Tuesday, July 18, 2017

4 Strategies to Use When A Client Gives You Crappy Art

One time a client of mine gave me a logo he pulled from his website and placed in Microsoft Word. Since it was for a print piece, I asked him not to embed it in Word, but rather give me the original high-resolution logo itself — preferably a vector EPS file, if he had it. The client quickly got back to me with an EPS file that had the same low-res raster image blown up and embedded within it. Thinking he was helping me, he just resaved the same low-res raster logo as an EPS file himself. It looked horrible.

Clients and coworkers don’t really understand what designers need to get a project done well. Most non-designers care more about results than how to get there (design-wise). They just need the design so they can start having success. But that doesn’t help you, because you want their project to be well-done, on-time, and on-budget. So the specifics mean a lot to you as the designer.

There are a few unhelpful strategies we are tempted to try:

  • Whining to other designers and friends. “Can you believe it!”
  • Slow-walking the project. You know… take our sweet time.
  • Procrastinating — which is similar to slow-walking, except we’re more distracted than working slowly. It’s so easy to find other interesting side projects to do. Or check a lot of email and social media sites.
  • Making demands and threats. “If you don’t give me a decent logo, I ain’t designing this!” (You wish.)

On the other had, I’ve learned that there are some better strategies to get what I need when a client or coworker just doesn’t get it.

1. If I’m willing and have the time, I’ll do the legwork for the client or coworker.

Sometimes checking the client’s website yields results. I usually look for logos on their website. I would check to see if they have a press room or media page. Sometimes they will have their brand manual online which has either a logo download link or a form so I can request it. Even better, I can often find the department or person I can contact who can get me the correct logo I need.

Another search approach is to use one of these sites to find logos. (Works best if a company is fairly well known.)

If all else fails, I would do a Google search and see what I can find to start with. Sometimes I can find something better than what the client has given me, and can either use it, or find something to use that will help me recreate it.

2. Sometimes I’ll try to recreate their logo

When I need to recreate a logo I’ll try to vectorize it in Illustrator. Some logos are easier to do than others. When it’s too complicated, I don’t have the time, or I’m not sure it’s right, I’ll get a professional to do it for me. It’s usually not too expensive. But I’ll check with the client first before hiring the professional. Funny, sometimes that’s enough to get a client to produce the correct logo. (Hey, not that it’s a threat or anything. Just solving the problem.)

The last resort is to use whatever the client has given me. I just hold my nose and let the client decide if it’s good enough.

3. Take what they’ve given me and make something new.

Making something new will not work with logos, but with bad photos and clipart there are things that I can do. Of course, I will have to get the client’s sign-off, but usually they like what I’ve done (and it demonstrates creativity). Here are few approaches I’ve tried before:

  • Posterize the photo and maybe recoloring it
  • Make the art transparent on a background pattern
  • Grayscale it and add some color tints
  • Make a collage or creative cutouts
  • Turn it into a faded background image

4. Exchange poor photography with an equivalent stock image.

Stock is pretty good these days. And the costs are reasonable. I’ve often found a very suitable alternative on Shutterstock or iStock for instance. And many clients are willing to pay for decent stock photography.

Sometimes the coworker or client insists on using what they’ve given me as is. That’s okay, if the resolution is high enough. If not, oh well, what can I say. I’ll just use it and the client has to approve.Then I’ll just let it go.

What I really want.

Of course, it’s great when a client or coworker understands your needs. That’s the best scenario. So, I’ve learned that it’s worth spending time explaining why certain details matter. And I do this over and over again. You know, the truly good clients actually appreciate that.

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