Adrian Shaughnessy | Essays

Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes

Paradoxometer prototyped by Adrian Shaughnessy. Artwork by Tea Design 

I’ve just finished writing a book about graphic design. Yep, just what the world needs — another graphic design book. In my defence, the book is about the stuff that doesn't get written about much. It deals with subjects like rejection, envy, and plagiarism. There are also entries on kerning, the wisdom of using only lowercase letters, and the merits of Univers. But mostly it’s a book about the soft stuff — the stuff that we deal with every day and tend to take for granted. 

In writing this book I discovered that many aspects of graphic design are paradoxical. I’m using the word paradox here to mean an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted wisdom. And while there are many others, here are my top ten everyday graphic design paradoxes.

01: There’s no such thing as bad clients: only bad designers. We love to blame our clients for poor work. When projects go sour, it’s always the clients — never us — who are at fault. Sure, there are bad clients. But designers treating them badly have usually turned them into bad clients. As designers, we end up with the clients we deserve.

02: The best way to learn how to become a better graphic designer is to become a client. On the few occasions that I’ve been a paying commissioner of graphic design, I’ve learned more about being a designer than by anything else I’ve done. It’s only by commissioning graphic designers that we discover that most of us are not very good at articulating what we do and how we work. For many clients, designers seem to operate on the principle expressed by the architect hero of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: “I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build.” As part of their training, all designers should be obliged to spend a sum of their own money on graphic design.

03: If we want to educate our clients about design, we must first educate ourselves about our clients. When I hear designers say that “we must educate our clients”, I want to break out in hives. Instead of educating our clients, we must educate ourselves in the ways of our clients. Then — and only then — will clients take us seriously.

04: If we want to make money as a graphic designer, we must concentrate on the work — not the money. Whenever I’ve taken on design projects “just for the money,” disaster has invariably ensued. When we put money first and work second, we end up with bad work and an even worse balance sheet. This is not to say that designers shouldn’t be properly paid for their work, or that designers shouldn't be financially savvy (clients usually are). But the designer’s primary motive has to be the quality of the design and not the size of the fee. When the focus is on the money, the work is usually poor.

05: For designers, verbal skills are as important as visual skills. Since graphic design should be self-explanatory, designers might be forgiven for thinking that the need to provide a verbal rationale for their work is unimportant. Surely the work should succeed on its own merits without requiring a designer’s advocacy? True. Except there never was a client who didn’t want an explanation for every aspect of every piece of creative work they commissioned. If we can’t talk about our work in a clear, rational and objective way — free from all jargon — then we can’t be surprised when we meet with rejection.

06: Ideas usually fail not because they're bad ideas, but because they're badly presented. The ability to present an idea is as important as the idea itself. The single most important thing we need to remember when presenting work to clients is that they are terrified at the prospect of what we are going to show them. For clients, commissioning design is like going into a furniture showroom to buy a sofa and being told by the salesperson, “Sure, I can sell you a sofa. But I can’t show it to you.” Who ever spent money on something they couldn’t see? Yet this is precisely what we ask our clients to do when they commission us.

07: “I’m a professional: I know best.” The only designers who use this argument are unprofessional designers. Designers often say, “No one tells a doctor what to do, so why is it OK to tell me what to do?” But the myth of professional omnipotence has been debunked. We no longer accept that doctors, lawyers and plumbers have a monopoly on knowledge. Speak to any doctor and they will tell you that people come into their consulting rooms armed with information downloaded from the internet. We have long since learned to question and challenge expert opinion. Why should designers be exempt? Anyone who uses the “I’m a professional therefore you must accept what I say” argument has lost the argument.

08: “All the good jobs go to other designers.” Not true: in fact, nearly all jobs start off as neither good nor bad. We are deluded if we think only other people get good jobs and we only get the rubble. Truth is, nearly all jobs start off the same, and our responses as designers determine the success or failure of each job. There are no good or bad projects in design, only good or bad responses. Good projects are made not found. I’ve often interviewed designers who told me they wanted to move jobs because they only got “lousy projects to work on”. Yet when they showed me what they’d been working on, they usually seemed like great jobs.

09: The best way to run a studio is to be domineering and forceful. In fact, the opposite is true. Designers who run studios or lead teams often think they have to lead from the front. They think they have to dominate. They think they have to take credit for everything. In fact, the opposite is true. Good leaders of design teams lead from behind. They put themselves last and allow others to shine. When designers are allowed to shine, they shine more brightly.

10: If we believe in nothing, we shouldn’t wonder why no one believes in us. In a world with no principles, people respect those who have principles. Impersonating a doormat is a poor way to be an effective graphic designer. In fact, standing up for what we believe in — ethics, morality, professional standards, even aesthetic preferences — is the only way to produce meaningful work. Of course we won’t win every time, but we will win more often than the designer who doesn't believe in anything. There are countless ways in which we can demonstrate professional integrity — the only mistake we can make is not to demonstrate any.

Footnote: Just like the amp in Spinal Tap that goes up to 11, my list of 10 paradoxes actually contains 11 items. Here is the eleventh paradox of graphic design.

11. When a client says the words — “you have complete creative freedom,” they never mean complete creative freedom. Whatever you show them, they will find a problem with. Happens every time.

Posted in: Graphic Design

Comments [135]

Simply brilliant.
The real paradox will be that the people who need to understand these things will be the ones who think they know better.
Matthew Black

Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Great insights that cross all disciplines.
scott crawford [@scottrcrawford]

The "soft stuff"? Wow... I'm kinda perlex. I need to think this over because it so very, very true.
Marco Kramer

Really good, true points you have there Adrian.

I think I've learned most of those lessons over the years the hard way. Explaining design and how it can benefit the client is important, verbal skills super important, being opened minded, collaborating instead of trying to dominate, designers need to stop trying to be a know it all, stop thinking your way is the only way - All great points.

Hopefully this will help young designers to take heed. As well as older designers who refuse to learn these lessons.

Paul Pereira

#12. The client's ex-wife usually is a bad choice for modeling his company's new line of clothing.

Mark Andresen

This is a excellent post, I pretty much agree with all these points. They are well thought out, and very well constructed.

Good job, and thank you.... it's always nice to be reaffirmed that others feel the same way you do.
Kyle Gallant

Great article. Still at the beginning of my career, but have still found that many of these points are extremely true.. The value of presentations, verbal skills, understanding the client's position and many other things mentioned here is stuff you just don't really understand when in school.

Hopefully many students will read this and thus get a glimpse of lessons still to be learned.

This is a SERVICE were selling, a bit of service-attitude goes a long way with clients. That doesn't mean letting them tell you what to do, but to put effort into creating work that will benefit the client, and presenting it as such.

Thanks Adrian!

yet another book about graphic design that I want in my lib.

Stijn Wens

Great talking points!

Excellent article, I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

Great, thought provoking list, Adrian. Thanks.

I'd like to disagree with you about #1, though. I do agree with you that designers need to take more responsibility for the way they treat their clients and the client relationship However, I do think that there are better clients and worse clients. The client who invests himself in the design project, is willing and able to put time and thought into his job, and who sees the benefit of giving input and opinions to his designer is a far better client, and will end up with work that he is much happier with, than the client who is unavailable, uninterested and uninvolved, even from day one. Excellent design is a collaboration between designer and client, and a client who doesn't want to participate in the process, either because of his own time constraints, lack of interest in design, or other more pressing priorities could indeed be considered "bad."
Leslie Tane

I can see how point number two: 02: The best way to learn how to become a better graphic designer is to become a client. might be incredibly beneficial. I've noticed a tendency in myself when hiring photographers or illustrators that - if unchecked - I tend to micromanage them, telling them my desired solution instead of properly explaining the problem. Of course, when a client does this we find it annoying, but do we do it when we commission work? Definitely something to think about.
Daniel Genser

Thanks for sharing these excellent points!
lola d.

Thanks for putting us all in a box. This was a rather naive, shallow piece that only seeks to discredit designers. Overarching, general statements about how "designers are" do nothing to help our industry or open the lines of communication between designers and clients. The only purpose of this is to expand the "red state" vs. "blue state" stigma we're so fond of lately. If this is any sign of what's to come in your book, I'll have to say no thanks.

Wow Adrian,
I thought I was the only one who liked to tell it like it is. You certainly didn't pull any punches in this post - I really enjoyed it.

I felt you were right on the money with many of these observations, but I would humbling disagree with you on your first point. Most clients out there are good folks, but there are bad ones out there, and if you freelance for any length of time, you're going to find them.

Clients generally won't come at you like a ravenous badger, but many of them will try to manipulate and bully designers. I received so much feedback from freelancers on this issue that I wrote a book about it. All of that being said, you're right - the designer does have a significant role when projects go bad.

Great insights Adrian.

Jeremy Tuber

With regard to bad designer, bad client, I can count several occasions when the client has insisted on change, for reasons that have made no sense other than, I'm the client and therefore I can. I don't think these people are emotionally scarred by other past designers, they just have it in their makeup to make change, even when change is a backward or side ways step.


I think that note from Mitch will not be the last from a grumpy designer who does not like to be put in a box.

But I enjoyed your post and the message it sends. ESPECIALLY #10. It gives me hope.

Good luck with the book.


Thanks for this great article. It took me a LONG time to learn that being a designer is about being open minded. Only when your mind is open, can you properly entertain all possible solutions.

Sometimes I still can feel my blood pressure rising during a design meeting when the client is "telling" me how to solve a particular problem (make the logo bigger!!). That's when I take a moment, step back mentally, breath, then redirect the conversation back to what the problem is.

What I would love to find out is how other designers deal with this kind of situation when a client insists on giving you a solution. Anyone got a good tip?

Excellent post! Very refreshing and definitely something every designer should read. Thank you!

Thanks for a great post! Number 6 was especially illuminating: "The ability to present an idea is as important as the idea itself."

That's exactly what we're working on right now when bidding on projects -- presenting ourselves and our ideas in a new way. Seeing things from the client's perspective. Tricky stuff, but it has to be done.

01.      There are bad clients and bad designers. You don’t want to deal with either, or be one yourself.
02.      The best way to learn to become a better graphic designer is by doing the work, not writing about it, talking about it, entering competitions, etc.
03.      Educating a client is like telling Kate Moss to stop snorting blow. It is a waste of time, especially ours.
04.      If we want to make money as a graphic designer, get ready to bend over and be a “yes” man/woman.
05.      All talk and no action makes Jack/Jill a “critic”/design writer/blogger.
06.      If it doesn’t look good, it’s for the most part not good. Truth is beauty, beauty is truth, the old saying by Keats goes.
07.      I only know best when I do. Most often I do not. This is strength.
08.      Other designers do not matter. Look at the heroes we grew up with, idolized. Their work is mostly in the rubbish heap now. Be about yourself.
09.      The best way to run a studio is to run it your own damn way.
10.      Goes without saying, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.
11.      When a client says the words “You have complete creative freedom”, make sure to get paid for half of the work in advance, because most likely you’d quit before the job was done because he/she/they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Michael Carson

If there's no such thing as a bad client, how do you explain those brainiacs who signed off on the logo for Den Haag on the other post?

Nice post, it was really productive in its reflection (rather than a ego-stroke or a self-denunciation).

Oh, and it looks like Matthew Black's astute first comment is slowly being proven.

Sound wisdom. I can think of a couple managers I've worked under who would do well to read and heed #9. Leading from behind has always seemed like a wiser approach to me, and if I ever grow to the point of needing employees, that will be my modus operandi. Big egos produce big problems.

I'm going to check to see if I have a brain cancer through google.

Perhaps the original post could be deleted and replaced with Michael Carson's succinct and spot-on reply.

I've been at this for 12 years now. And I can honestly say that your list of points can be divided into two categories—things that aren't actually true, and things that are simple common sense. And good luck in this field if you can't figure out which is which.

I'm getting tired of reading such lousy design writing online. It does nothing for the profession and is a general waste of time for everyone.
Paddy C

One of the best articles on design I've ever read. In a world of Photoshop skills training acting as design discussion, this is the real deal.

Excellent work. I'm subscribing. :)
Josh of Cubicle Ninjas

Cant believe some of the negativity in the comments here from such a refreshingly honest and mature article. Sounds to me like there are a few people who simply cant deal with the fact that -in reality- they have a really poor attitude towards their clients (or more accurately… their critics)

A perfect example…

"I'm getting tired of reading such lousy design writing online. It does nothing for the profession and is a general waste of time for everyone."

Im gonna take a guess that work has not being go too well for you lately Paddy C

Needless to say, nice points made, and I've always got room for yet another design book.
Matthew Lujan

No. 11 is very very true, happens with me all the time, that is each and every time the client tells me "You have complete creative freedom" but they really mean that :), loved the points though, good one
Kailash Gyawali

9: I've worked with owners like that.
11: I've known fellers like that.
Chuck Spidell

So true...

This sounds great on paper (or screen) but in my view it can feel very different. If I were only an empty vessel, or a hump of clay I may have been molded into the perfect designer, who works with good clients (no such thing as a bad client) on great jobs (no such thing as a lousy stinky boring job). Reality is though that I AM prejudiced, I DO like certain things over others, I DISLIKE certain clients and find certain design jobs utterly BORING. I'll acknowledge that this is my problem, though, and there are probably lots of well adjusted designers out there and I may just be not one of them.

So I confess:
I'm Jeffrey, and I'm a prejudiced designer, who thinks some clients are baaaddd, and there jobs are too. (It's a job though, brings in the cash...)

chorus of baaddd designers:
Hi Jeffrey.......

Greetings! :-)

Fantastic Insights. This is what they don't teach in school. At least, not in my school! Thanks for the wonderful knowledge.


Nice list. One we all can identify with. Paradox 11 is one I sometimes run into. Sceptical at heart I always make a point asking more questions, no matter how obvious, to get to the core of what they want. Them saying "You have complete creative freedom", just means they don't know how to articulate what they want.
Egor Kloos

Some are pretty good points, while there are others I don't agree with: no. 7 is one, and I'm explaining why, IMHO:

Of course the designer doesn't know everything, but he is (or should be) more experienced in the field - therefore, as long as he can motivate his choices, he is always right.

The "make the logo bigger" issue is the most common example: in my early days as a designer, I often put huge logos on my layouts, because I thought it was better for the client - more big, more visible. Only in time I discovered I was totally and awfully wrong. The client asking you to make the logo bigger has the same skills you had when you started (perhaps some of you have attended design schools, I started from 0) - that's to say: none.

And, talking about the example you made, let me say that, whenever I go to the doctor, I totally put myself into his hand. There's been an episode of "Dr. House" where a patient comes into the ER with some papers printed from the Internet, claiming he already had the diagnosis. Of course, this is ridiculous - only the doctor can tell you what you have (in the series, the patient was totally wrong), because he is a professional and he knows what he's talking about.

So I pretty much disagree with paradox no.3 as well - in my opinion, the client MUST be educated, or, better said, explained why we have been making our choices.
But, sometimes, there is no explicable reason - how do you explain the elements in a layout are arranged to balance the weight of the page (read white space)? What do you say to a client when he tells you "there's too much space between those two lines"? This is a concept that someone with no design experience cannot understand.

Some web and print layouts you see in the creative community sites are brilliant, some because they're artistic, some because they're perfecly balanced, ect. But it's difficult to explain why even to another designer, let alone to a client.

That said, there are many points I agree with: no. 2, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all very true and no.11, well... that's almost a theorem. :)

Ancient Wrath

Do architects go through these same trials and tribulations?
Do their clients want a "pro" or a non pro to design a building or interior or landscape?

I have to get in on the conversation regarding #1. To say that there are absolutely no bad clients is simply an exaggeration. There are probably about as many bad clients as there are bad designers, simple as that.

I must add though, that when it comes to many "bad clients", the problem is that they have a picture in their mind of what they want and don't know how to communicate it to the designer. I find this especially with clients who are in a creative profession themselves. So, in many cases it's not a problem of bad clients or bad designers, just bad communication between the two.
Sarah G.

How is this list different than the points made in your first book? (which I read cover to cover and loved, btw)

yeah, #1...I'm not so sure about that, pretty unrealistic and preachy imo.

Wow, you do indeed bring up some good points!

John Meisen

I agree with Ancient Wrath about #7...

You don't tell a doctor or lawyer what to do or how he should is job, so why should I accept that a client tells me what and how I should do my work?

And about #1, yes there is bad clients out there. No really, there is.

Great article!
02: The best way to learn how to become a better graphic designer is to become a client. OR a graphic design instructor even just one class you'll be amazed at how much you take for granted.


I think nº 7 is so wrong. Yes, the designer knows best about his trade and he was hired for a reason. That is not to say the client should take his word blindly or the designer should ignore client requests. However if the client wishes to hold the design accountable for the results, he must follow his lead.

The doctor example fits perfectly. If you are sick and go the doctor, he will examine you and tell you to do "A". If you decide to do "B" despite of doctor's advice and it turns out "B" doesn't work. you can't blame the doctor for that.
Ed Peixoto

You do realize the founder of a very large spec design "contest" site has linked directly to this article?

Now a drove of free, unpaid folks who 'dabble in graphics art' can read that while they slave away as suckers propping-up the online spec contest model, the real problem isn't the horrible process. It's not the utter impossibility of working WITH a client (who, in the spec dynamic, is called a "buyer," and who picks a random, usually derivative, often poorly crafted, logo submission like it's a menu item or simple commodity).

Here are the takeaways for these desperate anonymous internet spec souls:

1.No bad clients (apply THAT to the anonymous online spec contest model), only bad designers.
2. Maybe you should submit a spec "contest" and become a buyer yourself too while you're at it.
3. It's not about the money. (Don't worry, or think, about all the unpaid, unbillable hours).
4. Your bland 10-minute logo attempt at facsimile of a faded visual trend isn't awful / inappropriate design. It's been badly presented.

Just thought it was interesting that the point of this article is being twisted to browbeat poor suckers doing the spec design 'contest' thing.

I find this post dismaying in its obviousness. If the graphic design profession is only just now coming to these realizations (realizations that designers in other fields (I work in interactive media) have known for a while), it doesn't speak well to graphic design's self-awareness.

First thing--people are people. There might not be any such thing as a bad client, but there ARE clients with whom a given design (me) can communicate more effectively. Doesn't happen often (twice in fifteen years) but when it does, I understand that the best thing I can do for both of us is be honest about the situation without casting aspersions, bundle up their files neatly, and refer them on to a competent designer.

Second thing--while it's important to love your work, as my old boss (a great designer with whom I still work regularly) says, "There's a point in every job at which the designer turns into a whore." Sounds harsh, but it's a good reminder that at the end of the day it's the client, not the designer, who has to be satisfied. Designer satisfaction is nice, but not central to the process. You don't have to put the piece in your portfolio. Quality is important--but clients often have a clear idea of what they want, and at a certain point in the process it becomes counter-productive to try to communicate better, more interesting ways to achieve their goals. Start out there, yes--but the moment comes when the designer needs to accept that the client has spoken. Which is why it's very, very important for every designer to maintain an active personal creative outlet--a place where all those wonderful ideas can come out and play with no one to slap them down and make them get into neat lines and go inside and do algebra.
Bodie P

I think Michael Carson's comments were very interesting, and "spot on" as Paddy C commented. They were a clever and personal way in which to approach design. Such to the point writing is very seldom seen these days in design writing, a field where one would think as if they paid by the word a la Dickens' novels.


The doctor example fits perfectly. If you are sick and go the doctor, he will examine you and tell you to do "A". If you decide to do "B" despite of doctor's advice and it turns out "B" doesn't work. you can't blame the doctor for that.

Except when people hire designers to do "A", the client and the designer may not have the same understanding of what "A" is.

Clients have particular expectations, demands, requirements - they are paying designers to do something specific. If the client and designer have different assumptions about what this 'something specific' is, then there will be trouble. Since designers know design best, and clients know their needs best, open communication is necessary (thus many of the points in the original post). Designers have design training, so they have the greater responsibility to elicit and clarify what the contract is about. To turn around the comparison, if a doctor makes a bad diagnosis, is it the patient's fault? If a lawyer loses a case, is it the client's fault?

Very sensible list! You quote Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead in item 2. It is even more applicable to item 4, which contrasts Howard Roark, who selfishly pursues the career that he loves, and Peter Keating, who gives up all of his deepest values in pursuit of the admiration of other people.

Money is only valuable to the extent that it is earned honestly and supports one's rational values.
Andrew Layman

"We no longer accept that doctors, lawyers and plumbers have a monopoly on knowledge"

Firstly and obviously, that's a very broad statement, and untrue. If it were true then law would not still be one of the highest paid fields in the world. I like to believe that my doctor, and all doctors, have a share of the monopoly on medical knowledge. And whoever said plumbers had a monopoly on knowledge in the first place?!

Secondly. How does this metaphor even relate to graphic design? None of those professions rely on decisions of aesthetics, they are matters of medicine, law and engineering knowledge, respectively. When a client wishes to have input on a design decision about colour or the size of a logo (to use the ubiquitous designers' complaint), or anything else, you may be a very good communicator (I do agree that verbal skills are important) but if the client doesn't doesn't like the look, colour, size of their sofa, no amount of good communication is going to dissuade them from telling you how they "see it" and want it done. They are, after all, paying for it.

"We have long since learned to question and challenge expert opinion"
This may be so, but questioning and challenging any expert opinion still means that the possible outcome is at your own risk. In medicine and law, that risk could adversely affect your life. In graphic design and plumbing that risk is imperceptible and the consequences are simply whether or not you are happy with the results.


peterme: this is not to prove you wrong on anything like that. But I do think that may want to read this article written in 1971. Hope this helps.
Re: peterme

This posting and it's responses could not be more awesome...truly great information for those of us that didn't know...or needed reminding.

Douglas Polhamius

Nice.... But really graphic designers can't be this stupid! They just can't, I know many and I sure this is common sence!!

You'd think this was the case Mark and I like your optimism, but I work with one of those designers who thinks he knows best. Yes, they are out there and they're usually the ones who haven't got very far in their careers!


Sure, not every situation is simply black or white, and if we like to carry a chip on the shoulder, it would be easy to dig up particularly irritating experiences from the past and argue just how absolutely true some of these points are.

But, I see the underlying theme in these to be humility and an acknowledgment that we can always be improving, we can always be learning more about the clients and causes we claim to be helping with our work. In some of the particularly scathing responses to be posted, there seems to be a lack of that humility and a view of "designer as Auteur," which really isn't what we're here to do. As designers, we're hired to solve someone else's problems and bring clarity to their communications. Although we all get frustrated with some clients or projects, it's good to be reminded of the simple truth that it's not about us, and if it is we're probably in the wrong field.
Matt Lee

Great, great list. I agree with every point.
Oscar P

I think Matt Lee's post is the most sensible and insightful comment I've read so far.
Matt Steel

very very good and true points.... exactly what i thought.

thanks for the post

A nice article, which makes a lot of sense. I especially agree with point two - having our new agency web site reworked by an external graphic designer has certainly given me a glimpse of life from the other side, and made it easier for me to understand some of the issues I encounter when dealing with my own clients.

The one point I don't agree with though, is point 1: There’s no such thing as bad clients: only bad designers.

Some people, just by their nature, are simply not willing or able to compromise on their own ideas in any way, which I'm sure works well in some situations, but not in others. And this is not necessarily because they have been treated badly by designers in the past; sometimes it's just the way they are, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, when your client is one of these personalities (or, god forbid, several of them at one company), it sometimes becomes impossible to steer them towards the best design solution because of their refusal to budge on any decision (no matter how tiny), and you end up producing sub-par work, through no fault of your own.

I am the first to admit that I don't know as much about clients' businesses (or customers) as they do; but if they also assume they know more than me about design, then why employ me in the first place?

I'm sure some will say the situation I describe is the fault of the designer for not being assertive enough, or not having good enough ideas, but sometimes this is plainly just not the case.
Mark Bell

Um. Nothing new in here to anyone with experience and the overall presentation is "holier-than-thou". In fact I find this piece to be rather smug and insulting. Sort of "Jesus preaching to the graphic designers"

Also, you need to read the definition of "paradox".

Paradox has its Greek roots reflected in para meaning 'beyond, past, or alongside' and doxa referring to belief or opinion. One can use paradox to refer to that which goes against or beyond accepted thinking. This usage is consequently listed in the dictionary.

Adrian Shaughnessy used it absolutely correctly.

Right on Matt. As a rookie designer with an ad agency in Miami the first, most important lesson I learned, with the help of a sensational Creative Director and veteran Art Director was to "get over myself." I embraced ideas like a rottweiler, and privately anguished over clients who asked questions like "...why is that line there?" Art school had acclimated me to criticism, but these clients!
Observing senior co-workers, an understanding of my role developed; The importance of understanding the client's business and their goals developed, the stress to showcase my skills was tempered, diminished.
Jim Lund

Seems like a 'half-truth' responses to a bunch of 'half-truth' design myths. Absolutely agree with the nothing new here post. And the idea that somehow blaming the designer is better than blaming the client just seems like bad logic. Sometimes designers and clients are not a good fit, and no one is really to blame, but there was no way to absolutely know ahead of time and the best decision for all involved is a divorce. 'Bad' clients do happen, and sometimes all of the research and helpful collaboration style project management in the world won't change them... you just have to know when / how to cut them loose.

Which isn't to say that bad designers don't happen, but it just seems obvious. Actually this whole article seems obvious, and pedantic and a bit preachy.

As an example any client who wants you to rip off another designer is immediately a bad client to me. I have had conversations where I explain that I'm not willing to plagiarize design, and the client says well that is what we really want, and I express that it probably isn't in their best long term interest to merely imitate another company's solution and the response is that they are unwilling to explore other design options. At that point it is an impasse. I am fine with judging some people as bad / irrational / small minded etc. I allow myself this luxury as a way of facilitating my enjoyment of life. Why should I spend time trying to change the way some money grubbing tool thinks? Just not that interested when there are plenty of awesome clients and great projects I can work with.

I guess if you are blown away by any of the insight in this blog, then good for you... but you've still got some catching up to do.

Interesting read, but #7 can't be true.

Forget about the doctor and plumber analogies. If it were, there wouldn't be a point in going to design school, spending large sums of money on hardware and software, building up a portfolio, staying up late to meet tight deadlines, or [gasp] creating and maintaining a blog about design.

Hi Adrian:
Thanks for a nice article - I think you've made some nice points. Regarding the following:

07: “I’m a professional: I know best.”
I'm in total agreement with you. When I started our design studio, I had a colleague who said we should approach our projects with this attitude - essentially, that we should never have to explain our concepts or design choices, because clients should simply listen and accept.

I vehemently disagree with this notion: clients are paying us to create pieces (large or small) that are a part of their marketing and strategy efforts, and are a visual reflection of who they are as a firm. They SHOULD ask these questions, and as design professionals, we should be prepared to give good answers.

I've found that the best clients were the ones who were active participants - there's a greater sense of satisfaction when the project is finished if the design and client teams work together.

11. When a client says the words — “you have complete creative freedom,” they never mean complete creative freedom.
This would seem true at first blush, except that we just wrapped work on a website for a client who said this to me while interviewing us for the project and actually held himself to it. He even went so far as to say "I find that designers do their best work when they are having fun, so have fun." We did, and we love the piece.

I've been around long enough to know that that will likely never happen again in my professional career. So I count myself lucky to have had that experience.

Thanks for a great article!

I find your article to be misleading although there are plenty of insights to be had.

I agree that designers should have good people skills and they definitely should maintain good client relationships. Designers should be mindful of who they agree to work with.

I don't know what you're trying to achieve by saying that 'bad clients' are entirely down to the designer. I, for one, would never take responsibility for a client's poor behaviour or for anything the client decides to do or say. I can only take responsibility for my own thoughts, actions and emotions. If a client chooses to be an arse then that's not down to me. If he chose to be an arse because of something he dislikes about me then that's still his choice. He could choose to react differently, which would make him a better person in the long run.

If the client gives me more trouble than he and his project is worth after I have done my best to maintain a good working relationship with him, then I ditch him and chalk it up to experience.

The statement you make here about the best way to learn about being a graphic designer is subjective and it's misleading. Sure, it can teach a designer a lot about the client's role within the working relationship and the issues clients tend to have but this kind of thing will not teach a graphic designer how to be a better graphic designer. Instead it will teach about the client's role and other client-related skills, and how you can help the client.

We must educate ourselves about our clients AND educate certain clients about their role within the working relationship (especially if they are first-timers or just inexperienced).


I'm a stickler for detail and I'm very fussy about the quality of the work I produce. I expect others to be the same when I work with them. I do scrutinise my own work to check for mistakes or anything that could be improved. So any client who hires me is guaranteed to get the best of my abilities.

Too often I see lazy designers doing the bare minimum or passing work off as 'professional' (and charging!) when I could easily point out stuff that hasn't been done well etc. I can't stand that kind of thing. It screams out, "I can't be arsed to put more work in when blind fools out there are happy to shell out for sub-standard work!"

So the money is important but the quality of the work produced is top priority. The money only becomes top priority when it's meant to be paid to me i.e. at milestones or at the end of a job. At other times, I focus on the work.

I agree that good verbal skills are very important. So are good written communication skills. So are good listening skills.

Agreed. That is what sketches, presentations, layout/graphical concepts, etc are for. :-)

True, it is unprofessional. It's usually down to massive egos. Clients can also be like that; telling the designer how to design is one scenario. But, one needs to remember that part of the designer's role is to provide solutions for the client's brief. 'People skills,' folks! ;-)

I agree with a lot of what you say but I would like to add that it's down to attitude and perception. Example: Designer A perceives a certain job to be crap, Designer B perceives the same job to be interesting. Designer A develops a negative attitude towards the job while Designer B gets positive and enthusiastic about it.

I can't really comment as I don't lead a team of designers. But one thing I can say is that poor leaders often have ego inflation and that always causes problems; this applies to any kind of teamwork be it sport, design, PR, etc.

If you stand by your principles (as long as they make sense - you'd be surprised at how many people have pointless principles or boundaries that serve no real purpose) and assert your boundaries as a professional (this applies to personal life too) then you'll gain more respect from others in the long run. But you are talking about beliefs, which also touches on principles/boundaries. I recommend reading Catch Basket Concept by Robert Bruce. This will help with beliefs, and that leads to setting up good, meaningful principles/boundaries. It is a spiritual thing but I'd categorise it under personal development.

That's because the majority of them have no idea of what it means to have creative freedom, plus their ego's desire for control soon gets in the way.
Silver Firefly

I'm not sure I get it... these don't seem to be paradoxes at all. (some are valid points to be sure) But they do not contradict themselves and some of them as you state them you seem to agree with and some you seem to feel the opposite is true so I'm a bit confused as to your metaphor. I think it could be a bit more clear.

I get the gist of what you are trying to get across, and I don't necessarily agree with all of it (there are bad clients and we don't all get to choose our clients so it's not always our own fault if we get bad clients). Some of it I do agree with. Interesting read, good conversation starter. There are a lot of good and bad designers out there - like any profession.


Design has always been second nature to me, and well i want it to be my career. I am currently in the Marine Corps, soon to be back in college, just wanted to know, what other courses or experiences, would help me to be a more proficient graphic designer.

Thank you for these thoughtful and clear eleven commandments – to me, they are not paradoxes – of good design. I can not agree more with numbers 4 and 10.
matt ipcar

super interesting, i've been wanting to answer on my blog, but i think the comments are way too funny/interesting/sad that also complement the post. most importantly never take anything personally some clients are assholes, just try to speak their languages to communicate your message. sometimes it's your boss who's stuck in his own bubble and the bubble is getting opaque so you can see him, and where he is, but he can't see you. again, don't take it personally, explain yourself in other people's vocabulary if you have the ability to do so. i really think knowing how to express your ideas with a universal vocabulary works on your advantage. if you are not as gifted with words as you are with graphics, be patient. (^_^)

I think the use of the word "paradox" here is confusing. It would make more sense if each side of the arguments seemed equally true. But it is written in such a way that it seems more like he is trying to prove that the common beliefs are false.

I could see a paradox if both the common beliefs and the arguments against them were presented equally. The idea behind the text is rational, but I think the writing could be better.


A great notice. Thanks Adrian. I've read all the book "how to be a graphic designer without losing your soul" and this post runs on the same line. It is very helpful to me, I'm doing a personal manifesto for my door :) with your post, nice.
Martino Rossi

A few comments on point number 1:
There’s no such thing as bad clients: only bad designers.

There is a strong analog between clients and students. I used to think I had "bad" students. Now I have great students (mostly). What's changed? There's a world of difference in how I feel about teaching and my students, and the experience my students have in class, but I'd be hard pressed to say exactly how I made that change or precisely what is different. I had a yoga teacher who said, "I don't teach yoga; I teach people." Perhaps I now care as much or more about the individuals in my class than about the subject matter?

How this relates to design: I'd be interested to hear how designers have shifted their thinking in relation to clients. How is it that you don't have bad clients? How have you turned jobs into good jobs?

Minor objection: Rather then ending with, "there are only bad designers," it seems more productive to say that there is "only poor communication"—communication entailing listening as well as articulating.

Lastly, even though I see the point about bad clients resulting from bad designers (poor communication), I still can't accept this as a blanket statement—which is why I said, "I have great students (mostly)." It would be self-aggrandizing to think that the whole relationship rests on the designer (or teacher). Still, the point that we have a role in and the ability to positively steer working relationships is a good one.

Thanks for the post.
Miriam Martincic

This was an awesome post. Very eloquently put. I think they were all excellent points, however, I really agreed with your points about verbal skills and about good presentation. These are both so essential and I think their importance is often underestimated. One of the important parts of presentation is having a printer that really works for you. I'm pretty impressed with the possibilities that there are now, created by technological advance and the internet when it comes to printing. I was also quite excited when I found that it's possible to have an online portal for your clients to print off (I found it at: http://www.digitallizard.com/graphic-designer.php)
Looking forward to the next post!

An great thought provoking article which I throughly enjoyed reading. As I continue my preparations to graduate this year reads like this give a great insight into the industry.
Matthew Smith

all of this is so true. I'm graduating from college in about 20 days and even I can agree with this from my own experiences. I hope I become a good designer.

I'm sorry to be a naysayer, but aren't most of these points pretty obvious? What's the great insight here? I bet most designers could rattle off most of these "paradoxes" extemporaneously. It's okay--and occasionally valuable-- to restate, but at least try to be witty or clever about it. Or how about some specific examples?

Adrian Shaughnessy apologizes for offering yet another book on graphic design, as if graphic designers already have too much to read. But I think that's wrong. There aren't too many graphic design books, there are too many *bad* graphic design books. And that's a shame because our practice is confronted with some really big questions that deserve a more thoughtful, nuanced response.

Great article. Too often it is easy to blame the client when something goes wrong. Sometimes it may be true, but there is always two sides to the story.

Re point 11, we refer to these clients as a '2-pixel' client – “Move it a bit to the right, no, wait, move it a bit to the left. Yep, that's it”.

Whilst it is often change for the sake of changing, it is part of the process of allowing the client to be involved in the process. Sometimes annoying, but it IS a team effort after all.
Matt Tibble

I find it interesting that while you think that "verbal skills are as important as visual skills" (point # 5 on your list), this article seems to be a bit lacking in that.

You introduced your list as a collection of opinions "contrary to commonly accepted wisdom." However, you've used a series of headings that do not follow the same structure in arguments. I can only infer that you agree with the statements in headings 1-6 and 10-11, while you disagree with 7-9.

I think you have some very good points, but you have not presented them in the clearest way.

#6: this is why we have a portfolio.

Good article though.
Jonathan patterson

Please, please please tell me when/where/how this book is coming out. Canada, specifically. Vancouver, more specifically. Even more specifically?


No, that's specific enough.
Mark Stuckert

While the points may seem obvious, good to refresh, in this times the customer is king, he who pays the piper calls the tunes. I meet lots of designers who simply ignore the customers wishes/input. Good discussion points

some of this paradoxes have their points to be analyzed, though I can't picture any good graphic or web designer having some of those problems.

Craig Miller

flash web design
Craig Miller

I have a friend in his 50's who cut his design skills with bromides, ruler and knife.

He is always going on about his bad clients, ignorant understanding of clients business and lack of scope documents and staggered payment plan.

I fully agree with your argument, and thanks for helping me put myself into a reality check.


Presently dealing with a difficult client, I keep coming back to this to bring my already high blood pressure down. So, I've finally thrown it into three columns, set in Flama Light and Medium, for a spot on my wall above my desk. (Still looking forward to this future book.)
Matthew Lujan

Very interesting idea, to become a client. May be I should try that in the future.

I wonder if it is similar when I find myself working in team and have to sort of "trust" my friends to design some of the parts of the project. It's not easy to let go of that control of the work.

I understand your point, but must confess you are downplaying the role of designer to the interface between the client and the computer.

Not the expert? I see. Well, I guess I wasted a ton of money going to college. I should have just purchased Photoshop and read 'how to' photoshop blogs to become a designer. I feel special.

And as far as the analogy to the doctor? Certainly a patient may come in with questions, or be prepared, but does this mean that the doctor should then treat the patient from their own internet based diagnosis?

Several items on this list are true, its a given. But really, you can only let a customer tell you to put the steering wheel in the trunk when you are designing before it is your JOB to instruct the client in the art AND science of design.

These are the principles that work for you and I am happy that they do.

And by the way, these aren't really all paradoxes. Perhaps ironies?
Markus Welby

As a graphic designer by hobby only, I found this interesting:

04: If we want to make money as a graphic designer, we must concentrate on the work — not the money.

and felt that it could have been slightly modified to:

04: If we want to make money as a __________, we must concentrate on the work — not the money.

With no loss of accuracy and truthfulness

all except #1 applies to architecture - yes, usually clients turn bad because of the arrogance of the architect/designer, but there are some really unethical developers who try to "get around the law." these are the people you need to watch out for because they will try to take advantage of the architect's stamp and liability insurance.


For everyone who feels "smarter" than someone (anyone) please understand that you are not. Smarter is not a concept that exists in any provable sense.

There is only education, and education is made up of provable, published facts. If you cannot CITE A SOURCE for your knowledge, then you don't know it. Your "professor" or your "degree" is not a source. Sources are books, publications or other documents that can be shared.

Share them.

This post seems to be run over with spam haiku's.
Anyway, here is another paradox you might enjoy...

- - - Compliance and submission are the qualities of mediocracy, yet too much ego will kill your talent. - -
Lars Geist

- - - Compliance and submission are the qualities of mediocracy, yet too much ego will kill your talent. - -

Lars – that's two ends on a spectrum (Though I suppose I'm replacing mediocracy with mediocrity). Somewhere in the middle is a quality worth cultivating called Assertiveness, in the gray area between Submissive and Aggressive
Bruce Colthart @bccreative

nice insight and information here. I often met paradox number 11. When a client says the words — “you have complete creative freedom,” they never mean complete creative freedom. Whatever you show them, they will find a problem with. Happens every time.

This is so true!! the clients keep on asking revision after revision!

Where can we find/purchase the book?
Janet Franklin

This is all far too 'black and white' and I believe some of the comments posted here are much nearer the mark.

Those that can, do ... those that can't teach ( or in this case, write a book )


Great post. I posted a link to this page on my daily design blog:

Ted Rex

05: For designers, verbal skills are as important as visual skills.

So true, and it's amazing how many so called designers out there can't even hold a phone conversation.
Arena Creative

I've ready these years ago.. are these yours??
Hert Zollner

DEAD ON! Thank you for putting it in writing...
Justin Brady

A pair a doxes, is better then one, and ten is even better.

Fantastic article. Especially enjoyed #11... That's soooo common now :)

Nice post...thanks for sharing...
Shamima Sultana

jajaja totally true

Great article and some really important points made here. Many people really under estimate the role of the designer and the many balances needed in order to be a great one!
Gareth Coxon - Dot Design

Very insightful, i will pass this on the my colleagues for sure.
I look forward to reading the book.

Many thanks,
Cookie Creative

Point no. 2 is so very true.

A few years ago I hired an architect to design my vacation house. Not graphic design but the process was the same. It was terrifying to hand over your hard earned cash to buy something so intangible.

I finally understood my clients anxieties and I am a better design for it.

Thanks for sharing this.
Jeffrey McKay

Really interesting article. I look foward to getting my hands on that book.

Rob Hanley

Great article, learned quite a bit from it as i am a starting freelance designer :)
Johnny Hughes

I love this philosophy.

It is all client oriented.

Unfortunately, in any art, there are designers who (like Frank Lloyd Wright ) never thought of the client. As a matter of fact Frank made it a point to tell the client that he or she had nothing to say about the finished or the planning.

In Frank Lloyd Wright's case, he could have used a few pointers. As famous as he is, the buildings themselves do very little to raise the human spirit, except for perhaps one or two of his designs that the owners refused to follow his counsel with regard to the painting (The Guggenheim).

This art on the other hand comes from a philosophy of client knowledge, and that is very much to your credit.

We would like you to visit our do follow blog to obtain a backlink from us.

Dr. Ann Voisin
ToysPeriod is a leading online shop specializing in lego sets and model railroad equipment.
Dr. Ann Voisin

Ok this is probably the longest reply to an article that I have written in a long time.

I will start by saying Thank You Adrian Shaughnessy.
Although the points you make are obvious to me when I read them, I can also say that I work with people in the customer service industry who need to be reminded/educated on these points.
And I will also make a preemptive admission that, yes, I too have been guilty of ignorance to some of these points in the past and have needed reminding.

I should clarify that this is not so much a reply to the article as a reply to its comments.

Here goes...

Have you never been guilty of being the "bad" designer?

I think the point of the article is not to apply a generalization to all designers just to say that the majority are guilty.

I have the privilege of a day job where customers are almost constantly telling me the solution that they think they need.
I have found the best technique is just to ask them what problem they need the solution to solve. It shows that you are interested in helping them and that you want to help them be successful not just give them what they want.

Michael Carson:
I think you may have missed your happy pill today.
Sure your points are valid from your point of view just as mine are valid from my point of view. But your points are so negative.
If those views work for you, great.
Not sure if they would work for many others.
I don't think I would like working in your design "team" very much...

Paddy C:
I can appreciate your point of view here but I would like to ask what other customer service jobs you have worked in?
I can certainly apply this article to retail customer service as much as to design customer service.
I imagine if you take out the reference to design and replace it with any other industry that deals with customers that it would still be relevant.
I would love it if you could direct me to some of your online articles that you have written.

Jeffrey (the "bad" designer):
Thanks Jeffrey,
I to have my days when customers bug the living daylights out of me. But I am also (as you seem to be) aware that it is not their fault. Mainly because they do not know any better.

I would like to suggest that the "monopoly on knowledge" may be suggesting that there is simply more open realization of the difference between deliberate vs casual education and experience.
I think perhaps the Plumber is the perfect comparison. As you said due to the lack of risks involved with both plumbing and design compared to medicine and law.
Do you know enough to be a plumber? (kudos to you if you have "studied" it at any time)
Could a non plumber lay the pipes for a house?
Sure it can be done, just like any one with a computer and MS Paint can "design" something. But the results will not be the same as if someone with a professional level of knowledge (and experience) were to do it.

I would also like to add that if you explain the reasons why you think something should be different to how they want it, customers in the most part are very understanding (not saying that there wont be some who are not).
See my point bellow regarding communication for further clarification.

Re: Peterme:
I followed the link you provided...

Not Found

The requested URL /thoughts_graphisIntro.shtml was not found on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

Matt Lee:
"I see the underlying theme in these to be humility and an acknowledgment that we can always be improving, we can always be learning more about the clients and causes we claim to be helping with our work."

Matt Steel:
I think Matt Lee's post is the most sensible and insightful comment I've read so far.
AMEN again

"but aren't most of these points pretty obvious? What's the great insight here? I bet most designers could rattle off most of these "paradoxes" extemporaneously."
See my note about common sense bellow

I would like to offer an addition to the thinking contained in this article.
There are very few intentionally bad customers/clients.
"We" sometimes feel that they are bad.
There are very few intentionally bad designers.
What there is plenty of however is human beings with communication skills which are (for any number of reasons) lacking.

Something that I think a Lot of us forget is that "COMMON" sense is only common to those who have it.
Look out the window and watch people for a while and you will notice that is not so common any more.

Thank you all for one of the best discussions I have read in a long time. Even some of the less educated responses are a great testament to the world of free speech that exists online.


No real insights imho, and some of them somewhat contradict themselves.. " standing up for what we believe in — ethics, morality, professional standards, even aesthetic preferences — is the only way to produce meaningful work", but "there are no bad clients"...

the only thing I find meaningful is indeed that you can make good work out of lousy projects and presentation is sometimes the key, not what is presented...

Bottom line is, you have to do your best, and hope for an understanding client who doesn't let a nice, goodlooking, balanced design plummet because of his ego and must-change-stuff-to-be-in-control mentality..
Tom Hermans

I like this part even more-- "... the designer’s primary motive has to be the quality of the design and not the size of the fee. When the focus is on the money, the work is usually poor".
Oz Durham

A client who wants you to present at least ten mockups, expects you to go through twenty revisions, gives you two weeks to deadline, and then tries not to pay you because "they're just not satisfied" is, sorry, a BAD client.

Other than that, some good pointers in this post.

I really enjoyed reading this and found it interesting...

In about a few weeks I will be graduating, having a BFA in graphic design. I found this post pretty funny and insightful. It deemed me of the "joys" that I will soon be encountering in. It seems that you have a lot of empathy upon others, and value personal growth, I respect that.

The only problem I have is that I feel that your title is a little misleading. "Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes" should be called "Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes while Working"...I was kind of expecting things about theory or other deeper issues, possibly like "Chicken and the Egg:Graphic Design and Culture" haha...

...other than that GREAT STUFF
Aaron Michael Lambino

awesome information. If you're designing packaging or web pages, always remember that less is more. Stay away from distracting patterns and stick to soft images or solid colors for backgrounds. And NEVER use Times New Roman! regards Renaissance Costumes

Enjoyed reading this article and agree with all 10 (11) paradoxes. Thanks for sharing!
Mayank Bhatnagar

Hey great article you have penned down. Have taken several tips from it and will abide by the following.

Thanks for the article....

Nice post

As a designer myself I find it very entertaining when I find a great pieces like this that can truly speak to me like no other form of media can, simply because we are both designers. It's not that the article was particularly entertaining as much as it was something that spoke to me in a way that my friends and family just couldn't because they don't understand what it's truly like. Anyways cheers mate on another one hit out of the park.
Richardo Mickealangalo

I'm sure I'm going to read a book by someone who has only a kind of vague idea of what a paradox is (hint: it's not something you think is true, but is not true), and also does not know how to count to 10 (hint: start at 1 and stop at 10).

Graphic design is a craft with many opportunities for subtlety and exactness. I liked the Paradoxometer prototype, but the article did not fulfill its design promise, and nor will the book.
a thinking reader

These are all things that I have been coming across over the past few years -- it is good to have some expanded thought and perspective on typical situations. A lot of it sounds like myself at times, and I think this is what I needed at the moment to bring me back down to Earth and give me the perspective I need. I will probably keep this one somewhere in my back pocket for quite some time.


Wow, these are all so amazing
Photoshop Clipping Path

Great post, so many good points and insights that is seen in every designers day to day life!
Aswad Charles

Great read


Dude, please tell me that you're going to write more. I notice you haven't written another blog for a while (I'm just catching up myself). Your blog is just too important to be missed
iron furniture

Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very difficult to get that „perfect balance“ between superb usability and visual appeal. I must say that you’ve done a superb job with this. Also, the blog loads super fast for me on Safari. Exceptional Blog!

Indian Handicraft

Indian Handicraft

On several of your points, I agree, however... we musn't forget that there is no real "rule" when it comes to being a designer. Not all designers are equal and we all know that not all clients are created equal. Sometimes, despite your greatest efforts to be professional, one can encounter a client who is on a mission to be domineering, difficult, unavailable, uncommunicative, unresponsive, refusing to hear what things ARE and are NOT possible. Sometimes clients sign your contract only to renig on the terms later on in the process arguing that they never agreed to the terms. Never you mind that they "signed the contract". The bottom line: There is no real "one way" to put all designers into a box of either right or wrong... professional or unprofessional... good or bad. For me, every single project is a whole new experience. I will never put my clients into a cookie-cutter position. I will always do my best to be communicative, available & helpful... and I will almost always still be faced with some static. I disagree with your point about "education clients". It isn't until I actually DO educate clients that things go more smoothly.

Very good advice, advice that should be tattooed on every Graphic Designers arm, thank you for this insightful information.
erica elizaldi

#10 is a given. #9 should be the reality!

Enjoyed your list. It probably wouldn't hurt to read it once a week.


Jim Dasher

Regarding rule #1: Bad clients are the result of bad designers.

If the designer is prepared with a proper contract, a proper presentation of what to expect and how the process works, asks the right questions when qualifying the client in the prospect stage and is prepared to fire the client or add an aggravation tax to the fee, then the number of bad clients they receive will be greatly reduced. It isn't fool proof, but it sure makes life much easier by being picky about who you take on. Can't do that you say? Then learn how to market, network and sell.

I spent 10 years in sales before changing careers into design. All freelance and independents need sales skills if they plan to make it past the ramen noodle stage.


This is a great article.

I'm a designer 2 years out of school and currently work for #09. Its discouraging being part of a creative team that knows that none of our ideas will be considered and none of our work will ever be approved or presented to the client. The confidence in my skills as a designer is very low, and my loyalty to the company is non-existent. I'm counting the days until i can find a new job.

There is mentorship, there is leadership, and then there is being an abusive control freak.

If the designer is prepared with a proper contract, a proper presentation of what to expect and how the process works, asks the right questions when qualifying the client in the prospect stage and is prepared to fire the client or add an aggravation tax to the fee, then the number of bad clients they receive will be greatly reduced. It isn't fool proof, but it sure makes life much easier by being picky about who you take on. Can't do that you say? Then learn how to market, network and sell.
John moe

"01: There’s no such thing as bad clients: only bad designers."...

This is where I would have liked to have stopped reading. There are plenty of bad clients. If you don't agree let me hire and use you...then not pay you. :)

Good post. This will increase the creativity of the designers http://www.graphicdig.blogspot.com/
Graphic Dig

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