Frenemy Designers

Frenemy Designers

By Tricia Piña, Art Director

“I had my friend design this but it just wasn’t right. Can you fix it?”

In my years as a graphic artist, I have lost count of how many times I have heard this question. There may be a variation, substituting ‘friend’ for ‘cousin’ or ‘daughter of a friend of my second cousin’s niece twice removed’. However the same problem exists for all of these people. They are stuck with a design for their marketing that they don’t like and don’t know how to get fixed without insulting someone. Or even worse, they paid for a design from this person and have never seen anything but have heard a multitude of excuses.

And here is my dirty little secret…..I am just as terrible when designing for a friend or family member. I procrastinate, I give only the minimum of what was asked, and if a paying (or better paying) job comes in, you know which job is not getting done! After designing for clients all day, I really have very little creative energy to give to side projects and they are stuck with whatever I give them.

There is no clear cut answer to when you should use a friend for your designer or if you should hire someone with no personal relationship to you. Every situation and relationship is different and in the end, it is your call. However, I would give you some basic guidelines to help make your decision.

  • Have you ever met this person? Are you conducting business directly with them or is there a third party involved? Never have your communication go through a mutual acquaintance. They can introduce you but when the time comes to discuss the project or payment, they need to not be involved.
  • Have you reviewed their portfolio? Even if someone is a great designer, their style may not match what you are looking for. If a designer is insulted by your asking to see it, they will be insulted if you want to change design elements later. Just run away from this situation.
  • Have you ever heard them complain about something irrationally? Have you ever heard them threaten to sue? It may seem silly, but if someone makes drama in their everyday life, it will be no different if money is involved. Use this person with eyes wide open.

In the end if you decide to go with a professional design company or a friend, there are some easy steps to protect yourself.

  • Get it in writing! I mean get EVERYTHING in writing. Time frames, project guidelines, payment amount and anything else you can think of.
  • Confirm it with email! If you have a conversation about the project, send a recap email so there is no chance of miscommunication or forgotten information.
  • Always keep in mind which is more important – the relationship or the design. One will always win.