Beginning a new design project is always exhilarating. You’re energized and excited about working on the project and creating something effective and beautiful. But have you ever had a project that, by the end of it, you just “want to get it done”? You stop caring so much about the design because you’ve been forced to change it so many times since the original concept, you don’t even feel like it’s your work anymore?
I’ve been there.
This article will attempt to help you find the root of this design burn-out problem. Here’s a hint: maintain control of your project by limiting client revisions. Don’t get me wrong, revisions are important and, many times, necessary. But limiting the number of unnecessary revisions will help you have a more effective design process.
A lesson from Chris Spooner
I was recently examining Chris Spooner’s personal design portfolio. On the contact page I noticed, among other tips for those who would solicit Chris’s work, these words:
Don’t ask how many revisions are included in the cost
This is my most hated phrase in the design industry. It seems to have stemmed from those cheap logo design websites that offer a ‘5 for $50 deal’ with ‘3 free revisions’. It gives me the impression thatthe work the designer creates is ‘wrong’, and then needs ‘correcting’. I always create designs withreasoning behind the graphics, therefore I don’t tend to work on a revision basis. If a change needs to be made that’s not a problem, if I feel differently I’ll always offer my view, but as long as it fits within the proposed time quota it’s no trouble. However if the change creates additional work beyond the initial budget, advice will be given on any additional costs. (taken from spoongraphics.co.uk by Chris Spooner)
Chris makes a few great points here. Let me examine them a little more deeply:
Lots of revisions means little confidence in your work
“It gives me the impression that the work the designer creates is ‘wrong’, and then needs ‘correcting’.”
While you may not quite feel as experienced or confident in your design work as Chris, it is still important to understand what you are saying to your customer by allowing for countless revisions. Essentially what you are telling them is you do not feel confident enough in yourself to get it right the first time, so you will be counting on them to fix any problems you create during the design process.
Who wants to hire a designer who can’t deliver a good product the first time? No one.
Do your homework and be prepared to discuss your reasoning
“I always create designs with reasoning behind the graphics, therefore I don’t tend to work on a revision basis.”
In a popular post here on GDB titled “7 tips on presenting logos to a client” we discuss the importance of making design decisions based on rational thought, research, and effective coordination with your client. As you design with the intent to meet the needs of your client (more than just make things look pretty) you will find that there will be less need for revisions and you won’t get burnt out so quickly.
Don’t Misunderstand–Revisions are okay
“If a change needs to be made that’s not a problem…”
Lest I have a lot of angry designers leaving comments on this post about the importance of revisions in the design process, let me say the following: Revisions are important. If the client needs something changed or adjusted, do it. It is important to satisfy the needs of your client.
What I am ultimately getting at with this article is the importance of limiting the number of revisions you allow your client to do–not get rid of them altogether.
What is a revision anyway?
The other problem with giving your client an exact number of revisions is in defining what a revision actually includes. Is it every time you send the document via email, is it every 5 times they have content changes, and what about if they just have a little thing to change–does that count for a while revision?
See the problem?
As I sat down recently with a group of management, we decided to replace the word ‘revision’ with ‘draft’. This helps the client understand that they should include all the changes they would like to make to a design in one consolidated document, send that to you and they can expect a subsequent “draft” in response.
So what should we do?
Burn-out in the design industry is a huge problem. Designers get tired of changing their designs for no logical reason. How can designers avoid this problem? Let me sum up this article in a few easy-to-follow steps:
- Work closely with your client in the research, planning, and designing phase
- Provide a solid design that fulfills the needs of the client as discussed in step 1 above.
- Strive to limit unnecessary revisions as much as possible. Remember, you need to work with the client, but discuss changes together.
- Avoid burning out.
What do you think?
After all is said and done, every designer’s situation is unique. What tips or advice can you offer to the rest of us when dealing with designer burn-out due to too many revisions?