Graphic designers illustrate bad feedback

A number of Irish graphic designers got together and visually demonstrated some inane and hilarious client feedback. If you've ever worked in advertising you know these are tame.

(via 22 Words)


  1. Here’s a couple that made my head spin:

    “I need it to look super pro.”

    “Use a high-end, expensive, art font.”

    1. That “high-end, expensive, art font” made a ton of sense to me. Good fonts cost money, and for a reason.

  2. I think the “I like it, but..” bit happens in just about every line of work. It’s one of those situations where the person saying it hates everything you’ve done, but has some interest in not being rude about it.
    So I guess the core failing is that people are growing up with terrible social skills.

    1. I think that the core problem is that non-designers don’t actually believe that there’s such a thing as design knowledge. They view it as a physical assembly task and thus, they are just as good at it as the designer is. Somewhat like hiring a maid to clean the house.

  3. You know, much of this feedback seems just fine to me. The illogical ones and the useless ones seem illogical and useless, sure, but for the others, I wonder if it’s just a case of a designer bristling at any feedback at all from their non-MFA client.

    Can you make the cowboy a little less camp?
    Could we make it feel more like summer?
    Can you make the germs more visible?
    Too blocky.

    1. I agree. It’s important to remember (as designers) that the customers don’t necessarily know the precise terms for describing visual effects as efficiently as they’d need.

      Designers themselves can be extremely anal about the ‘warmth’ of a certain shade or the ‘perceived authority’ of a certain font, so they have to be tolerant of the fact that the client can also respond to such subtle characteristics.

      1. While I found some of the comments funny in this context, it does kind of come over like these guys are too far up their own asses to take any criticism. Some of these comments taken at face value sound ridiculous but they do convey a spirit that the designer has to think about in the revision.

        It would be more interesting to see the designs post-revision to see if the comments added value or not.

        1. I agree. I felt the same way looking at these comments. I do a lot of design work. It’s true, a lot of people don’t have design skills and prefer things that are kind of tacky. Sure, you have to educate people about design or figure out a way to appease them but still be happy with the result. I’ve always taken the stance that the person needing the design work knows their customers better than I do and knows their products better than I do. Almost always I find that in the process of revising work to meet a customer’s desires, I end up with a much better piece of art than I would if just left to my own devices. Sometimes, momentarily, my pride is hurt, but I try to not let that stop me from working with a customer.

    2. The requests that you’ve listed as “fine,” though, aren’t particularly clear.

      What, for example, would make the cowboy less campy? (That can be particularly frustrating if you’re using a reference photo. It’s even more frustrating when the client has provided you with the reference photo, requesting something specifically in that vein.) 

      Likewise, what, to the client, best communicates summer? Do they want visible germs in, say, a photo of a sneeze? Can they point out what part of the image is too blocky?

      Too frequently, however, no further information is forthcoming, even when pressed. Additionally, a client may take issue with your questions, saying something like, “I pay you to figure out what I mean.”

      Granted, we don’t have any real context for these comments, but as someone who has done creative work both within a corporate context and a freelance context, I’ve found you will more frequently receive vague, contradictory, or unhelpful comments than constructive, insightful, or clear feedback. 

      Many times, a client will provide feedback simply because they think they should do so, either to imprint their creative mark on the project or to show some sort of involvement in the design process. For this reason, I know several designers who will intentionally insert obvious errors in their initial drafts, simply to give the client an opportunity to fix something. That can backfire, though, with the client thinking the error a stroke of genius… which is why I (and other designers I know) avoid that tactic.

      This is all compounded by the fact that many clients seem to view designers as “beneath” them, somehow… that the freelancer does not deserve to be treated as a professional peer. Additionally, many clients are unsure as how to value creative work, because it may seem “easy” or “fun” to them. They may also not understand why the artist or musician cannot simply lift a piece of work from another ad, CD, or publication.

      It’s frustrating, but that’s part of the price to be paid when working as a creative professional. Anyhow, I hope that puts the apparent bristling of the designers showcased into better perspective.

      1.  Yeah, I understand some people thinking Cowboy is too camp and similar are legitimate complaints, but imagine that in the context of “can’t you just photoshop it,” “that’s what we pay designers for” and they already gave you the photo of said cowboy in the first place.

        It’s “use this, but make it look like not this, do it right now, perfectly, but we won’t tell you what perfect is, and we hate what you think is perfect, and we don’t think it’s fair that we should have to pay you for it.”

      2.  Of course they’re not clear. If the customers knew how to make what they wanted they wouldn’t be hiring a designer.

        When they say something like this, it’s a good place to start a dialogue, not make fun of them for not having specialist knowledge.

        1. I think there’s a difference between whether or not I know how to make something and knowing what I want. I may not know how to make a TV commercial, but I should at least know what I want to see in my campaign and what I wish to emphasize. If I have any communication ability at all, I should have emphasized those points to my design team, rather than leaving them to guess.

          That aside, please refer to my statement:
          “Too frequently, however, no further information is forthcoming, even when pressed. Additionally, a client may take issue with your questions, saying something like, ‘I pay you to figure out what I mean.'”

          This is the opportunity for dialogue, and the inability or unwillingness of clients to engage in any constructive dialogue is too often the order of business. Most designers who successfully make a living from their design seek out dialogue, so that they might hammer out the details. Most of their frustrations come from clients who refuse to do so, not because their clients lack specialist knowledge. The inanities highlighted are simply the memorable moments… the icing on the cake of poor communication.

          FWIW, I think the designer complaints where the client questioned the use of “lorem ipsum” are silly. That graphic design convention is not common knowledge among non-designers. _That_ case perfectly illustrates some of your frustrations, if I understand you correctly.

          1. I’m sorry, but I totally disagree. Many of these requests seem totally fine to me. Take this one: “Make the logo bigger”. If you’ve hired a designer to make a product with your logo on it, how is it unreasonable to ask that the logo should be bigger? Isn’t this what designers do?

            Or this one: “That horse looks like a zebra”. If the client asked for a horse, why the hell did you give them a zebra?

            Also, “Q: Do you have a Mac or a PC. A: I have a Dell”. If the client doesn’t know that a Dell is a PC, then they’re clearly not a computer person, and it’s a dick move to make fun of them for that. On the other hand, if the person does know that, they probably just interpreted the question as “What kind of computer do you have”, and then the answer is perfectly appropriate. Also, the person answered your question, why are you being a jerk about it?

            “Too blocky”. Make it less blocky and stop complaining. 

            “Could we make the cowboy a little less camp?”. Stop making your cowboys look like Yosemite Sam and make them look like realistic ranchers. It’s not rocket science. 

            “We can’t use the national anthem, it’s too IRA.” Overt display of nationalism is much more problematic in many parts of Europe compared to the states, and if you’re a designer working in Ireland, you should fucking know that. 

            “I really like the color but could you change it?”  Clearly the client is trying to be nice, but they just don’t like the color. Is it seriously too much to ask a designer to change a color of something?

            Look, many of us work with clients and have to deal with requests from people who don’t have the expert knowledge we do, or have odd or weird requests sometimes (you should work in IT sometime!). But we manage, because we work for a living and get paid a salary. 

            But somehow, graphic designers have decided that they are the most put-up upon class because most clients don’t have deep background in color theory, or whatever. These kinds of sites (including “Clients from Hell”) are making you guys look like a bunch of people that have zero capability to diplomatically function in a relatively standard work-environment.

          2. Fair points.

            Please bear in mind that my original comment does point out that we have no context for these comments. (EDIT: Example, we don’t know that the cowboy called out as “campy” looked like Yosemite Sam. Nor do we know what, exactly, is “too blocky.” Are we talking about a block? How does one make a block less blocky, in that case? What about the design is blocky, and is blockiness really the issue? If a logo already takes up half the page, then making it bigger would be a huge problem.
            If the image in question is actually a horse, then what are you to do with a client who claims it looks like a zebra? Most of the context you created is speculation… speculation that favors the client, therefore revealing your bias.)

            And yes, I’m biased to give the benefit of the doubt to the designers, solely because I’ve been on both sides of the equation. 

            You will find with some frequency, as I said, instances where you are given source art to guide your design by a client, only to have your client come back and say, “Well, yes… I wanted that, but I wanted it different.” And the critique will end there. Different how? Let me know. I’ll make the change. I can’t read your mind, unfortunately. If you signed off, then request a last-minute change, don’t be surprised if you’re charged for that change. Don’t blame the designer for the change in direction. Don’t expect them to anticipate what you might want if, in fact, you aren’t communicating that with them.

            In the case of “can you make the snow look warmer,” the image connected to this post, you’ll find clients frequently providing comments that, by themselves, make little sense. Communication helps! When communication breaks down, you have problems. I’m sure you can relate.

            There is this attitude that freelancers of any sort must be “servants” to the client, when that simply isn’t the way to build good client-provider relationships. You don’t get a great product from the people you hire with that attitude, and — directly or indirectly — you damage your reputation in the process. Again, good communication can resolve most problems.

            I will also say that a large number of the IT techs that I’ve known — as I mentioned, I’ve worked in a corporate environment as well — complain… bitterly and often. To claim otherwise is perhaps a tad disingenuous. 

            The customer isn’t always right. Neither is the designer. I stand by my assertion that communication is key, and if you’ll actually read my posts, you’ll see that’s my predominant theme. The posters themselves… that’s blowing off steam, the froth at the top of the collective frustration. Everyone in every profession feels misunderstood and put upon. Everyone seems to think that no one understand what it is they have to put up with (see your comment re: IT). For designers, this is how they vent. It’s meant to be funny, and other designers — those who have been there — instantly get it. But I understand that you don’t particularly like it. Remember that, though, the next time you have a PEBKAC ticket.

    3. I know! A lot of this seems like people trying very hard to get across to a bone-headed designer that they’re just not completely happy with their design.

      And the designer, who is clearly some goddamn Michaelangelo sent from heaven to drop bits of inspired and immutable design manna upon the poor, benighted commoners, isn’t fucking listening.

      Listen, if you’re a designer and you interact with customers, you’ve got to learn how to be a servant. Push the ego out of the way. The customer isn’t always right, but the customer is always trying to get some kind of point across, inane as it may be, as badly phrased as it may be. He wants it to pop? Ask him what he means! She wants it to look more pro? Try to find out what exactly she’s looking for. And then make whatever polished piece of shit they want and move on.

      I’ve dealt with many designers in my life. Some have been an absolute pleasure to deal with (and you keep those ones around no matter what), and others have tried to foist on me their platonic ideal of the perfect website or the perfect ad campaign, and when I have the temerity to suggest another direction, I’m made to feel like I should just put my thumb back in my mouth and crawl back into my crib?

      Sorry, just doesn’t cut it.

      The design community as a whole (and in particular the idiots that run these sites that make fun of their own bread and butter) needs to learn a bit of humility and humanity.

  4. Brainstorm session: “I have NO idea whatsoever about any of this so we’ll just go with what you think.”

    Result: “Hm… I had imagined more ‘cozy’ with less blue… I also always liked orange emboss with drop shadows… And I really like XYZ website so I was picturing it a bit like it… Oh, and I have tons of pics from last year’s BBQ party and I thought we could build a theme around that…”

  5. Hah – those are great. But what does the one 2nd from the right in the second row say? I can’t seem to read it.

  6. After they’ve schooled us in graphic design perhaps they could work on finding less clunky gallary software.  I’d love to go through all the pictures but I seem to have to scroll and click about 5 times to bring up the larger format versions.

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