What time frame/ do you start designing?

I have an event that was 3-4 weeks out and I didn’t know what the theme was and now it is 1 week away and there is no mention of what the theme is.

I wont be making a flyer this time because my PC is kaput so unless they pay a company to make one quickly and send it out there just wont be a flyer. (this is a non-profit 1 day evening event and they are aware and fine w/not having a flyer this time)

All of this just made me wonder Is it possible/ or do you guys do mock ups of a design/layout for a flyer/event if you do not know what the theme is?

If so how do you go about making a theme/layout when you don’t know what the theme is?/

Any best practices for this type of situation?

Thanks in advance for insight!

I’m not sure I understand your situation. Are you a designer? You said your computer is “kaput,” and that they’ll need to pay someone to design it. This makes me wonder what your relationship is with this organization.

I’m a designer and usually pass on these kinds of jobs. If I had accepted it three or four weeks ago, I would have told them when I would need everything. If they first contacted me with a week to go before the deadline, there’s an even greater chance I would have turned it down.

Some jobs just don’t pay enough to make up for the headaches they cause. From what you described, this is one of them.


Hello, Thank you for your reply and information. Sorry for the confusion. No I am not a designer, I only do it for a church. I’ve posted a few things on here before of flyers for them in the past. Its volunteer work, never paid. Though I’m always trying to get better.

It made me wonder this time about timelines and if generally graphic designers do mockups/drafts to save for potential use down the road.

This time my pc went kaput and I am ordering a new one, so i informed them that there won’t be any flyers this time. As the event is Sunday and I don’t have a PC I can setup everything then nor do I want to do that and try to cram it in such a short time.

They do have another even at the end of Jan. that I was going to look at trying to come up w/something, if i can have a pc in place by then. If i can, then I would reach out and ask what that theme would be.

Graphic Designers working for money to buy food don’t waste time on non-billable work.
There is no way a designer is going to spend time guessing what might be used.

That said, if there is a recurring project for which a template would be helpful, then by all means, set something up with the first one for use down the road.

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Thanks for the clarification.

I have a couple of clients that I’ve worked with for several years. They have regular needs two or three times per year that are very predictable. I sometimes mull a few ideas around in my head, but I never start work until I receive the go-ahead from them. As someone who makes his living as a designer, I don’t spend time on things that might not occur.

Your situation is a little different, though. Volunteer work for your church is something you do because you want to help and be involved, which changes the nature of the situation. Even so, you need to set some realistic time boundaries. If you don’t, the other people who are involved won’t understand how much effort and time is involved. It’s surprising how many people think these things are easy and only take an hour or two.

Since you’re regularly involved with this church project, maybe you could get a little more involved and be part of the process of determining the themes and deadlines (only if you wanted to, of course).


No. I collect inspiration throughout the year, but I would never start work on a project without a complete brief and all the pieces. It says that in my contracts. The theme is one of the pieces.

Listen to the subtext of what you client is telling you. This isn’t a priority to them. If it was, they would have had the theme sorted out long ago. They don’t care if it gets done, so why do you?

If they still have an expectation of you producing this work, then I would say they aren’t being respectful of your time or contribution, waiting until the last minute then expecting you to drop everything to get their stuff done. That’s common with free work.

You have to train your clients to treat you the way you’d like to be treated.

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My critical path is never an absolute one. All stages are determined by number of days after receipt of final material. There is no such thing as first proof on 14th of March. It is always 15 working days after final material.

Looks to me you do not have a professional relationship.


He already said he is not a professional designer, just a volunteer. I find it so disappointing when churches, of all organizations, should treat their volunteers that way.

To me, that only reveals how little they value your efforts as a volunteer—which brings up an important question for you—as a Christian man myself I learned by the same experience that doing volunteer work in this area was something I was not “called” to do. So maybe you volunteered for the wrong function as well.

And just for the other professionals who read this, I firmly believe a professional in any field should never volunteer to do for your church, the very services through which you make your living.

For example, I am currently doing design work for a local non-profit that helps middle and high school kids to avoid violence and stay out of gangs, drugs, and alcohol. Now that’s God’s work done God’s way.

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I was always taught not to give away what I do for a living.
I have on occasion traded sign work for free meals in lieu of money though. :slight_smile:

… and therefore business needs not be conducted in a professional manner?

I am of the opinion that once you are committed to a project, you will endeavour to complete it in the best possible way, even without monetary rewards. Voluntary projects still need to be done well, and professional business interaction is an integral part of how it is done well.

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I agree. It should be. But that professionalism needs to go both ways. If the organization he is volunteering for, seems to have an attitude of entitlement, such as this one, then he, his time and efforts, are being taken for granted and he is not receiving the respect a volunteer should be given. And therefore it is not an organization that deserves him as a volunteer.

The work I do for worthy nonprofits is always pro-bono, but interestingly, these pro-bono organizations continually show their appreciation and usually offer to pay me. But I always graciously decline. Now these are the organizations that are always appreciative, respectful, grateful and deserve to be supported.

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Sighted leading the sighted is not blind leading the blind.