DESIGN BY NUMBER$
“The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with. The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.”
-- Paul Rand
To start out, I want to apologize for anyone wounded by friendly-fire - those designers (and i mean real designers) who understand best practices and design with the goal of communicating an idea or message with a sense of aesthetics... and know how to do it.
In 2015 I sat in on a white board session with a group 8 to 10 UX designers and programmers who work for a major financial company. The purpose of the discussion was how best to design a change of address form. And they had been working on this change of address form for three weeks. All of them. All of the time. Seriously. They were so bound up by open and closed cart sorting and user testing, they had forgotten that good, effective design cannot be accomplished by soulless number crunching.
Not only has become acceptable to produce designs that wouldn’t have made it past the first iteration of a decent UX Designer, it’s actually expected because of some some usability guru who seems to know little about the actual craft of good design. Good design is being marginalized, pushed aside by a wonk wearing a “it must be correct because it's ugly” lapel pin, who should be collecting data and advising, NOT playing designer. No one should be allowed to get away with inferior design because in some alternate reality created by a focus group, we are told that is what people want.
Its called stealing.
I completed a website design and build for a small manufacturing company in New Hampshire. The client was a friend and former colleague who I still hold in the highest regard. She is the co-owner of this company and is in charge of all marketing operations. Recently she took an extended leave of absence and let me know she had hired a full-service marketing company to perform her duties. As I have a full time position and designed her website as a freelance project I certainly understood her decision, and actually would have done the same thing. After a few months I visited the website and noticed a couple of font changes - which I actually thought worked well - but no other significant changes. But scrolling down to the footer I discovered that the marketing company had now claimed that the site was designed by them.
Part of my agreement with the client was that I relinquished any and all rights to the design, with the stipulation that I could place a web site design attribution in the footer. My beef is definitely not with the client, but with the lack on integrity by this marketing company.
I have left a message on this companies web site and hope for a response. I am undecided on whether I should/will reveal the company, but I certainly will spread the word among the freelance community to proceed with caution when doing business with this company.
I Must be a slow learner.
In early December I received an email inquiring about my availability for freelance work and my hourly rate. After a quick google search I was impressed with both the company and the primary owners, both seemingly well respected entrepreneurs who were developing innovative children’s toys. I replied that liked their vision, was indeed available for work, and gave my hourly rate.
Four weeks later on December 30 I received a second email from the owner who asked if I could design an infographic for an important meeting on January 5. Her email hinted that this job could lead to much more work including a web site and package design. I immediately followed up with an estimate of time, my hourly rate (which I had sent in my initial reply in early December), and several questions regarding how the graphics would be used – whether in a power point, web presentation or printed piece. Basic stuff. Keep in mind folks that the January 5th deadline (a Tuesday) would entail working over the holiday weekend. On Saturday January 2 I received an email with a dropbox link with a dozen files, everything from product schematics to packaging examples. But no answers to those basic questions about how this art would be used. I emailed those same questions again and added that I needed the information soon so I could forward them first versions by Sunday to allow time for corrections prior to the deadline and that I would work Monday night to make any needed correction and modifications. I only received a reply that the art should be in vector format so the elements could be repurposed.
So I made my big mistake. I did the work. After 12 hours I had completed a pretty damn good infographic and sent it along just before midnight on Sunday.
Monday afternoon I receive an email from the owner that she is “traveling” on Monday (we’ve all heard that excuse used, right?) and would review the file on Tuesday. But wait, wasn’t the “important” presentation on Tuesday?
So on Wednesday I receive this email:_______________
We have reviewed what you sent but we think something must have happened in the communication because it is not what we intended. Lets regroup when there is more time.
So, I had sent them the design they requested, under a rush deadline over a holiday weekend and the only reply I get is AFTER the deadline.
So, am I supposed to take another leap of faith and assume they didn’t use my infographic?