“Designer Rage” is a phrase we like to use that describes the anger, frustration, and stress that designers can feel when they work with clients who don't understand design, yet fail to trust that we do.
As with any field, there’s a necessary knowledge and focus gap that creates the need for this industry in the first place. (Nobody wants their CFO to spend their day designing marketing collateral.) However, there is a unique emotional frustration involved with design needs for business, particularly given the creative, communicative, and budgetary aspects.
This article is focused mainly on helping those of you who work with designers to understand the common causes of our “rage” — as well as offer advice for how to minimize these feelings in your client-designer relationship. Here are some classic scenarios we would prefer to avoid at all costs:
If there is one thing that can make a designer lose our tempers quicker than anything else, it is poor feedback or a lack of details. When I say poor feedback, I don’t mean pointing out changes that need to be made that designers might not like to hear; rather, it’s the unclear, non-specific, “I don’t like it” response.
Even if this is true — maybe you truly don’t understand yet what you might not like about the work — this kind of vague response comes across as a harsh response to the design work presented, without providing any helpful direction. It doesn’t offer any details as to why the design isn’t working, or how it can better meet expectations.
When providing feedback, it is important to offer details, since we as designers need that information to unlock the potential of the task at hand. This is why we typically engage in a heavy, in-depth creative brief process. Such requests may sometimes come across needy, but they definitely allow us to find better solutions and see the work in a different light, leading to better creative.
As a designer, I take into account the timeline for the project as I begin to prescribe creative. Timeline changes affect everyone, and the closer the deadline gets, the higher the stakes become for the project. So when last minute revisions come in, it makes things exceptionally stressful.
There are definitely unforeseeable items that get a pass, but it is the requests that clearly could have been made earlier that designers truly despise. Don’t be afraid of creating some tension with early-and-often communication — we promise the working relationship stays stronger when clients communicate information and needs as soon as possible, instead of forcing things through at the last minute because of negligence or fear.
Revisions are a necessary part of the back and forth between clients and designers, but there is a point where things start to sour in the design process when we begin to feel undervalued or distrusted. Beyond the trust issues, we also don’t want to lose the essence of the design solution we’ve provided. This is especially true when it comes to branding and web design projects.
We’re always aiming to provide well-thought-out solutions for our clients and to apply our expertise in the outcome. Clients can communicate respect for this work by consolidating feedback to minimize rounds of revisions, and trusting that the solutions we provide are informed and intentional.
Even an expert designer may not hit the bullseye immediately, but you can trust them to readjust their aim without dragging them into the edit hell of micromanagement.
A designer is a problem solver who uses design principles to create unique layouts and new ways to look at the world and communicate crucial information. When creating a layout or design, everything has a purpose and reason for its placement. Even minimalistic assets, as clean and sparse as they may appear, are the result of trained decisions and strategic, design-driven placement choices. So you can imagine that we don’t take it well when someone minimizes the thought and work that goes into a project.
Chances are, if you’re working with a competent designer, they have amassed years of experience shifting around visual elements, crafting thoughtful layouts, doing research, and trying new techniques that have given them the expertise to work efficiently. Don’t mistake practiced speed for simplicity.
The value of this experience is why you should hire a designer or creative agency. We prefer the process of working with you as a strategic partner, developing strategies and solutions through creative products and tactics, rather than being your “yes man.”
We want to solve problems, not just produce things.