By Michael Bierut | Comments (41)


There is one surefire way to make your client's logo bigger without actually making their logo bigger, but it is reserved for only the most desperate situations. You must have exhausted all other possibilities. Moreover, you must have run out of any patience, respect for your client, and scruples. Here's how it works.

You present the work with the too-small logo, and the client explains that its size must be increased. Don't argue. Instead, listen very carefully, nodding, drawing out detail and nuance. Make it clear that this is a matter of importance and complexity, and the client is right to focus on it. Finally, announce, as if it's just then occurring to you, that there is only one way to get this exactly right, to make sure that the client is absolutely pleased. You will prepare not one, but five options, changing the size of the logo on each one just ever so slightly. In this way, and in this way alone, can a reliable decision be made. Take my word for it: no client will turn down this offer, since the one thing these kind of people like more than arguing about logo sizes is looking at lots of options. Take the work away and promise to return to the next meeting with this exercise ready for review.

Prepare a new presentation with five different logo sizes: big, slightly bigger, slightly bigger again, slightly bigger still again, and biggest. Ideally, the difference between in the sizes should be maddeningly imperceptible. At the next meeting, and with a bit of ceremony, lay them out before the client left to right, smallest to biggest. To enable a robust discussion, the options should be labeled 1 through 5. As you spread them out, say, "We started with the original and changed the size in increments of [insert some small unit of measurement here] so we could get a really good choice." Let the client examine this array. This is a period of intense deliberation, partly because the difference in the sizes is so hard to distinguish. Into the silence that inevitably ensues, with some hesitancy, offer your point of view. "After looking at them all together for a while, we decided that number 5 was really a bit too big, and we were torn between 3 and 4." If the client is polite, they will pretend to care about your opinion for a moment. If not, they won't waste time. Either way, they'll announce that number 5 is the best and that's the one that should be used. Just for the hell of it, at this point you might want to try to make a (no doubt futile) case for number 4. But it doesn't matter: you won.

You may have already guessed how this works.


By Helen Walters | Comments (2)

Not everyone is as enamored with design as designers are. I know, I know. Shocking. Whether they explicitly acknowledge it or not, designers tend to deal with this reality in two ways. First, outrage that people should fail to recognize that design is only the foundation of everything in the entire world. Second, a sort of defensive smugness at being a part of an elite club whose members are clever enough to realize that design is the foundation of everything in the entire world, and stuff the sad sacks who don't get it.

However, in order to make their brilliant ideas a reality, designers have to deal with those non-club-belonging sad sacks. More often than not, those clients are not design-savvy honorary club member CEOs such as Steve Jobs. But there are ways for designers to make their mark on the business world, and in doing so to see their work make an impact. Here are some dos and don'ts for designers dealing with business.

Don't Assume the Client is an Idiot
One of the most commonly used phrases in the design world: "the client didn't get it." And yes, of course, some clients genuinely don't and never will. But think long and hard before laying the blame for a poorly executed project at the feet of the non-designer. A critical part of the designer's job is to explain why something has to be done a certain way. If you can't convince the client, who chooses to go another, disastrous route, that's not actually his or her fault. It's yours.


By Lunchbreath & Fueledbycoffee | Comments (1)


By Christopher Simmons | Comments (2)


Even in a bull economy there are days (sometimes weeks) when things are slow. That's just the nature of things. And while you shouldn't take it personally, there are some ways you can take personal responsibility for what you do with the opportunity formerly known as down time. Assuming the proper authorities in your firm are busy being rainmakers (and assuming your résumé is up-to-date, you know, just in case), here's a simple thought about how to put those idle hands to something other than the devil's work:

Work for free.

You heard me. Give it away. I'm not talking about spec work or contests or becoming an anonymous, soulless, desperate and indistinguishable face in the expanding sea of the "sourced" crowd. No. Not unless you want to tear down the pillars of our profession and erode the very foundation of our information economy. I'm talking about the new spec work—the kind that speculates on your potential to do good rather than simply rolling some well-designed dice for your paycheck. I'm talking about changing the world, one person, neighborhood or cause at a time and I'm talking about doing it all for nothing. Trust me, it's easier than you think. Here are three ideas to get you started:

1,000 Free Postcards
Let's start with people. If your design firm is slow right now it might be because your clients are slow. If your clients are slow, maybe they've laid off a few people. Or more. That means more people looking for work, trolling the internet for odd jobs or freelance gigs and looking for opportunities anywhere they can get them. In less than an hour and for $0 cash, you can help. I call this project 1,000 Free Postcards. You can call it Project X or the Postcard Effect if you think it sounds cooler.

How it works: As print designers we often find that we have some left-over space on a press sheet. Rather than let that area go to waste, why not place an ad on Craigslist offering 1,000 free postcards (or whatever the quantity may be). The rules are simple: the recipient must be an individual looking for work. They must respond with all of their final content by 5pm the day of the posting, and tell you who their audience is and what they hope to accomplish. Keep it local. Make the selection however you want, but don't make people apply, pitch or beg for it.


By Liz Danzico | Comments (10)

Image: Paul Goyette

You already know "you are what you eat." But can you know who your clients are simply based on what or how they eat? As you head indoors this fall, consider the restaurant. The dinner table, with its public displays of personal etiquette, has unsung gastronomic clues to the future professional habits of your potential clients. Its venerable surface a stage really, there to teach you how to translate some of their behaviors into client-relation predictions.

While these aren't hard-and-fast rules of course, they might be guidelines. Or even trade secrets of the dinner crowd. Even if only one applies to you, here are some starting points to consider at your next meal:

1. The Loyalty of a Reservation
It starts before it begins with the reservation, or lack thereof. Was there a reservation made ahead of time? If so, recognize this foresight as a respect for your time. It might also suggest your foodie companion's a "regular" here, and he or she is deft at relationship building. Keep an eye out for whether or not he or she is on a first-name with the maître d' to see how much of a regular you have on your hands. And if the client was on time as well, that counts, of course, a lot. Loyal clients with a punctual and organized mind are ones you might be interested in working with.

2. The Confidence of Tap
The choice of water has recently become oddly complex: sparkling, tap, iced, bottled, local. Let your companion order the water to observe. The "sparkling" choice, unless your companion truly enjoys extra bubbly carbonation, may reveal a couple of things: first, a non-U.S. background—sparkling water is the norm outside the United States and therefore will reveal nothing; or second, a desire to impress you. This second item is a red flag. The frilly choice of sparkling water is the formal script-y typeface of the dinner table—excessive and unnecessary. Those confident enough to order tap water are most likely authentic and confident, not afraid to be themselves. Note it and move on.


By core jr | Comments (0)

As professional designers continue to reconsider their roles and responsibilities toward creating positive change, we offer a few Core friends' words of advice:


"Your client is not the client anymore; the planet is the client." —Saul Griffith

Learn more at


"We can address sustainability issues in our projects whether our clients and organizations appreciate them or not, making more sustainable solutions even when those around us don't do so." —Nathan Shedroff

Buy Design Is the Problem, The Future of Design Must be Sustainable


"I recognize that every client, partner, or stranger is someone to learn from. I will listen before assuming. I will seek to understand the historical, geographical, social, cultural, and economic context and precedent before beginning the design process." —Emily Pilloton

Buy Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People

By Alissa Walker | Comments (0)

Did you ever hear the one about the guy who sent hundreds of dollars worth of Omaha Steaks to his new client's home, only to have them rot on her porch while she was skiing in Vermont? What about the interactive studio who sent their greetings digitally in the name of sustainability, spamming their contacts with a Flashy, animated 5.5MB gif that crashed all their computers? How about the creative director who sends autographed copies of his Innovation book to clients, year after year? Yes, the annual angst of gift-giving throws everyone in such a tizzy that even the most thoughtful people end up lunging for the Harry & David catalog. But for designers, creative gift giving should be an important part of your practice. A really good gift is your chance to prove your greatness as a designer by creating something thoughtful, meaningful and personal for the people who deserve it most.


Unlike the other 99% of your relationship transactions, thank yous cannot be appropriately transmitted over the internet. There are probably a few exceptions to this rule, but if you send me a generic e-greeting wishing me the warmest of holidays, I will coldly forget you faster than I can hit 'delete.' Should you decide to send something larger than an envelope, however, you also need to send fair warning: Do not just mail things blindly to the address on someone's website! Surprises are not welcome when they require signatures and a potential trip to the nearest FedEx facility. Better yet, give them a choice. Last year the San Francisco firm Volume cleverly gave its friends and clients a beautiful letterpressed postcard where they could choose their own gift, or opt-out completely. One-third mailed the cards back, selecting a range of options from donations to a non-profit Volume works with, to a cheeky customized color palette. "The only flaw might have been that the card was too nice and people didn't want to send it back," says Volume principal Eric Heiman. "We heard that from a few recipients."


By Allan Chochinov | Comments (9)


Sometimes—and perhaps especially in tough times—professional designers are faced with going it alone, hanging out their shingle and hoping to attract the most interesting clients (and projects) possible. And in an age when "You are your own brand," there is great temptation to, um, make yourself appear a little bigger than you are. Now, I'm not saying you should actively misrepresent yourself out there, but if you really are convinced that size matters, well, knock yourself out.

Company Name:
There is just something so lame about Allan Chochinov Design. Instead, consider adding "The" before your surname and "Group" after it: The Chochinov Group. Not too much better, and this trick is pretty much past its expiration date, but it sure beats the too-easy-to-suss Chochinov & Associates. (Are you really the kind of person who wants "Associates"?)

Answering Machine:
The cellphone-area-coded "office number" is beyond a dead giveaway, so for clients who care, you'll want to use a service (or console) that allows you to have an extension number. Have someone else to make the recording, of course, and you'll get that "For your name here, press 101." Tempted to gild the lily? "For accounts receivable, press 105."

Bonus tip: Put people on hold. Like during the second phone call put people on hold. "Can I put you on hold for a second? I'm so sorry but I'm the only one in the office right now." Booya!



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Check Please: How to Learn About Your Clients From Their Table Manners
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How to Shower People With Gifts
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Not quite a design professional yet? Miss those halcyon days around the quad? Check out Core77's Hack 2 School—the ultimate student tips and tricks guide!