The Grey Area

You know when you walk into a grocery store and grab a carton of milk? You walk to the register, pull out your wallet and pay the $3.99 for your dairy goodness, and go on your merry way.

Now, imagine you're in line and someone in front of you is also buying a carton of milk. But when the clerk rings them through, they start arguing the price and say they're not paying that much for milk.

The clerk kindly lets them know that good milk will cost the same just about everywhere, and if they want something cheaper, it might be past the expiration date.

In this scenario, milk is design, if you hadn't caught my drift quite yet. People want good design, but, at times, they're unwilling to pay for it. When you're not briefed in the business, you might not know what exactly goes into it and how much work it takes. People assume that they can find something cheap and great just about anywhere.

Like any service, good design costs more. I suppose a dramatic example would be a renowned surgeon being replaced with an unlicensed doctor on the Black Market. Negotiating a deal in design is such a grey area because art is subjective. 

First, a story. (Names and places have been changed for anonymity.)

I was asked to design a logo for a client. It was apparent in the initial communication that this was someone who wasn't versed in design, which is not a sin, it can just prove difficult down the line. This client gave me a wide range of ideas, with no narrowed down end in sight. I completed a first draft, and awaited her reply. They had come back with more suggestions and, again, ideas, but nothing quite narrowed.

After my second round, the client replied that they have decided they were going in a different direction and were going with someone else.

Now, calling all designers, or even laymen in general. What do you do in this situation? I worked hours on this project just to be dropped with no notice. I tried to let her know that it's not uncommon for logos to go through many rounds of revisions and that, if she had a technique she was looking for, to make it clear. 

In this pickle, I sent the client an invoice asking for a deposit of 50% for some of my labor, which she, of course, refused to pay. Is this something you do upfront for every contract? Would you have the client pay upfront? Or would you warn them of a deposit if the work is not used?

What would you expect as the client? Would you pay for the deposit understanding the work put forth on your behalf? 

Regardless, as I informed her of what it takes to do something of that stature, I felt like it was one stepping stone in an ocean of rocks that has become informed in the design world. 

It's part of my career that I run into these situations occasionally. So here is my soapbox: good design is worth the money it takes; it takes more than just a few clicks to finish a project; try not to get walked on. This grey area will always be grey, but I'm running through it with my sharpie and eraser.