Design Dilemma

Design questions and concerns from our community, answered by our resident expert.

Design Dilemma / 5 Mar 2015

Design Dilemma: Buy One, Get Two More for Free?

I love giving back by helping designers with their questions and dilemmas. I’ve been successful at using my own dunder-headed mistakes as lessons not only for myself, but for others. There is one mistake, however, I never made — failing to speak up for myself. Yes, there were projects I walked away from because of the low fee, the client appeared to be too sleazy, or a gut feeling told me that the numerous red flags meant I was borrowing trouble, but I never wondered if I made the right choice.

When I hear about a designer who was too afraid to ask for a contract, assert themselves when scope creep started heading for the ridiculous, or they feel working for free will be that great opportunity the client promises, I wonder if this is not the reason the industry and creatives are seen as being weak and foolish. The following dilemma makes me frustrated at the weakness the designer displayed, but there has to be patience and forgiveness in the world, so, join us as we delve into another Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the human world of design.

Design Dilemma / 26 Feb 2015

Design Dilemma: Can an Employer Claim Rights to Your “Style”?

Everyone has been fired from a job. It’s shocking, depressing and degrading but everyone goes through it. As business author, Harvey McKay pointed out in one of his books, “before you fire someone, ask yourself if you want that person working for your competitor.”

When I was let go from a large greeting card company, the exit interview included ten minutes of why the company had to let me go and fifty minutes of the HR person explaining why I wouldn’t want to go to work for their competitor. Eventually I did go to work for their competitor and, as I explained to the HR person, “unless you are going to kill me, you have no control over my career.”

Yes, there was a non-compete agreement for one year but beyond that, I was free to do anything I wanted to do. Some companies just can’t let go and want to stop you from continuing that career. So, join us as we delve into another Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the deadly world of design.

Design Dilemma: What Constitutes a “Rush Design Job”?
Design Dilemma / 28 Jan 2015

Design Dilemma: What Constitutes a “Rush Design Job”?

A recent article of mine on why you should charge more for those last minute calls that demand you work overnight, all weekend, or on holidays, brought up several questions from readers. One of them became a back-and-forth Twitter conversation. While the article pointed out that requests for rush jobs with quick deadlines were an opportunity to demand higher rates, one designer asked the definitive question… sort of.

Apparently the concept of “rush” was questionable to one designer. So, join us as we delve into another shocking explanation to a Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.

Design Dilemma / 12 Jan 2015

Design Dilemma: The Wrong Way to Force a Client to Pay

A designer was recently relaying a story about a client who didn’t pay for his website and logo — so she took them both down. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Single White Female, Bridget Fonda is a business app programmer who implants a bug in client’s business software so if they don’t pay on time, the site automatically goes down and there’s a message that if payment is not made within 24 hours, all of the information will be unretrievable. A non-paying client goes over to confront Fonda, and is killed by her insane roommate.

While death may be a bit too much for a non-paying client, in this case the client put up the site again with the logo, and the designer was about to pull it down again. Unfortunately, this action can get you into huge legal trouble. So, what can you do when the client doesn’t pay and you feel the only recourse is to deny them of your design work? Join us as we delve into another murderous Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.

Design Dilemma / 29 Dec 2014

Design Dilemma: Why Are Job Ads So… Weird?

Have you wondered why job ads for designers have become a laundry list of impossible requirements or why job titles have become so diverse? Instead of “web designer” or “graphic designer,” titles read “graphic communications specialist,” “marketing creative associate,” “social media designer,” or “art-thingy person to abuse.” All of these, however, demand full experience and job requirements of an experienced designer.

At a design organization meeting, we all tend to share job postings we have seen and laugh about the ridiculous list of required skills and wonder who among us could ever fill these God-like positions. The answer is: No one! So, join us as we delve into another weird Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.

Design Dilemma / 16 Dec 2014

Design Dilemma: No… You Can’t Be a Creative Director!

Every beginning designer has the dream and goal of ascending to the position of creative director, and it’s very attainable for most. All it takes is hard work, a great design or copywriting talent, and the ability to manage a staff of creatives.

There are others, apparently, who have the same dream and goal but without the required experience or abilities. Such is the case of a man who wrote to ask how he could attain the position of creative director—with no experience at all! So, join us as we delve into another slap of reality Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.

Design Dilemma / 11 Nov 2014

Design Dilemma: When the Client Expects You to Be a Psychic

“I’ll know what I like when I see it” has been heard by every freelancer presenting designs to a client for approval. Unless you’re a psychic, dealing with a psycho who won’t give you direction as to what they want, preferring for you to “wow” them can mushroom a two week project into two months.

“Philip” wrote in, exasperated by a client who would look at multiple web design sketches, and turn them down, then smile and say those wondrous words of professional appreciation, “I’ll know what I like when I see it!” Naturally, unless you can read the mind of a client like this, which is usually a short story of bad grammar and jumbled thoughts, you could go on, and on, and on, never reaching a solution until the client accuses you of being a bad designer, unable to satisfy a client, etc.

Design Dilemma / 5 Nov 2014

Design Dilemma: How Do I Turn a Temp Job Into a Staff Position?

A designer was upset that temp positions always ended after a few weeks, and she wanted to know if there was anything she could do to get hired by one of theses clients for a full time position. It’s fairly common these days, as employers test out talent on a trial basis before hiring, training and seeing how much abuse a person will take as a staff member of the company.

So, what steps could she, or anyone in her position take to show the temp employer that they are worth the salary and benefits (and even the buyout from the temp/recruiting agency)? It can be easier than one would think, but there are steps, considerations and legalities one should know to make their case for hiring stronger. Let’s take a look.

Design Dilemma / 15 Oct 2014

Design Dilemma: Are Crowdsourcing Sites Really So Bad?

There’s no bigger hot button in the design industry than crowdsourcing. Sites like fiverr, eLance, 99designs, DesignContest, and oDesk promise digital client relationships while protecting the rights and payments of the “winners.” And therein lay the problem—these sites have winners and losers—mostly losers. But, what if you are a winner?

A designer wrote and asked if he should stay away from these sites or give them a try. He had won $1,000 in a smaller design contest for some music label and was riding high on the thought he could continue winning—and earning money.

Design Dilemma / 7 Oct 2014

Design Dilemma: Will Social Media Help Me Find Clients?

A designer wrote that he was having trouble deciding whether or not to start using social media to promote his website/client outreach. He asked about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, ads on Facebook, etc. Those are good questions, as social media often gets a bit inflated in the minds of people who think it creates miracles. It does, but only very rarely. Otherwise, it’s hard work.

Social media outreach is free, if you don’t consider the hours you need to spend casually tweeting, adding to Facebook, Google+, and the other popular social media channels. Does a designer have the same social media needs as an ecommerce business? No.

Design Dilemma / 17 Sep 2014

Design Dilemma: Why Won’t People Share Their Contacts?

As working professionals, we owe it to our industry to mentor those just entering the field so they can become great… and not screw it up for the rest of us by lowering rates and giving creatives a bad name. But, there’s a point of helping that’s too far, when it could impact long relationships and trust built over one’s entire career.

There’s little to no give-and-take when it comes to introductions or allowing someone to use your name for their own advancement, when you don’t really know them. Unfortunately, those who ask for these favors rarely understand why you can’t take them by the hand and shove them on top of a long-time, trusted client or friend.

Design Dilemma / 3 Sep 2014

Design Dilemma: Are Creative Temp Agencies Idiots?

Temporary placement agencies get a bad rap from many freelance creatives. Some for good, or rather bad reasons and others because freelancers don’t understand the subtleties involved with these agencies. Understanding the good, the bad, and the ugly is one way of better dealing with temp firms… or avoiding them!

Join us as we delve into another investigative Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design.