Warning Signs.

I was compiling a checklist for a job I was working on today. As a designer, I do meet quite a fair number of prospective clients. Usually, I do take the time and effort to set up an appointment to meet them to determine whether they are worthwhile clients to take on. Over the years I have accumulated a list of warning signs for not accepting the job and this usually happens during the first meeting. Here are some:

  • We are a stable and dynamic company. We are consolidating our local operations and looking at diversifying our markets. (Typical huge conglomerates have corporate comm managers who say these words.)
  • We have an idea already, we just would like to see what you can do. You are the creative one.
  • We have seen 2 proposals and we didn’t like it. We heard you are good. (If they heard that you are good, they would have probably heard that the first two agencies were good – and here they are, killing off two agencies’ proposals without them knowing.)
  • We can’t afford to pay you very much this time, but since this is the first and if this works out it could lead to a LOT of work. (What guarantees that? Don’t start counting the chickens, you haven’t even seen the first egg.)
  • Our previous agency used to do…, can you? (Usually happens with corporate executives who aren’t happy with their bosses’ decision to switch designers, but have no choice but to obey directives. Expect a turbulent time ahead.)
  • I am sure you can give us a good price. If we are happy we can recommend you to the other departments. (Do you seriously want to be recommended as the good-price agency?)
  • I did the logo myself and its quite bad, because I am not a designer. Can you redesign the logo, but keep the font, the colors and the shape. (Protective egoistic boss, commonly found within the SMIs)
  • For the new identity, please use Verdana – because it is free and we don’t have to purchase the corporate font license for all departments. (Rumoured to be the real story behind AmBank)
  • There’s no brief. You’re the designer! Whatever you think is best is fine with me. I don’t have a preference. (This will lead to – can you use this from option 1 and that from option 3 and maybe make the font bigger?)
  • I wanted to do this myself, but I just don’t have time. (Beware, he’s just looking for hands to execute his vision. If he could use Adobe Illustrator he wouldn’t have called.)
  • In the past, we have worked with (so and so and so) and we do understand what is good design. (Warning, if they have indeed worked with those people and they had working for them, then something is wrong somewhere – maybe they are really the clients from hell.)
  • You will become our partner; you will be involved in all aspects of this project. (Could be a good thing but also be on alert – they would make you work beyond your defined job scope on the basis that you are their partner and you are obligated to make things work without appearing to be over-calculative over all things).

Any other pointers to add?