At the March meeting, three veteran NJ Creatives designers offered
advice on dealing with clients, contracts, printers and Web sites.
All suggested that the best way to avoid problems is to get everything
in writing at the first meeting.
“Always use a detailed contract or job proposal,” said Ted DeCagna, of
Ted DeCagna Graphic Design, Cranford.“Make sure you understand exactly
what the client is looking for.”
Wayne Pollack, of Pollack Design,Woodcliff Lake, believes the initial
meeting should be face-to-face--”Take detailed notes, and don't assume
“Nothing is worse for a designer than getting a project where all the
copy has been written and all the marketing decisions have been made,”
said Peter Adler, of Peter Adler Advertising Design LLC, Fort Lee. “It's
important for me to read and understand the copy, and know where the ad
DeCagna and Pollack both recommend giving a client three or four ideas
to choose from. Pollack says he allows for one round of drawings after
the choice has been made.
“To calculate your bottom-line price, keep a log of your time, and
figure out the average number of hours you usually spend on a particular
type of job,”DeCagna suggested. He asks for 50 percent down and the
other half on delivery, and says any big change in a job should require
a change in the contract.
Pollack also charges per project, and renegotiates if the client
requests changes greater than 20 percent of the entire job.
DeCagna works with several professional printers, and usually suggests
the client let him oversee the final printing. He warns, “Watch out for
phone and fax numbers, and Web site and e-mail addresses. They're easy
to get wrong, and in a big print run can be expensive to fix.”
Pollack keeps all notes and correspondence to avoid such mishaps. He
also warns, “If you plan to use stock photography, mention it in your
proposal and estimate the cost range for the client. It can be
expensive, especially if used for a cover.”
Adler mentioned Web site design as an area where graphic designers often
get in over their heads. He pointed out that while a Web site serves a
purpose similar to a brochure— to sell a product, pass on information,
or build or change a company's image—the designer also must be able to
handle the interactive elements and tech support. “You need very focused
content pages with the same basic template, a good navigation system,
and an attractive look and feel,” he added. “The site should be search
engine-friendly and designed for the simplest browser; you should not
have to download special software just to view it. The designer also
needs to think about how to market the site and maintain it over the
When faced with a problem client, DeCagna suggests you limit how many
options and revisions you'll allow without additional payment. “If he
doesn't like any of your initial ideas, try to educate him about line,
color and concept, but don't come on too strong,” he said.
He recalled a client who requested many changes, then decided that
because he didn't like the final result he didn't have to pay his bill.
“I told him, 'If an attorney loses your case, you still have to pay
Pollack notes that when he picks up on an “aggravation factor” with a
client, he allows for it in his billing. He also advised, “Don't give
them a job too far ahead of the deadline, or they'll expect that every
His worst experience? When a product was misused, and the injured party
tried to sue everyone including Pollack, who had merely designed the
box. “That's why so many brochures have to go through the legal
department these days,” he said.
He added that it's important to call the client if you have any
questions, and keep the dialog open. “You'll hear if something goes
wrong, but rarely if everything is all right. After the job is
delivered, call to make sure everything's okay.”
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