Why Designers Shouldn’t Settle

Ugly designs abound on the web, and behind each and every one of them is a “designer”.

In many of these cases the designers behind the sites are simply incompetent.

They’re often amateur designers or those who have little or no design training or people who design their own sites based on a book from their local library that’s ten years out of date.

But there are other times when the designer was perfectly capable of creating a better site.

So why would a perfectly competent designer create a site that isn’t very good? The answer is simple: they settled. It happens all the time.

Maybe the designer has hit a slump and they’re looking for any paying work. Maybe it’s a site for a friend and they just don’t have the heart to tell them their design ideas are horrible. Maybe they were overwhelmed with work and just didn’t have the time the needed to devote to a project.

In any case, the end result isn’t up to par. It reflects poorly on the designer and oftentimes is left out of their portfolio entirely.

Of course, design isn’t the only place designers shouldn’t settle; it’s also important to maintain high quality standards in their business, their blogging, and other aspects of their professional life.


Work Begets Work

It’s long been said that work begets work. But it’s more complicated than that.

In reality, high quality work begets high quality work, and low quality work begets low quality work.

If you take on high quality design projects and product high quality results, you’re more likely to get similar projects in the future. If you take on projects with low design standards, you’re likely to get similar projects offered to you in the future.

Think about it for a minute. If someone sees a great website and they’re looking for a web designer, they may try to find out who designed that website. Of course, “great” is a subjective term.

So if someone likes site designs that look like they’re from the mid-90s, they’ll contact designers who are still designing like that. If they like designs that are up-to-date, unique, and professionally designed, then they’ll be looking for designers whose work is similar.

So again, if you settle for lower design standards, then you’re likely to get more work along the same lines. Hold your work to the highest standards you can and you’ll not only attract more high-quality work, but you’re also likely to improve your own skills in the process.


Pushing Yourself Results in Improved Skills

If you always settle for the easiest way to do something, you’ll never improve your own designs skills.

If you push yourself to always do things in the best way possible, you’ll constantly expand your skills and your knowledge. New and better techniques for doing things are coming out all the time, and if you expand your knowledge enough, you may be able to create your own techniques that do things better and easier than other methods available.

If you improve your skillset, you’ll be able to take on more complicated projects in the future. You’ll also improve your efficiency, as you won’t have to spend as much time figuring out how to do some things. Both of these can lead to higher income from your design work.


Good Clients Will Respect You More

Good clients will respect a designer who holds fast to their own standards. If you’re willing to sacrifice quality for the whims of a client, you’ll almost surely create inferior work at least some of the time. But if you’re confident enough in your own skills and your own aesthetic ideals, stand up for them and good clients will respect you for it.

After all, a good client recognizes that you’re the designer, and that while it’s their business, you have more experience than they do when it comes to design particulars.

They’ll appreciate it when you say (tactfully) that the giant flashing banner on the home page and all that scrolling text just isn’t going to give the impression they’re after. While it’s important to listen to your clients, don’t be afraid to step up and tell them why something isn’t a good idea.

Sure, you might lose some clients if you refuse to bend to their every poorly-thought-out decision, but the clients you retain will be easier to work with and will likely give you more design freedom. These clients will also likely refer more work to you, both directly and indirectly.

If your portfolio is filled with projects that are high-quality and reflect both your aesthetic ideals and those of your clients, you’ll attract more business. And if your clients are happy with their websites and the results they’re getting, they’re more likely to refer others they know to you.


Other Designers Will Respect You More

Designers tend to respect other designers who do excellent work and have a clear aesthetic and style.

While adapting to what your clients want is important, it’s still possible to maintain your own signature in your work. In some cases, this can be recognizable to others trained in design and can make your work stand out.

Respect from other designers isn’t important to everyone. But then again, it can lead to a lot of opportunities that you might not otherwise have. If a designer has too much work coming in, they may start looking to refer that work elsehwere rather than just telling prospects they can’t help. If you’re respected in the design community, some of that work is likely to come your way.


Low Standards Will Eventually Kill Your Business

Low standards in your designs will bring you low-quality clients. And the thing about low-quality clients is that they are generally more of a hassle than they’re worth. These are the people who will request a million revisions, delay paying you for as long as possible, and wonder why you didn’t send them back the changes they requested within the hour.

Dealing with clients like these will drain your energy and enthusiasm for design, which will show through in your work. Eventually, you’ll likely give up on designing for other people all-together, or you’ll find that you just don’t have enough clients coming to you. In either case, your business will suffer and likely close.

The same is true for aspects of your business other than design. If you have low standards for your bookkeeping, for example, you’ll likely spend money where you don’t need to, or fail to pay certain bills (or your taxes, which can result in very high penalties).

If you don’t uphold high quality standards in blog posts you write, you can expect that you won’t be asked to guest blog for more popular blogs and your blog will likely stagnate and fail to gain many new readers.

Upholding high quality standards can improve every aspect of your business and make you more effective. You’ll also likely enjoy your work more if you’re challenging yourself on a regular basis and designing projects you can be passionate about.


How to Get Past Settling

If you’ve got a history of settling in your business, it may be hard to break out of the confines of that mindset. But in order to grow as a designer, freelancer, or blogger, you need to be mindful of what you’re capable of and what your personal expectations should be.

If your portfolio is currently filled with designs that aren’t as good as you could have made them, take on some projects that will really let your skills shine. These could be personal projects or even pro bono work, but it’s important to set a new level of quality for yourself.

Make sure you eliminate low-quality work from your portfolio. No one ever said you had to include every design you ever created in your portfolio. Only include the high-quality work that’s indicative of the kind of projects you want to work on in the future.

Once you establish the quality standards you want to uphold, it’s important not to settle again. Defend your position to clients who want you to settle. Explain to them why you’re not comfortable incorporating a design element or feature they’ve requested and then stick by your decision. As already mentioned, good clients will respect you more for this.

If it helps, keep a list of specific things you found yourself settling on so that you can avoid them in the future. Put them on a post-it note on your monitor or post them on the wall behind your desk. Think of it as a to-don’t list rather than a to-do list.

Don’t be afraid to cut some of your clients loose. If you have a client who always expects you to settle, tell them you feel like their needs would be better-served by another designer. If you eliminate some problem clients, you’ll have more time to devote to high-quality projects that come your way. Plus, your stress levels will be lower if you’re not dealing with difficult clients all the time.

In the end, what you consider “settling” is going to vary, based on both your own skill level and the project at hand. While doing your best for the project at hand is important, different projects require different quality levels. A four-page brochure-style site has different requirements than a full-fledged web app. Keep that in mind and don’t go overboard on projects that don’t require it.

Written exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.

Do you settle in your work? Why or why not? Please share your opinion below…

  • http://www.mlangella.com Manuela

    Very interesting entry and full of true. Just this morning I was talking about the fact, I won’t my work “under-value”. People always say “but there’s someone that bild websites for so little”…ans I simple answer”well, you can go there”. ‘Cause I’m sure of my work, and I know they will not find what they’re searchin for.
    Do you mind if I translate your post, and publish it on my blog (with a link to you, of course:) ?

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Yes, you can do this as long as there’s attribution and links back at the top and bottom of the article.

      • http://www.mlangella.com Manuela

        Great! Thank you :)

  • http://lakeside.com.np/ Lakeside Techies

    Yes, surely, always you have to try to be the best of what you do.

    This always helps you to be ahead of everything.

  • http://www.jasonagross.com Jason Gross

    Good post. I think a lot of these topics stem from designers charging too little for a project. Low paying projects result in poor motivation on both ends, with designers not caring because they aren’t making much and clients not caring because they aren’t investing much. As a designer you should always be excited about the opportunity your project provides in terms of income, and the challenge provided.

  • http://sexidesign.com Melody

    The ever-growing nuisances about being a designer are seriously bummer, but taking the time out to educate readers and clients more will hopefully eventually result in more respect for the design community..

  • Alex

    In many cases, whether a design is ugly or not, is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, the competence of a webdesigner shouldn’t be measured by his or her capability for creating “beautiful” designs but by criteria which are objectifiable, like his or her capability for building websites which are functional, user friendly, accessible and standard compliant.

  • http://designerwall.co.za DesignerWall

    Loved this post. Great Work! Thanks

  • http://mocchika.com.sapo.pt/index.html Mónica
  • Dion

    I catch a lot of flak at work (jokingly) for never being satisfied with my work. One pixel off and I want to redo the whole thing.

    Good to hear this might not be such a bad thing after all.

  • http://www.trufcreative.com adberg

    Great article and one that tends to affect all visual designers but for a few lucky ones. I tend to agree with everything that was written but sometimes I think balancing “great” work and the need to put food on the table is often what also gets us into creating less than great work. Granted, a bad designer is a bad designer and there’s not much that can change that.

    In my experience, what starts off as something that has a lot of design integrity often gets chipped away by the client until it is nothing like what it started out to be. After rounds and rounds of sticking to our guns, educating the clients and making cogent and important arguments for the way it is designed originally, we often have to give in to the client’s demands. At the end of the day, we are in a service business and it’s important that they are “pleased” at the sacrifice of beautiful and more importantly, smart work. Unfortunately, we work in a very subjective and commoditized medium. Many clients also get the idea that we’re always designing for our portfolios and awards and not really for them. They teach that in business school you know.

    Don’t get me wrong, we should always, always, always stick to our guns to the extent we can. It is our duty as designers to educate and defend the work we do (in smart, strategic terms that a client can understand). If you can’t, well, the work might not show up in your portfolio and that’s okay. If we all had the financial luxury to pick and choose our clients, it would be a wonderful world. Reality is, we have to pay the rent sometimes. A the end of the day, after you’ve argued your heart out and still can’t save the design, let it go. You can’t always save a client from themselves and it’s their loss. And I totally agree that if you can AFFORD to cut a bad client loose, do it now!

    Also, if you can show 25% of the work you’ve produced, you’re doing great. don’t show your dirty laundry. Don’t be discouraged.

    • tn

      Completely agree with everything you wrote. It definitely is a balance of doing what you need to do in order to pay your bills, but also sticking to your guns and trying to put out the best work you can.

  • http://www.mediascapenorth.com/JoshuaParkerToulson/index.html Joshua Parker-Toulson

    Great article, the hardest part of my job is trying to communicate to a client why his or her ideas won’t work or are stinkers to begin with. In many cases clients ask for things like:

    “can you make the logo bigger?”
    “can we animate all the text using flash or something?”
    “I think dark brown and bright red are good together..”
    “how about a animated intro to the site?”
    “I don’t want to use youtube because it looks cheap, can you create a video player?but I also want all the videos on youtube, so go ahead and create a youtube page too!” (hate that one!)

    You get the idea….

    More and more often the line is blurred about what designers do exactly. A client has a concept and we help realize this vision using our practical knowledge, education and experience. Just because your client has seen Avatar twice doesn’t mean they are creative too. A designer must also be humble and respectful to a client, we don’t know everything, and our creative eye for composition is not the only one that counts.

    • http://logolitic.com/ logolitic

      yes, you have right!

      I hate when the client says that
      “the logo it`s a little too bigger or too smaller”
      “try to replace it in another way”
      “give me some colors variations”

      And then, after 100 tweaks he realise that he don`t like the logo, not the colors, not the size of the logo, it was just the logo.

      @ontopic very nice. Every designer should have their own ORIGINALITY! Some designers don`t understand that if they copy other designs, they don`t use their originality, their style that represents them. It`s possible that their style to be better than the ones that they copy. Try to find your style that represents your personality.

  • http://www,jamalnichols.com Jamal Nichols

    Haha, I read a lot of blogs but this one has some of the most on-point, humorous and unique content I’ve found on the net. It really is a breath of fresh air in the sea of “35 newest hot websites”, “15 great new jQuery Plugins”, and the newest trend “Do this and that with CSS3”. Keep up the great work!

  • chris

    The problem is those clients that are slighty wary of ‘designers’ in the first place and feel the need to keep a firm grip to prevent the designer going over their heads:

    Designer: ‘These are all interactive buttons that change colour when you hover over them with the mouse.’
    Client: ‘Really? How much are they going to cost me? No, I don’t think we need fancy buttons, I’d rather just have the normal buttons, thank you.’


  • http://www.designsy.com designsy

    Always have a great time on your depot, great article for self motivation.
    Thanks for the work :)

  • tn

    Funny how this article was published today just as I was having this exact issue with one of my clients. They want someone to redesign their website, so I looked at what they had and the first thing I noticed was their horrendous logo. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say it looks like a 5 year old drew it in MS Paint. I offered to redesign their logo, to which they agreed at first. I showed them an initial concept which is MILES better than what they have now and they replied that they think it might be better to stick to what they have and not change it too much.

    So now I’m faced with them wanting a beautiful website and then having to slap their hideous logo on it. In the past I would have done it because “work is work” but after reading this article I realize I have to stand up for myself and say no. I want to build my portfolio and have it be full of beautiful designs, and to do that I can’t keep conceding to clients who refuse my better advice and require me to “ugly it up” with their requests. I used to think the client was always right and that I had to do what they asked, but I’m going to start putting my foot down.

  • http://saramcallister.com SaraMac

    adberg has it completely right. In some cases, designers are reduced to polishing turds. Some firms/designers can afford to get rid of a bad client but in many cases, that luxury doesn’t exist. It’s our job to educate our clients but some will not listen. We work hard to maintain a great body of work. Definitely don’t get discouraged if there are a few disappointments.

    This cartoon on The Oatmeal is a funny (and exaggerated example):

    • http://elizawhat.com Elizabeth Kaylene

      Hahaha, I linked to that in my comment below!

  • http://www.trufcreative.com adberg

    “the client is always right” I’m starting to feel this is a conspiracy put out there by the International Client Association! And we buy it.

    Trutgh is, the client isn’t always right. The client doesn’t always know what’s best for them when it comes to design. That is why they come to us. They need to be reminded of that. BE the expert. But we need to speak in their language. “That won’t work well because of X, which in turn confuses your customers, which in turn affects your bottom line.” If you can always bring it back to how the decision that they want you to implement affects their business financially (good or bad), odds are that they’ll understand where you’re coming from. We often get caught up in the emotion of what we do and tend to speak in subjective terms and begin to take things personally (I’m guilty of it). At the end of the day, most clients just want to know how your design is going to affect their business positively.

    Also, just because some of your work has been “clientized” doesn’t mean that you can’t display the work as you originally intended it. Often, the best work never makes the light of day because it wasn’t “produced.” Well, produce it yourself at least for display purposes.

  • http://www.russellhampton.net Russell Hampton

    One of the best design teachers I had always said this:

    “You never are done with design, you just run out of time.”

    • http://www.alejandroperazzo.com Punta del Este Real Estate

      good one!! totaly true

  • http://www.victoryblogdesigns.com Lucas

    This post is very insightful and inspiring. I love posts that help you remember why you started designing in the first place. I needed this to help pull myself out of the current rut I have been in with my designs. It helped me to realize that I just need to keep pushing myself to become a better designer and that my skills will continue to improve as I do.
    Thank You!

  • In House Designer

    Great article, but a few things have to be consider in my point of view.

    Sometimes (like my case) working for a close-minded-company (or company that wants to play safe) after thousands of tries to deliver better looking design but no success after all is just the matter of doing the basics getting paid and focus on the personal work.

    I bet that 75% of the ugly designs are done because of the clients/companies then because of incompetence of the designer. Lots of “marketing assistants/managers/directors” think they know more about design than the proper responsible designer what 65% turns to be an ugly design.

    Anyway, if you are not happy working for your boss, quit…easy to say but hard when you need a visa to stay in the country.

    Keep it up with the good work on the blog!


  • petar

    excellent article, cheers..

  • http://www.designsbybk.com designsbybk

    wow, this is really nice. this has been my problem since I became freelance designer. sometimes, the creative juices just become a slurry of doubt and hate because of such incidents. great post! love it!

  • http://3circlestudio.com/ Justin Carroll

    This is a great reminder to not settle for sub-par design. A colleague of mine recently reminded his Twitter feed that “you’re only as good as your last comp” (via @shanemielke).

  • http://pollyfolio.com/ Polly

    I think settling is a matter of who you are, not a matter of circumstances. I know designers who refuse to settle no matter what, and if they’re good – they are successful. Me, on the other hand… I’m still fairly new in the design business, I am yet to find most of my regular clients, so I can’t afford to act like I don’t need the work. With this kind of thinking, I guess I’m not like those designers I mentioned, and I don’t like that about myself.

    There’s one compromise I will never make – I won’t work for people who don’t respect me and my work. I’m tired of people saying “What’s the big deal, just a couple of pictures and some text you need to put in there, that’s not work at all”.

  • Choudry Arif

    Very very nice and true to word article, but its quite hard when you don’t own the business and clients is on your head trying to show that you know nothing he is the one with big bright ideas.

  • http://www.orangegrovedesigns.co.uk Louisa

    The trouble is that ultimately the client has the control. No matter what you advise them in your professional opinion, they can still turn around and tell you they want it done their way, because ulimately they’re the one paying for it. This can result in websites that aren’t exactly how you’d like them. So it’s all well and good saying you should pick and choose what you do so it’s exactly right, but in the end even the perfct projects will not end up being exactly how you’d like. The only way to get around this is to create lots of websites for you and only you! Or just accept that things will never go exactly how you like them, but just make sure you always offer your professional opinion.

  • http://www.simonday.com Simon Day (Who’s really a hot, sexy, single female web designer, just around the corner from you)

    The worst problem for me is when this happens towards the END of the project. I’ve had one recently where the initial work was great and I was looking forward to adding it to my portfolio. As we got towards the end of the project he was asking for changes and additions they were going to turn it into a monster.

    I tried hard to steer the site but he was so insistent I ended up doing what he wanted because the project had to be finished that week. Needless to say it didn’t end up on my portfolio.

  • http://www.simonday.com Simon Day

    The worst problem for me is when this happens towards the END of the project. I’ve had one recently where the initial work was great and I was looking forward to adding it to my portfolio. As we got towards the end of the project he was asking for changes and additions they were going to turn it into a monster.

    I tried hard to steer the site but he was so insistent I ended up doing what he wanted because the project had to be finished that week. Needless to say it didn’t end up on my portfolio.

  • http://www.nopun.com Noel Wiggins

    When designing there is a constant battle of creating and editing the design, the conflict can often times get out of control and I have to admit that many times I will judge how much the editor and creator will fight each other based on how much money the project is bringing to the studio.

    For the most part I do aim to design “better” with each new design.
    I love the saying from the advertising industry that says that you are only as good as your last ad.

    But, I have seen another reason why I think bad work exists, and that is from the client in the final approval stage. I love when I get a new client and the website they have is hideous, I begin to show what I believe if fresh new professional designs and “now” all of a sudden they become critics, and start interjecting design decisions that complicate the process. In rare occasions after I try and educate them a bit I win some battles, but that is rare mostly I give in and just try and do whatever they want done so I can bill the project out.

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com

  • http://www.kaplang.com/blog Kaplang

    really good article :)

    Just a thought…what if this bad design which you do not like is actually supposed to look like that??

    All designers are different and they all have their own taste, so the next time you see a design which you dislike you should also consider that maybe the designer wasn’t too busy and rushed the job….maybe it was just meant to look this way but unfortunately it just isn’t to your liking.

    It is a designers right to be unique :)

  • http://ansh.thisisitonline.info Amberly | Web Designer

    Very impressive post. Thank you.

  • http://www.jordanwalker.net/index.php Jordan Walker

    No one should have to setting on pricing or race to the bottom to get a client, value your work. There are plenty of English majors who pick up Dreamweaver and instantly become a web designer.

  • http://techbee.co.in/ web design

    Yes, you are right that designers should not settle but must keep updating themselves with the latest. But I also feel that sometimes the client also has a role to play as they give their views and inputs to the webpage developed by the web designer which will lead to changes in the output which may or may not be good at times.

  • http://www.sapientsoft.co.za Jacques

    “The trouble is that ultimately the client has the control”. Yes the client might have the control and the money, but they came to you or your company, because they wanted a professional design.

    I think what happens far too often, is that designers merely become the tools in the design process, because your client doesn’t know how to use Photoshop for example. So the end result, is that your client thinks up the design, and you just sit back and do the work.

    Perhaps we should inform our clients, that we charge them more for creating ‘their’ designs, than we charge for one of ‘our’ designs.

    • http://www.stargraphicdesign.com Jessica

      Ya I end up with a lot of design-by-client. But I’m starting to notice a pattern in in-decisive people… thankfully I can afford to refuse work now.

  • http://www.seqvens.dk/ Nick Bruun

    I really liked this post a lot. I think most of us have indeed gone through the process of working with clients who either didn’t know in what direction they wanted to be heading or, even worse, had very little design related knowledge meaning that their vision of “nice” just doesn’t cut it in the market.

    These situations tend to get me quite frustrated – and I’ve even dropped a client due to this. I guess being a bit picky is better than just earning money – if you have to stand out in the world of web designers you have to keep a clean line in your work.

  • http://www.dharne.com Jane Cooke

    If one does web design in isolation without understanding the other aspects that affect a website then there is bound to be conflict. Design has to balance with things like website speed, SEO, the client’s business goals, presentation needs, usability etc. Sometimes what looks perfect from a design perspective might not be from the other fields.

    In that sense flexibility to take good design decisions to work around the areas of conflict is a necessity in professional web design when one is playing with someone else’s website. This can only come with experience and doing projects which vary greatly in their demands.

  • http://elizawhat.com Elizabeth Kaylene

    Good clients will respect a designer who holds fast to their own standards.

    Some clients do not care how experienced you are or how much you know about design. Some clients just want what they want and that is the end of it in their minds. In that case, you must be flexible and you must learn when to close your mouth and complete the project. Arguing with a client will not get you sparkling recommendations.

    This doesn’t make them bad clients. It just makes them a customer who wants their site to be exactly what they wanted. Remember that old saying, “The customer is always right”? This applies to every career path. Being a designer doesn’t give you the right to forget that, no matter how demanding that client may be.

    There is nothing wrong with settling, as long as you have tried your best to give them a quality product. I have had clients reject having their site coded to fit all resolutions on all different OS’s, simply because they had an older monitor — can you say box monitor? — and wanted their site to look best on their computer. This meant that on every other monitor, the site was very small. There was no talking them out of it.

    Sometimes, a client will not even compromise, so you must learn to make them happy and temporarily let go of everything you thought was a priority in design.

    In theory it seems fine to tell a client to go somewhere else when their idea of design is the opposite from yours, but when you are first getting started and are trying to build up a client base and reputation, cutting a client lose could cost you. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and get it done. That’s not to say that you should put up with being treated like crap. I will never again allow a client to yell at me as though I were a dog. But there is a vast difference between two separate opinions on how the site should look and a client being unprofessional and damaging to the work environment.

    Getting off my soapbox now. (;

  • http://www.tasteofbrains.com/portfolio/ Justin Lascelle

    Thanks for writing about this topic, as it’s something that is very near and dear to my heart.

    I realize that as a young designer I have a lot to prove, but I refuse to be an extension of the client’s arm that knows how to push the buttons. I try to make it clear to my clients that their money isn’t paying for the ability to write HTML and CSS or use Photoshop and Illustrator, their money is going towards my specific process, and the ideas that spring from it. Everything else is just pushing pixels. I believe this sacred reverence for the process of creating is what makes me a Designer (capital D intended) and not a computer program operator.

  • http://randomtemplate.com Michael Clarke

    Great article, this relates to everything in laugh, if you don’t put everything into it, the results won’t be rewarding. Absolutely perfect, re-tweeted!

  • http://georgeloch.com George Loch

    I do solidly believe in the approach of NOT SETTLING. However, you do sometimes have to compromise. I have found that as long as I stick to the principles of design, I can still produce “good design”. It may not be my complete vision but, it can still remain on the positive side of “not stinking”. What we may be talking about is the difference between good design and mind-bending work. The latter is what we hope for, the former is the usual fair.

    Having said that, I am not shy about ‘educating’ the client. If they respond to my design concepts with “Make the logo bigger”-like comments, I put down the hammer. There have been a small number of clients that I just have to “fire” because their egos get in the way. The majority of my clients are reasonable and understand I care about my work and about their goals for the work.


  • http://www.stooryduster.co.uk/ Scotty

    This seems to be about what a thing looks like.

    Isn’t the measure of a good design – how well it meets the original brief?

    For me drawing up and agreeing the brief with the client is where you should see if alarm bells should start ringing not when you’ve started the build.

    If you can’t agree a solid brief get out. If you can then it’s a contract to get paid more on or bail out on a solid reason when it starts to go pear shaped. Which it shouldn’t if you’ve created and agreed a good brief in the first place with the client.

    If you have a brief then discussion can be based on reasons for change rather than opinions. Does a pink background do what is required rather than the bosses dad who is a football coach thinks pink is sissy, doesn’t like it, change it.

    And back to Kaplang – unless you know what the brief and the constraints were – you cant judge the design except on terms of ‘you like the look of it or you don’t’. For all you know it could be the perfect solution to the problem.

    Should design be simply a sticker; always a pretty face you put on top of a product?

  • Asrar

    Nice read.

    Unfortunately for me I settle all the time for a couple of my clients. I’ve offered them advice and opinion many times, but they never listen. I’ve stopped trying now, and just follow their orders over the phone “make the logo bigger”, “move this text to the top”, “give that link a nice big yellow background”. When I’m done with their requests, they say “wow it looks awesome!”, while I’m looking at the page in disgust.

  • http://www.trufcreative.com adberg

    Asrar – welcome to the biz! Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. If we were in it just for ourselves we’d all be fine artists but we’ve chosen a commercial path, which involves managing many people’s opinions and expectations. You can only try so hard before it’s futile and starts to wear you down mentally. In those instance, let it go, cash the check and move on before it discourages you and affects your other work. If your client is happy at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. You can always strengthen your portfolio in other ways, even by using a version that you approve of but wasn’t produced.

  • http://www.brandnewconcept.com Debi Teter

    Settling for a design I wasn’t thrilled with was something I did when I was younger and inexperienced. I knew how long doing a good design would take me and provided a project estimate to the client based on how many hours of work I anticipated. I was burned so many times by clients requesting so many revisions that I ended up making minimum wage, at best.

    After a while, I learned to develop a good contract with clear expectations and deliverables written out. When a client knows they are only going to see 2 rounds of revisions and then start paying an extra hourly fee, their flippant complaints drop significantly and they are more apt to listen to my expert advice and be very specific in explaining what they don’t like and why.

    With that plan in motion, I don’t need to compromise on my standards because clients respect me more and I still get paid if we go through 10 rounds to come back to a design I’m happy with.

  • http://www.JMH-Design.net Jeff Heiserman

    I love this article… especially the section about pushing yourself.

    I remember when I coded my first CSS layout—I probably put in twice the amount of time that I billed for, but it was worth it. Now that I’m creating CSS layouts and I will never look back to the tables of the 90’s. Great post!

  • http://www.sivana.carbonmade.com sivana

    I have a dilemma i would like to share with you.
    Im a young web designer, recentlly finished studies.
    Im currently looking for a job, and i got in a place which is both far away from my home (an hour and a half drive by 1 bus, 1 train and 10 minutes walk) and the job nature is not as diverse as i would like it to be. they are a company and in need of a web designer to mostlly maintain there site and build a bank of images for it…
    In my vision- im looking for someplace i can be exposed to several media channels, such as web designs, flash banners, gui, and maybe even cellphone graphics…
    On the otherhand – the lack of experiance is a huge disadvantage for me and makes finding a job much more difficult.

    do you think im setteling if i take the job?
    any advice would help:)

  • mpitt
  • http://www.robbymacbeath.com Robby MacBeath

    Great article and SO true!

  • http://vision5studios.com Buck Taylor

    Great Article, I run into this frequently as my design company is fairly new and I get nervous about loosing clients if I stick to much to what I would like my standards to be.

    However, I do tell my partner an many occasions that it’s not just our job to come up with a great idea and then create a great looking design but to also take someone else’s bad ideas and create a great looking design.

    So I would have to say I’m on the fence with this issue. On one hand I want to produce the best looking designs I can to build my portfolio and reputation and I want to shake some sense into some of my clients but in the end they are paying me to ultimately give them what they want and you have to put their wants above your portfolio.

    The ability to create great looking designs from bad ideas that you don’t agree with is a sign of a good designer in my opinion. I’m sure however, as my company grows, and I gain more credibility with more years under my belt I will too be more crucial in sticking to my standards.

  • http://www.cheapgoodsok.com cheapgoodsok

    It is good article,I learn more from this.thank you.

  • http://brownsportfolio.com Matt Brown

    Not sure any in the professional world is really even allowed to do this per say. I see this applying more for a freelancer where he is his own boss and simply has no one to answer to other than his client.

    The other piece is sometimes we don’t settle it just happens to be the client forces their will upon the project despite what you think.


  • Nathski

    Great article
    I think these are lessons that we all learn in our design careers.
    One key skill is having the ability to recognise and admit that your’e producing less that perfect work. Its as important as having the confidence to stand by your design decisions and explain to the client why you aren’t going to “make the logo bigger” or build “an animated intro to the site?” (remember those!)

  • http://www.benstokesmarketing.co.uk ben

    Well this is a very to the point article thank you for taking the time to write it – I totally agree with clients missing the point on logos and even the whole website design. . . . Who ever said the customer is always right :P

  • http://prestekdesignservices.com OscarPhone

    So let me get this straight. If you give the client what he whats/needs/desires at a price that was good for you, and you don’t think it is your best stuff because he wanted some adjustment that offended you artistic vision, you “settled”? Or conversely, you did one hell of a kick-ass job, maybe even won an award from the local Mothers Who Like Designy Things chapter, but it didn’t help the client’s bottom line one penny. But it it’s OK because you didn’t “settle”. You didn’t bastardize your vision? Oy.

    adberg @ 47 is plugged in to reality. This is commercial art and you “settle” every day. I’ve been freelancing for 30 years now and your job as a designer is to discern your client’s wants & needs, merge that with his market/demographics and budget and create from that base. All clients need advice and it is your job as a pro to give it to them. It’s part of your service, that’s what they pay for but they don’t have to take it. But you can’t beat them over the head. If nothing else it’s rude and presumptuous. If you’re good it looks great they make more money and call you back.

    Some of the best work I’ve done has been balls to the wall, no screwin’ around. You don’t have time to think so your design teachings and talents run on auto (like they should really). They make money. You make money. You please the masses with a thoughtfully done piece. Everybody wins.

    Now *that* is design.

    But clients can be difficult too. I’ll never forget the guy who, after a half hour logo presentation and price quote, pulled a business card from his wallet with a dreadful little bug on it and said: “See this? My 14 year old niece did this in 15 minutes!” Sometimes you just give them what they want, move on, and don’t take it personally.

  • jay

    This is a good article but what if you don’t own a business/work freelance? I work under an agency and I’m forced to completely slaughter my designs all the time. It sucks but it’s part of getting your foot in the door I guess? Additionally, I’ve noticed that the more creative I try to be, the less my work is used. Whenever I try to refresh things or add something new and creative to a design it is just immediately ignored by the client. They want safe, conservative, etc. I understand they want to stick to their branding but they often chose a design that veers more from their branding than my design yet looks more windows 97 and for some reason they want that?

  • http://www.mdostudio.com m a r c o

    Oh! And I just wanted to add something to my previous comment. Sometimes you begin a project with the best intentions, but clients make it impossible to create something great. Over the years, I’ve learned how to communicate with my clients and help guide them through the process (after all you’re the expert right?), but there are some clients that simply will not let a project develop into something that is “portfolio worthy”.

    I think this cartoon says it best :


  • Ale

    Great post. Thank you for sharing such an eloquent speech. Truly inspiring for fresh people who nowdays just want the quicker solution before looking for quality.

  • Joshua parker toulson

    “Great post. Thank you for sharing such an eloquent speech. Truly inspiring for fresh people who nowdays just want the quicker solution before looking for quality.”

    – Not sure if your making fun of everyone here. Quick vs quality. Interesting. Not sure how or what this has to do with the conversation.

  • Ale

    Let me elaborate. There was a study, that called young people “The Google generation” http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article4295414.ece which states that today information is easily accessible through a couple of clicks. That has an impact on daily life for the children and teenagers, if they can’t resolve something in a short time, they tend to give up or to settle. Design, same as computer programming, takes practice, a master piece does not necessarily comes when you intended to. To settle with a customer (generally going against what your expert vision tells you), is the easy way out. The shortest path, the easy one; most of the times means poor quality.