I’ve never understood the disconnect between writers and designers. Unless you’re one of those rare creatures who is equally adept at both writing and artwork, you will always need to work with one of these groups. Still, there seems to be an animosity between the two parties, and as a writer, I’ve always felt it coming from the direction of the designer. I have a high level of respect for their talent, and I’ve never minimized the importance of a fantastic designer (that’s why I’m going to have this blog professionally redesigned, and why I spend so much time–and money–including a great image with every post). You can have the greatest novel in the world, but without an eye-catching cover, it’s going to be a hard sell. Maybe designers have been poisoned by working with writers who are insufferable idiots (God knows there’s a few of those out there). I don’t know, but I’d love to hear their side of things.
When I was still in college, the writing students were “forced” to team up with the design students to work on a group project. I say “forced” because everyone seemed to unanimously dread this particular endeavor. The designer in my little group showed up just enough to demonstrate that he was unquestionably superior to everyone present–other than that, we never saw him. To this day, I can’t recall if he finished the design. As a relative youngster in my very early twenties, I understood that most of us would end up working very closely with designers in our day-to-day jobs. We might even end up working with this particular group of designers, since we’d be graduating at the same time. So why the animosity? I couldn’t understand it, but the loathing most of the design students had for the writing students was rivaled only by that of the writing students’ for them.
I thought I’d escaped this particular curse when I got a job at an insurance company. The team of designers I worked with were fantastic people–talented, kind, and very easy to get along with. But ever since, the in-house print designers I’ve known have been bitterly sarcastic and even surly when (very politely) asked to do something. What gives? (I’ve also had the pleasure of working with 3-D designers who develop exhibits, and for some reason, those designers have all been happy-go-lucky types. Maybe it’s just working in print that makes people miserable.)
When I realized I needed a designer for this blog, among other projects, I thought it would be reasonably easy to hire someone. I’m a freelance writer, so I incorrectly assumed that the freelance designers I knew would jump at the chance of more work, especially a very creative project that would span several different assignments and end up netting them a fair amount of money. However, for some reason this was not the case.
Designer #1 didn’t even deign to respond to my messages.
Designer #2 agreed to take it on, but said he would need two weeks before he could start. I agreed to his terms. He asked a few questions; I provided detailed responses. At the end of the third week, I still hadn’t heard from him, so I sent him an email. He answered with regrets, saying that he decided he didn’t have time.
Designer #3 was a referral from an agency friend. This one seemed promising–we talked for a bit, but then the designer stalled when I asked for an estimate of her fees. Finally, she asked to be paid by the hour–a not inconsiderable sum–but was unwilling to tell me how many hours each project would take, or to cap her fees. Did she think I was an idiot? (I’m guessing so.) I said that I wasn’t willing to agree to pay for something without having at least some idea of what it would cost. She waited two weeks before sending me another email, saying she was suddenly “too busy” to undertake the project. Hmm….
By this point, I’d given in and hired an actual design house. The woman who runs it is a professional and the difference shows. For instance, she actually responds to my emails in a timely fashion, which, by this point, feels like a luxury. I’m really excited about what they’ll have to show me in two weeks. (Thanks for the referral, Kim!)
But overall, I’m really disappointed in how this process unfolded. I realize a freelance designer is different from a freelance writer, but running a business is running a business. When people want to hire me, I answer their requests promptly, whether or not I can take the project on, and if I agree to do it, I am honor-bound to follow through. If someone asks me what my rate is, I tell them, and if it’s higher than they expected, we negotiate. I would certainly not string someone along for weeks without a response to their query, or refuse to respond at all and then say, “hey! You could have hired me!”
So, my question for this beautiful, sunny Friday is…what’s up with this? As we have similar goals, can’t writers and designers learn to play nice? And if you’ve had your own experiences or are a designer who wants to chime in with the other side of the story, please feel free to comment!
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Awake at: 7:00 am
To bed at: 10:45 pm
Pages written: Zero
Exercise: Kickboxing class
Verdict: I still suck, but wait for unveiling of a new action plan on Monday!