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Actually, the following should really fall under the new category of DesignSpoke ….. or some such heading.
Please, laugh along – and in some cases, cry along, with me – as you read these pearls……actual accounts
of experiences by designers (these are graphic/web designers….) as contained in the delightful site,
http://clientsfromhell.net – Enjoy!


(this dialogue started through the contact form on their website.]

CLIENT: ”Hello. My name is [xxx] and I am the creator of [xxx] software in India. We looking for a marketing agency to help us with business development in the United States. Let me know you are interested, thanks.”

ME: ”We’re very interested! It looks like you have a great product and I think we can help you create a lasting presence in the US. I’ll have a talk with our marketing director about it and we’ll send you another email tomorrow.”

CLIENT: ”Ok. I am transferring all ownership of the product to you. I will come and work in your company as salaried employee for a minimum of 6-8 years and I will live with you. Once the product is successful in the global market, then I will resume my role as part owner. Contact me if you need anything please.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Client: “I’m afraid I can’t afford the monthly figure at the moment.”

ME: “Oh no – that’s hourly.”

CLIENT: ”I could get a stripper for that!”

ME: ”If she’s as good with Photoshop as I am, then she is the better deal.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


CLIENT: “We’ll do the website. We just want you to do the design of the home and internal pages. Just give us the html and css, and we’ll do the rest.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

#4: ….and this one, OH SO TRUE!!!!


As a relatively new designer, I met with a client in order to create a logo and a series of brochures. At the meeting, the clients told me that eventually they’d want me to create their website. Being a newbie and wanting to nab the client, I lowballed the cost for the branding so that I could get the website. After sending a proposal for the site, they told me that it wasn’t in their budget at the time, but that I would definitely design it eventually.

Over time, I was asked to do other assignments for their business. They expected me to do it at the same rate that I had initially proposed. I delivered good designs in a timely fashion and dirt cheap. They were always happy with my work, which is why they kept coming back to me.

Fast-forward a year later, the client started making noise about getting a new website. As per their request, I sent a revised proposal for the website and was assured by the manager that I would definitely design their website, as they loved my work.

After a few weeks of not hearing from them, I inquired. I was told by the administrative assistant (and daughter of the managers) that she would be designing the website instead.

Moral of the story? You price yourself like dirt, you’ll be treated like it.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

#5: ….and, in dealing with Scope of Services….


ME: “I just wanted to let you know that we’re approaching the 50 hour budget set for your project and I’ll need to begin assessing an hourly rate for anything that goes over.”

CLIENT: ”I don’t understand, why are we going beyond the budget?!”

ME: ”Most of it comes from all of the additional scope that you added. It breaks our agreement but I agreed to do it anyway.”

Client: “Well, you guys are just apparently crooks then! We are a small business of only forty employees!”

ME: ”I’m a company of 1.”

Client: “Well, you’re obviously taking advantage of us!”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


The forgoing stories and clips are certainly funny – if not sad because they’re actually true.
As a design professional with 40+ years of experience, I certainly have my share of  ‘design client horror stories’.

Even recently – even after being so foolish as to think that I had ‘been there – done that’ in almost all respects of
dealing with a new client, a new opportunity .

Alas! Alack! Oh woe is me – NOT!

Let me explain….. a few months ago, a friend referred me to a prospective new client. Apparently, he had been working with the gentleman
for well over 20 years, and with the father, the company founder, before that. The firm is in the property development business with interests
in construction, development, retail and hospitality.

I was pleased to have the referral and dutifully followed up with an introductory phone call during which introductions were made, basic questions asked and answered. The upshot of the conversation was simply that, although I had come highly recommended, the project in mind would not be ready for review and discussion until mid-fall. We agreed I would diarize my calendar to check in with him about that time.

I followed through as promised, and was told that although there was somewhat of restrictive time window on the project, we didn’t need to meet until a couple of weeks later.

Again, as it popped up in my reminders, I called. We made an appointment to meet on a Wednesday morning in his office.

Upon arrival, I was briefly shown the plans, materials, finishes, etc of the existing design and colour schemes, after which we moved into his office to discuss the particulars of the project. The president was a polished, erudite executive – clearly highly accomplished in the successful propagation of the legacy of the family business.  I was informed that the project was for a complete makeover of a smallish hotel located in the far north – the way far north. It had enjoyed a niche business since its inception in the early 1950’s. As the last makeover had been done at least a decade before it was decided that the property needed a major ‘facelift’- perhaps even a re-postioning in that market as a ’boutique hotel’.  In listening to the details about the region, the competition – the unique difficulties associated with projects near the Arctic Circle, I found myself intrigued, and excited about the possibility of undertaking such an assignment in such a remote locale.

I was told, that timing was critical – of course…..that all design work needed to be developed, reviewed, fine-tuned – blessed and authorised to proceed, no later than end of February 2011. Part of the reason for this was that, given the normal production order cycle for hotel room furniture, furnishings, etc of an average of 16 weeks, delivery of the complete assemblage of ALL goods and materials, on the shipping docks of Montreal, was an absolute necessity. That date? June 30th, in order that the first cargo ship could arrive at the destination in about 30 days. And, of course, as it was so far north, there is no overland transport – no roads. How intriguing!

As we discussed the timetable in greater detail, we agreed, of course, that I would have to make an exploratory visit and inspection to the property.

I asked, ‘So -when do you think is an appropriate time to schedule that trip?’.

His response was, ‘My boy – you’re gonna be on the first flight out tomorrow morning….this is URGENT!’

I laughed. He didn’t. I suggested that schedule wasn’t quite convenient for me as I was obliged to be in Ottawa the next day to teach my design class.

But I also stressed that I understood the need for speed and a quick turnaround.

Following some further discussion I suggested that, if given the rest of the day, I might be able to send him an e-mail that would outline the understanding of the ‘scope’ involved, the timeframe, costs, fees, etc – for the inspection survey trip. And that I would do my best to have that in his hands within 24 hours.

In truth, we both recognised that such an expeditious arrangement was more than responsive to the now-stated urgency, we left it at that.

During the course of the afternoon and evening I devoted a fair bit of time, researching the parameters of that trip. I had, of course, a set of the plans which had been prepared by a design firm about 12 years prior. I used these as reference to familiarise myself with the complexities of the undertaking. As I studied the plans, I was shocked to see that of 36 rooms in the facility, there was actually 13 different room types/lay-outs. An inordinately skewed proportion against the overall. In any event, by evening I had developed what I felt was a reasonable proposal. I wrote it out in a very logical and organised fashion, and included the timeframe/schedule that I felt might work. Given that my courses in Ottawa were a full day on Thursdays, I proposed that I stay overnight in Ottawa and get on the first early morning flight out on Friday morning. That I would arrive early afternoon and immediately initiate my survey – both of the rooms and the building in general. I proposed that I would work from the time I checked in until late evening, all the next day (Saturday), and Sunday – and even Monday morning, leaving on an early afternoon flight back to Ottawa.

I proposed a very reasonable fee based on a per diem (which means that regardless of the number of hours I put into any given day, there is a flat rate per day) along with a second phase of effort to be completed immediately upon my return to Montreal. The second phase would be a summary report, design conclusions, and a general design ‘roadmap’ that might be followed in order to efficiently move the project along. After all, it was early November – given the upcoming Christmas season, there was only about 12 weeks of calendar time available to conceive, design, detail, organise and coordinate the project.  But, my initial proposal was up to and including my report and a follow-up meeting in order to review the findings and preliminary recommendations.

In an early morning phone call  while in transit to Ottawa the next day, the ‘go-ahead’ was given. Flight arrangements were made. Hotel was booked.
In the intervening week I did as much preparatory work as I could in reviewing the plans, becoming familiar with the premises in general.

The following Wednesday, I drove to Ottawa, completed my course on Thursday, and arrived at Ottawa International Airport at 6:30 AM for the flight.

Although the flight was delayed, due to blizzard conditions at he destination, we eventually departed arriving early afternoon.

By 2:00 PM I was touring the rooms, check-measuring the building – taking notes, photographs and then in the evening hours, transcribing it all into AutoCAD on my laptop. By 10:30, I was pretty much fading, and called it a day.

Next weeks’ issue will continue with the story, and the eventual BadNews client result, in detail……



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