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Client input vs. Micro management?

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  • Client input vs. Micro management?

    I am curious..

    Have you ever run into a boss, client, or customer that clearly crosses the line from giving end product design Input to being an over the shoulder Micro Manager expecting to tell you what to do? It's not simply, "can you brighten the overall tone of the design", it's "Can you make that border larger, can you move that divider lower, can you put in more graphics here" etc.. And even worse wanting to do this as an iterative process committee of other non designers. That is, to treat you and the process as if you are just an automaton drawing monkey that knows how to use the software to do what they say. You wouldn't stand over a carpenter and tell him where to put his nails so why is this type of micromanagement over a GD acceptable? Have you faced this and how did you respond?

    As an In-House GD, I recently came up against this and flat our refused to take on the design and let someone else take it on. I fear next time I may be unable to do so.

    What have you done?
    Last edited by mlmcasual; 05-17-2013, 05:26 PM.

  • #2
    I'm in-house and in the 15 years I've been in-house (at least in my situation) it has been an extremely rare occurrence. The few times it does happen, I have refused as well, unless they're much further up the chain than me … then I point out that I an take any ideas they may have and create something … but if they persist, I suck it up, do it and move on.

    I've generally had pretty supportive managers though who will also back me on it and put a stop to it.
    I like to beat up pacifists, because they don't fight back ...

    N.A.N.K.A. "We Kick Because We Care."


    • #3
      Originally posted by mlmcasual View Post
      Have you ever run into...
      Ummm, yes.

      At first I try to work with them and listen to their concerns. I'll pay careful attention, then nod my head in agreement at the right times. I'll make them feel as though I'm a partner in helping them and that their concerns and goals are also mine. I'll acknowledge the importance of their project and say things like, "Great idea, how about if we..." I'll try to explain why this way might be better than that way and why it stands a better chance of producing better results that accomplish their objectives more efficiently and with greater reliability. The goal is to give them confidence in my ability to successfully solve the problems at hand without their constant oversight.

      If that doesn't work (and it often doesn't), I shift into a different gear where I devote increasing amounts of my energy into resisting the urge to physically injure them. I've found that psychologically assaulting them carries fewer legal consequences than thrusting a pair of scissors into their necks.

      In other words, whatever discussion has taken place up to this point should have provided sufficient ammunition for a devastating non-physical attack. A cool, calculated reference to a bodily abnormality, like an obesity problem or a big nose will catch them off-guard and leave them speechless. While they're still reeling from the first verbal assault, you have the perfect opportunity to mount a full-on, no-holds-barred attack on their intelligence, their choice in clothes, and the physical appearance of their children and loved ones.

      The success of this tactic depends upon remaining perfectly, cool, calm and relaxed. The attacks need to be made in rapid-fire sequence without raising your voice and with the emotional coldness of using your thumb to squash a mosquito.

      After about 20 seconds of this abuse, the person in question will either be in shock or in tears. Before he has a chance to regain his composure, you state that his offensive body odor and halitosis problem is fouling the air in your office or cubicle and that you've had enough of staring at the old acne scars and blackheads on his oily face. Then kick the guy's butt out of your office.

      It works every time.


      • #4
        I've never had a micromanaging boss, but one of the reasons why I prefer to take client meetings into the boardroom rather than at my desk is to eliminate the need for them to look at my screen. You can listen to your client better away from your desk/phone/computer.

        I have some great clients that apologise for micromanaging/looking over the shoulder when I am not at all uncomfortable that they're standing around waiting for me to make 1 or 2 changes before sending their file to print.

        It's funny though. The people that apologise are usually the ones that haven't done anything wrong and the ones that will never apologise are usually the worst offenders.

        There will always be people that consider themselves the brain of the operation and that a designer is only a software monkey. I guess we do as much as we can to avoid those clients.
        It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


        • #5
          I'm an in-house designer, too, and I run into exactly that every month with a newsletter I design. The guy that supplies content micro manages to an extreme degree. At first it drove me crazy, but I can't say no and he won't change, so I deal. I design the newsletter to the best of my ability each month. When he calls (and he always calls) to ask for changes, I explain to him why I made the choices I did. If he sticks with his changes, I make them and move on. I feel confident that if anyone asks me why the newsletter looks the way it does, I can back up what I did and what happened.

          If this guy worked in the building I do, I know he would be over my shoulder. I'm grateful it's just phone calls. When the copy gets proofed, he has the proofer send him the changes, then he calls me and goes over them one by one. He tells me the edits, I make them while we're on the phone. These are not complicated edits and I can read English, but he insists on doing it this way.

          However, over time he has started to trust my expertise. Our process is improving slowly, but it gets better each time. When he lets me make more decisions, we get better feedback on the result, so he's starting to bend.

          I know it sucks, but some people either have those extreme control issues, or feel that if they aren't 110% involved, it won't get done right.

          I'm jealous that you can say no! I'd be fired in a minute, lol.
          Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.


          • #6
            I hate edits over the phone! I don't have a headset and I hate using my shoulder to hold the phone for any length of time.

            I have a few monthly newsletters and I have found that if I start being bossy as a designer, the client ends up trusting me more. I've gotten to the point that I'll skim through articles and if there isn't enough room for all of them, I pick which ones to skip that month based on word count and content. Most clients don't mind doing less work so if I make the job easy for them and act like I'm in charge and know what I'm doing, it's fine.

            I'm not in-house so there's no office politics involved. My client looks good in the end, they get to do less work, my job is easier so we're all happy.
            It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


            • #7
              I do work for the same guy as Kitch, with two major differences: the work is highly templated, so it's really just a matter of copyfitting; and, I have a marketing department writer in between us in the workflow. It goes more smoothly.

              I refuse to take changes over the phone. Most of my clients have become adept at making edits in the PDF proofs. Only a few stick to paper edits. When someone calls & tries to give me phone changes I tell them I have to have the paper backup and keep it until the job comes back from the printer. Period.
              This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
              "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."


              • #8
                "I love deadlines. I love the 'whooshing' sound they make when they go by." - Doug Adams


                • #9
                  We had a soccer mom who once got into my office against company policy for a bumper sticker she wanted. It was the typical change this to blue, change it to green, I don't know, what do you think, change it back to blue, make this type a little larger, do you think this should be italics?
                  No cell phone, no Facebook, no iAnything. Am I missing something?


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mlmcasual View Post
                    You wouldn't stand over a carpenter and tell him where to put his nails so why is this type of micromanagement over a GD acceptable?
                    Because design is just making pretty-but-disposable pictures in photoshop that anyone can do, except the boss hasn't yet learned how to add that drop shadow effect yet and needs to ask you how to do it himself so he can later fire you to save money because "why pay a designer to do what I can teach myself with a 5 minute tutorial on youtube?"
                    Last edited by Voltimand; 01-11-2014, 10:26 AM.
                    "You have no friends, you have no enemies, you only have teachers."


                    • #11
                      I have this exact client right now.

                      "This is why you need to adjust the font... blah blah blah... Do you understand why that's better?" - Indeed. Your expertise in your (completely unrelated to design) field has somehow prepared you better to make decisions on visual communication than my formal education and years of visually communicating.

                      "I don't want this to come off as too cliche." - Says the guy with a landscaping business with a tree in his logo.

                      Depending on the job, I'll push back a little or a lot, or just find a way to (hopefully) amicably part ways. For someone I know personally, or through a friend, I'll explain my reasoning and process, but will give them a little more leeway. This is primarily because jobs like this are either pro-bono work for a non-profit, or they're being done for something very small scale such as a personal landing page for a web server or something not intended for public consumption. If it's a paying client, I explain the same thing, but also that the work is ultimately a representation of my business and while I have to be able to do the job I'm being paid for. I can't have them telling people I created their brand or redesigned their website if I was really just physically carrying out their commands as a fleshy proxy for their ill-conceived ideas. If they can't come to terms with that, I'll try to come to an agreement based on deposits paid and work completed and send them on their way.






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