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Ken Magill

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ClientsFromHell Post Makes My Point


By Ken Magill

Almost as if on cue, a designer put up a post on last week proving the point I made in the most recent issue of The Magill Report that the vast majority of designers don’t think in terms of communication.

In too many designers’ minds, type isn’t meant to form words that convey concepts without making the reader work. Type is meant to look clean, balanced and aesthetically pleasing.

For those who haven’t yet been to, I highly recommend it. It features reader-posted anecdotes of clients behaving badly and is usually good for a few feel-your-pain chuckles.

While most of the posts illustrate inappropriate, ignorant and sometimes dishonest behavior on the part of clients, some say more about the designer.

As in the following:

“Client: This book needs to go to the printer in five days, but it still needs some work. Can you make any recommendations or help me make it better?

“Me: I don’t normally do consultation work. I looked at your PDF and, honestly, I would recommend a design makeover.

“Client: I don’t have the time or money for that now. If you could change one thing to make it better, what would it be?

“Me: I’d start with the typography. Reduce the type size from 12 pt to 8 pt, and look at another typeface, something other than Times New Roman.

“Client: No, I was actually thinking about increasing the type size to 14 pt. What else would you do?

So there you have it. This designer’s first piece of professional advice on a book is to switch from the most recognizable and readable type font in the Western world—to let me guess, something with no serifs?—and shrink its size to eight points.

And the fact that the author doesn’t want to publish the book in teeny tiny type that everyone over 40 will struggle to read is a jaw dropper to the designer telling the story.

Moreover, by posting this story on ClientsFromHell, clearly the designer believes everyone else who consumes the content on that site will instantly feel his/her pain.

“So there was this rube, see? And he had this stupid book he wanted to sell. And get this. He actually thought people buy books to read the words! But wait: It gets better. So what does he want to do? He wants to increase the type size! And the font was Times New Roman! I mean, do people get any stupider than that? Fourt-Teen Point Times New Roman. What a dumbass.”

As I pointed out last week, I have worked with dozens of designers over the years, almost all of them perfectly lovely people.

I also said last week I could remember only one designer I didn’t like. I have since remembered a second. If you ever meet me in person, ask me about the breast-pump incident. It was my first management challenge. They were both involved.

I have nothing against designers. They are a necessary part of publishing. I couldn’t even come close to emulating their graphical talent. I just wish more of them would put serving the needs of the consumers of their work ahead of their aesthetic wants, and save their creativity for jewelry class.


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