By: Lucia Conchello
“I know this was approved, but we have more edits.”
At one point in a designer’s life, they are faced with a job; a job that starts just like any other job. Eventually, it gets final approval from the client. But if horror movies have taught us anything, it’s that nothing says dead for long. The bad guy always jumps back up for one last scare. And just when the designer was about to close their email, pack up and go home, DING a new email rises up like a hand from the grave. It’s the same job that was already approved!! The words from the email ring out “Sorry, I know this was approved, but we have a few more edits to make.” Edit after edit, the job won’t die! No matter how many text changes or content reflows the designers throw at the job, it just won’t die. The project has zombified, and the designer realizes they might not get out of this alive.
“Can you finish this in 4 hours?”
It was a calm crisp autumn Friday. The leaves were barely moving across the October streets and sidewalks outside. The only sounds heard are mouse clicks, the scraping of styluses across drawing tablets, and the furious clicking and clacking of keyboard shortcuts, as the designer works furiously hoping to leave early for the weekend. Among the numerous edits and “Have you tried this new spam service?!” emails the designer sees one little email, subject line: URGENT! The client needs this new small job done today. Looking at the clock they figure they can fit it in and get to work. As they’re working though, edits come in from a client who desperately needs them done before their noon meeting! While the designer is responding to that email, another one comes in! Urgent! New job! Then another! And another one! Edits that need to be done ASAP! Copy changes that are top priority! Before the designer even knows what’s happening they’re being surrounded by a hungry swarm of urgent emails desperately trying to drain their Friday life force! The only option left for the designer and their computer is to fight off this horde of urgent jobs. Can they do it before the clock runs out? Will they ever escape?
“I don’t know, I just don’t like it.”
For graphic designers, feedback is essential to establishing a good workflow. Receiving an email with direction, thoughtful criticism, and suggestions can make the day of a graphic designer go smoother than butter onto a warm slice of toast. Work gets done faster, less emails need to be sent out, and the path forward to the end of the job is further illuminated. But sometimes there are jobs that start out without a clear path. The content isn’t approved yet, the format isn’t established, and/or no design guidelines are provided. Blindly, the designer stumbles forward with nothing but their innate talent and intuition on their back to guide them. When the client comes back with feedback there is a small ember of hope that their feedback about the content, hierarchy, layout, aesthetic, etc. will guide the way. But instead they are confronted with a mere ghost of feedback. “I don’t like it.” When asked why and for further specificity, the client responds with an “I don’t know, I just don’t like it” echoing in the dark. No matter how hard the designer looks, the feedback cannot be found. The designer has to brave the project alone and figure out how to survive this job on their own wits.
“Can you make it pop?”
The busy graphic designer goes about their day, going over edits, writing proposals, and starting new jobs. Everything is normal, then an email comes in from a client with the the words “Can you make it pop more?” At first they don’t think much of it. Its vague and not helpful, but it’s the only time they’ll ever hear it. Or so they think. Suddenly during a client call for another job, the manager says “It needs more pop.” There it is again! What does that even mean? Is it the layout, the hierarchy, the color pallet? An hour later an email comes in with the feedback “Make it more visual.” To clarify, the client then sends another email saying “The design is not visual enough.” Another email comes in asking “Is there any way to Jazz it up?” The designer is beginning to loose their mind! They turn to their coworkers to get some feedback. They look onward with a glazed look “Maybe if you made it pop more.” Deep fear begins to swell inside the designer. Are they the last human left alive still immune to vague feedback? How much longer until they too fall victim to the invasion of vagueness?
“Can you fill the white space with this?”
One of the pillars of graphic design is white space. It is ingrained into the souls of every graphic designer. They know that white space isn’t wasted space, it is another piece of the layout; the way the sky is another piece of the landscape. Not all clients understand this, however. When the client sees space around the title, they ask the designer to make the title bigger, to fill the white space around it. The designer’s eyes widen, but they do it anyways. But when the client sees the emptiness under the title, they send over a four sentence long subtitle. The designer finds a way to accommodate the hefty subtitle and retain some white space balance. But the client sees that the top corner is open and vulnerable. They send a busy image the designer must fill the space with. Their hand begins to tremble while dragging the image into the space. Now the client wants to insert an entirely new section. The designer’s heart pulses a little harder as they now have to shrink and rearrange the layout. But now the client wants more icons throughout! The titles need to be bigger! A drop of sweat rolls down the designers forehead, their palms are clammy. The once nice, clean, and open design is now a busy and chaotic mess that looks like a poltergeist had thrown content at. The sight of it is haunting. But the client loves it.
“We don’t have a big budget, buuut we’ve got tons of work coming your way.”
It’s a quiet October day. The graphic designer is just about finished with all their current standing jobs. No jobs are lined up afterwards. The designer ponders where they can look next. They get up to pour a warm cup of coffee while they think about it. As the water runs, they try to remember some clients from earlier in the year. The office is quiet save for the sound of the percolating coffee. Suddenly, like a hollow knock from destiny, the email notification dings, echoing through the office.. Setting the coffee pot down, the designer turns to face their computer from across the office. No emails were expected today. Is there an urgent change? Is it spam? They approach with trepidation. The enticing subject line reads “Looking for Graphic Designer For our New Job”. The coincidence is too good to be true! Emails start going back and forth about the details. The graphic designer sends over the official proposal. “We took a look at the proposal you sent over. It seems good.” This is when the designer discovers that it is too good to be true. “But we should mention at this point in the negotiation that our budget for this job is small. But when this hits it’ll be really big!” Half of the budget for twice the amount of work was offered. Once the designer shows signs of hesitation, the potential client begins to desperately sweeten the pot. “We’ll give you a bonus check once the revenue passes this point!” The designer is not too convinced. “You can have a 4% share of the company!” “We will have so much more work for you after this!” “Once this project is done we may keep you on retainer!” The promises keep coming! Will the designer fall for the trap and work for half their budget!?
“Photoshop quit unexpectedly. Click Reopen to open the application again.”
The sounds of cracking knuckles permeate the silence and the graphic designer begins the first round of concepting for the new web design job. It is a slow start. At first nothing is working, but the designer pushes through the swamp of their initial ideas. After a hard battle, they find that they’ve entered a land of flourishing creativity and imagination. Inspiration is raining everywhere. So many good ideas are flowing out onto the screen. There are about 20 art boards in their photoshop file now, each one just as good as the next in their eyes. They’ve never been prouder of anything. Deep into their work, the clock hands rush forward, more and more concepts and variations are created. Soon enough it is the end of the day, it’s already dark and raining. The designer takes in the bounty of today’s hard work. Ready to save their immense progress, they press down on the command key, their index finger almost touches the S. Lightning erupts from the sky and the dark room is flooded with light for a fraction of a second. Thunder rumbles through the floors of the building. In the darkness that follows, the only thing visible is a lonely window with a yellow triangle in the middle of the desktop. “Photoshop quit unexpectedly.” There is nothing but the sound of the rain stabbing into the silence as the designer stares emptily at the words in front of them. You can see the sinking shadow of the designer cast by computer light as they crumble into despair at all they’ve lost today. It was as if their entire day of work was just a dream.
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