tell you which typeface to use because that’s the one they’ve been using for the last five years? Why do they treat every piece of recommendation and briefing as ‘artsy’ talk? And I’m not talking about the few great clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with – like @shefaly – she was one of my best clients.
While I don’t encourage blind acceptance of what a designer throws a client’s way, I am also not comfortable being told to ‘just do something’ like the competitor’s logo.
To even suggest that a client’s intellect is inferior because they disagree is just plain childish. Suck up your creative angst and try to see where they are coming from.
And what if you know the client is not coming from a place that has anything to do with the design in question? How do you determine that before you have even begun working on a project? Most issues always seem to crop up just when the design engagement is about to close. An extra iteration is needed and if you so much as indicate that extra iteration = extra effort = extra work, it’s almost like you’ve gone and slapped the client. Design engagements in India, for the majority of clients, have only price as the motivation – the place they’re coming from.
What I tell myself is that at least I gave my recommendations and gave a detailed explanation of why I would recommend a particular design. As Daniel Nordstrom says in the comments on the above article, at least I know that the client made an informed decision. But there are times when they “…just want something…” and logo is “…something shiny…”.
…after years of seeming success with compromise and false professionalism, actual professionalism becomes unrecognizable.
Yes, someone, please tell me what actual professionalism is, because I don’t even see the shadows around me.
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Thanks @andyrutledge for being who you are.