how should I best deal with a client who asks me to change the design of some letterforms and spacing against my advice?
This is a very good, important, and tricky question.
Sometimes clients think they know better than us, that they hired us not for our competence, skills and professionalism, but just to mechanically execute what they have in mind. There are three ways this can go:
In the best case scenario, we don’t really need this job, we can run away from these people and never spend another minute thinking of them and their silly ideas.
In most cases though, we can’t afford to do that. So we go into ‘it’s just a job, it pays rent and bills’ mode, and in a way, it also pays for our silence.
But we are designers, and all that we have is our reputation. Releasing something that we know is below our standards, will harm it. We may have no way to control clients and how they will promote the substandard work we did, or which absolutely pointless and meaningless detail will be proudly present as the cornerstone of the entire project, or keep them from using unfinished and unpolished versions of our files. We have no way to control how our designer colleagues and friends will react to it, or — on a larger scale — the opinion of the general public.
In the bearable version of this scenario, we may be able to remain anonymous, keep our work a secret and our reputation intact and move on to the next project.
In the worst case though, our name is credited everywhere and we will have to own our choices: no one forced us to take that job. So we’re trying to ride out this not so great situation, (because at some point people will forget, right?), and move on to the next project, hopefully it will be better than this one.
We’re not aware of a total-disaster end-of-the-world case where a brilliant designer’s career ended abruptly because of a single terrible project. (If it exists, let us know in the comments.) So maybe the hidden question here is: how to deal with ourselves when we have to work on such projects and with such clients? It is an extremely delicate and personal balance. How much can we point out before losing our clients, or our jobs? How much can we insist in trying to make them see what we see before giving up and smile and nod? Where is the line between us not doing our jobs and keeping our jobs? How much are we willing to compromise or sacrifice? How many of these projects are OK to accept before they become all we are working on? How much can we tolerate to be ashamed and embarrassed of our own work?
(Luckily not all jobs or clients are like this. Some are open to new ideas, some come with perspectives and points of view that enrich and improve our work, and make us proud of collaborating with or working for them.)
Do you also have a question about work ethics, the universe, or everything else? Tweet at us @alphabettes_org and if the answer doesn’t fit into a tweet, we may reply here.