Annoyed Graphic Designer

Things you should never say to a designer

Designers are a strange breed. They speak an odd ‘designer’ language and have mystical software that most people don’t use and might not understand. On top of this their brains are wired up differently so there can sometimes be a breakdown in communication.

If you work with designers, and you want things to run smoothly, there’s some things that you probably want to avoid saying.

Don’t take this too seriously, but here’s a few examples:

“I’ll know what I want when I see it, so can you create lots of versions?”

Would you visit a Savile Row tailor and say “Can you make me five suits? When I see them I’ll choose one and pay for just that one.”? Like a tailor, a designer puts a lot of time and care into their work, so this suggestion is never going to be received well. The design process will be far smoother if you first develop a detailed brief that helps the designer to understand what you are looking for and what the project needs to achieve - what’s the goal? They will help you with this if you wish.

“We haven’t written any copy yet, but can you design something for us to look at?”

For the best results a design should always be built around the content rather than trying to shoehorn the content into an existing design. Taking a design and trying to re-arrange it to fit the copy can be a tricky and time consuming exercise for a designer. Ultimately this will increase the turnaround time and probably increase the project cost too. Try getting the copy as close to complete as possible before asking your designer to get started… it will keep everyone happy.

“Can you grab the logo from our website?”

Logos have to be a specific resolution to look their best in your design. The best way to ensure quality reproduction is to supply your logo in a vector format (read more about that here). The original designer of your logo should be able to provide you with an appropriate file if you don’t have one.

“Can you do something really quick for me?”

Often what seems like a quick adjustment to a design, could involve quite a lot of work. Designers want to feel like you appreciate them and their work, they’re a sensitive bunch. So, instead of suggesting something is ‘easy’ for them, perhaps it’s best to ask them how long your alterations will take. They’re pretty good at giving estimates in terms of time and costs.

“Can you supply that in a format we can edit?”

If a designer supplies their original files, you’ll need specialised software to edit them. But, a designer’s main concern is how you might change their carefully crafted and well though out design piece. Asking a designer to supply the artwork in Word format is probably worse. If you need to make regular edits to a design piece there’s probably a better solution. Ask your designer for advice… this is far from a new issue for them.

“Can’t you just Photoshop it?”

Photoshop is incredible but, even in the hands of a digital magician, it can’t do everything… some things are technically impossible. And, just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Some effects and retouching choices might be a mistake in the context of the design piece. Ask your designer for feedback on your idea and they will happily guide you on what will and will not work.

“Can I make one more change? This will be it, I promise.”

You’ve made lots of tweaks and changes already, and that’s ok. But, you and your designer both know that there will probably be more to come… so why not be up front about it. Graphic Designers are often short on time, just like you. While they want to help you and produce something great for you, they really appreciate an acknowledgement that their time is valuable. Some clients put it this way: “I’m sorry, but I’ve found another change I’d like to make. Could you please tweak this for me and feel free to add some extra time for these alterations to your invoice”. The most efficient way to deal with changes is to compile a list and hand them to your designer in one go.

“Can you make it look exactly the same as this (another designer’s work)?”

No designer should be ok with copying someone else’s work, and you shouldn’t ask them to. But, you can point out what you like about the design you’ve found, giving specific details. This is actually a very useful addition to a comprehensive design brief.

“I found this image using Google, can you use it?”

This is not a good idea. In line with the previous point, you will land yourself in all sorts of legal trouble if you use someone else’s work without their permission. And rightly so. When you can get stock images for around £6 each why would you risk it.

“Can you get this to me tomorrow?”

It’s true that some designs can be crafted quickly, but that is not the norm and neither should it be. Every project has it’s own requirements and every designer has their own creative process. For the best results it’s probably best not to force this process to move at an unrealistic pace. If you’ve found a designer you’d like to work with, tell them about your time constraints and ask them if they think it’s achievable.

“Another designer has quoted me half of that. Can you match it?”

There’s no special formula for determining if a designer’s rate is competitive or ‘fair’. Every designer has a unique blend of strengths and abilities, so it’s hard to compare them fairly. Generally speaking though, you get what you pay for. We all like to negotiate a good price, but suggesting a rate that is much lower than normal, while expecting the same quality of work is a good way to offend a designer.

“I’ve just realised that I also need these other things. Can you do that?”

You’ve prepared a brief, accepted a quote and your designer is busy creating your design piece in answer to the brief. If you then add additional items to the brief and expect the time frame and cost to remain the same you might find that your designer gets upset with you. This is where a full, well thought out brief is your friend. If you realise that you need to expand the brief during a project you’ll need to work out a new time frame and budget for the work.

“Can you make it pop?”

Descriptions like ‘pop’ mean different things to different people. Until some mind reading equipment hits the market, you’ll have to be more specific. Try to make it clear what you are looking for, perhaps even sharing examples of something similar to what you’re looking for with your designer.

“I can’t pay you, but you’ll get a lot of exposure. Is that ok?”

Publicity is good, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Sorry.

“I assume I can have unlimited revisions?”

Lots of designers will state how many revisions are included in the quoted price, because otherwise revisions could be endless. Your designer wants to work with you to get your project as close to perfect as possible, but changes take time to make and the more alterations you ask for the longer a project will take.

“How much does a website cost?”

Every website project is different, so the answer isn’t quite as simple as that. You may as well ask “how much is a car”? The answer depends on lots of factors so the details need to be established first. Whether it’s a website project or some other design piece, your designer will want to discuss the details before supplying a quote. If you get as much detail together as possible before asking a designer for a quote you will receive a much more considered and accurate estimate.


Most designers will be happy to guide you through the design process and answer any questions you might have, so don’t be afraid to ask. If you brief your designer well, have realistic expectations and build a mutual respect for each other, you can expect the best from them.

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