Graphic designers often get ridiculous or demanding requests from clients. We can laugh at some, but others are cringe worthy. Find out 11 ridiculous client requests and how to respond to them, so that you leave your dignity and respect intact.
I wanted to do a funny (yet not-so-funny) episode about things that clients often ask us graphic designers and how designers can reply to these requests while leaving their dignity and respect intact.
As you know, sometimes being a graphic designer is hard. We often get demanding requests—sometimes disrespectful ones for that matter—or some that make us sit back and go hmmmm…
Clients and designers don’t always speak the same language, and sometimes we get a chuckle from certain requests.
They also might think it’s a fun, easy job or think it’s about making things look “pretty.” As designers, we need to acknowledge the request, educate and respond professionally.
They don’t do this work every day, and what we do seems to be elusive to most people. I mean, I think most of my friends still don’t understand what a graphic designer does.
We can’t always laugh about these things when we’re in the moment. But we can laugh about some things later on—not all of them but some of them. Some may make you still cringe.
Let’s get into 11 crazy client requests and how to respond to them.
1. “Can you do it for less?”
Some clients will ask if you can do it for less.
Some may simply be looking for cheap. Some cannot help but feel the need to nickel and dime. Some are bullies who just want to push your boundaries. None of them is your ideal client.
Others who ask you to do it for less may really want to work with you but simply can’t make the investment, although my typical experience with people who respect my expertise and cannot afford it or budget that right now don’t usually ask this. They usually say they will get back to me after they’ve come up with it—and they have.
If you’re asked this, there are ways to accommodate them without sacrificing your integrity or position as an expert.
You can say: “Sure, I can do it for less. What can we remove from the scope, or can we do it over a longer timeframe? Or could we do it in phases instead to spread out the full, initial investment?”
2. “Can you do it by tomorrow?”
Another question you might get is, “Can you do it by tomorrow?” This can be a huge red flag, especially if this is a prospect, not an existing client.
It could mean they’re unorganized. It could potentially mean more than that. Maybe they don’t respect your expertise or they’re trying to take advantage.
Maybe a few times from an existing client is OK. Things come up.
But when it’s all the time or when it’s from a prospect, beware—unless they’re willing to pay for it, because what they’re asking for you to do is drop everything for them.
Just the other day, I got a request from a prospect to get something done before the next day.
I keep normal business hours. It was 3 PM. So that meant I would have needed to get a signed contract, money up front and get the work done before 5 PM. How was that going to happen?
A long time ago, I had a client for many years where it seemed everything was needed immediately. I got sick and tired of being their monkey. They treated me like an employee, not the expert I wished to be seen as. They were never willing to pay for it, but they always wanted top priority. I got fed up and fired them.
The types of clients where everything they request is an emergency (it’s not heart surgery!) diminish the value of the work, thinking it should be quick and easy, whether it is or not. They also rush you and that may mean you don’t do your best work.
3. “Can you make the logo bigger?”
“Make the logo bigger” is a common request from clients that easily earns an eye roll.
I haven’t gotten this in a long time, thankfully, but when it happens, I assess how the logo is being used.
Once, it was in a running header in a brochure. I explained that the purpose was not to showboat the brand, that it served only as a reminder of the brand. It was already much larger on the cover, where it needed to be to showcase the brand and say, “This is who this is from.”
If you get this request—if! I know you will, so it’s a matter of when, not if—you could respond by asking the reason for the request.
Do they feel it’s not prominent enough?
Maybe it’s on a background where it doesn’t have a lot of contrast. Maybe there is a lot of other text near the logo that is competing with it.
Assess the situation and provide a response that addresses the underlying concern, which may or may not mean the logo needs to be bigger.
4. “Can you make it pop?”
“Make it pop” is a bit of a comical and vague request. What does “make it pop” really mean? Designers have pondered this question since the beginning of time. It means different things to different people.
Does it mean to use bright colors?
Does it mean to make something bigger?
Does it mean to make something stand out?
Does it mean to add a drop shadow or an outline?
Does it mean to add a more contrasty background?
It’s anyone’s guess, really. So it’s usually best to ask the client what they mean, what they perceive to be the issue.
5. “Can I send you a draft to get started?”
Clients are often trying to be helpful when suggesting they send you the copy to get you started.
But, as you know, the content drives the design. Design is not decoration, divorced from the content. So we must educate them about that.
Plus, if they change the copy, it can mean there will be rework—a lot of checking for the differences in copy or laying it out all over again, or rearranging the design or layout to fit the revised copy.
I remember working on this awful brochure many years ago where the client decided to rewrite everything on like the third draft or something. It changed so much in the layout.
So when a client asks me this, I say, no and explain why it’s problematic. But if they ever want to send me a draft to review for estimating purposes, that is actually helpful.
6. “Can you make it look just like this?”
Clients may ask you to make a logo or a design “look just like this.”
They may say this because they think they are trying to be helpful by bringing you the solution. They don’t realize their personal tastes are subjective and may not be appealing to their target audience, which is who you’re actually designing for.
But what works for another company’s branding doesn’t necessarily work for another. What they think about another company’s design may be that the design is on target for that brand.
Plus, there’s a thing such as copyright infringement. So you’ve got to educate them about this.
7. “Can you use these images I found online?”
“Can you use these images I found online?”
A client reveals they just found images from a Google images search. I can hear you screaming. They won’t be high enough resolution for print, first off.
But there’s a bigger issue here—copyright.
We must educate clients about this before the design process. Tell them where they can legally find images online or that you will find them.
It’s also a good idea to protect yourself from these situations too. I have to preface this with “I am not a lawyer.” But in my contracts, I say that clients must have gotten permission to use any copy or images they send me.
8. “It shouldn’t take long.”
“It shouldn’t take long” can instill fury into the heart of any designer. You work hard and don’t always get taken seriously.
We graphic designers can be good at making the job seem easy, so clients assume a lot of things are a quick fix.
“It shouldn’t take long” is akin to “I don’t want to pay much for this.”
You can respond to this with “I’ll send you an estimate.” That says, “I will figure out how long it will take” or “How long it takes doesn’t matter. It will cost this much.”
9. “I’ll know it when I see it.”
“I’ll know it when I see it” is like a constantly moving target, and you want to avoid it at all costs.
“I’ll know it when I see it” often means “Change the design until you appease me.” But the design is not about that person. It’s about their audience.
You can usually avoid subjective opinions by creating a creative brief at the beginning of the project that focuses on the client’s goals, audience and needs. That way, you have something objective to refer back to and say, “Remember we talked about how the goal is for the business needs to look more modern? Well, using Papyrus wouldn’t help that.”
10. “We have just one last change.”
When “We have just one last change” is uttered by a client, it is perhaps a curse that that will absolutely, 100% guarantee that will not be the last edit.
You may make that one small change free.
The next thing you know, you hear: “Oh, Bob reviewed this and found another edit we need here,” or “Oh, while you’re making that change, can you make this one too?”
Here’s where we go from the “final” proof to “final-final” and then to “final-final-final.”
One change becomes many. Files have to be re-output.
That free edit you made turns into an hour or more of edits that you should be charging for.
When a client has done this, I have requested they sign an approval form and submit it back to me acknowledging this is the final, approved version. Give them a small hoop to jump through to get them to stop and think through if this is final or not or does someone else need to review it.
11. “Can you design this in Word?”
You’ll love this next one.
While it’s a good idea for clients to use a consistent design across their marketing materials—and that does include Word—Word is not a design program, and it doesn’t help that it’s so clunky to use.
So I know you’re ready to scream when you hear “Can you design this in Word?”
I feel you. But I am going to tell you how to do this, and you will never ever hate designing for Word again, let me tell you.
When I gave this tip at CreativePro Week this year, jaws dropped. Designers cheered.
OK, so let me share it.
All you have to do is:
- Design the document in InDesign.
- Export to PDF.
- Open the PDF in Acrobat and export to Word format. When you do that, click the gear icon to adjust the settings. Click “retain flowing text,” and your headers and footers will be set up like that in the Word file.
- Open it in Word, and you will see.
Next time you get asked for a Word document, try this.
You can thank me later.
I know there are many more I didn’t even get into. Let me know in a comment. What client request makes you cringe when you hear it?