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Posted on Friday, April 8th, 2011

Dave!Graphic design is one of those fields that makes almost no sense to those outside of the practice. On the surface, it sounds simple... graphic design is the process of using images and/or words to communicate a message or story in an engaging manner. But the reality of it is far more complex. Often times, the true role of a graphic designer is that of mediator... finding a way to combine very different elements by very different people into a single cohesive piece. Sometimes you get lucky and everybody involved is on the same page. All the pieces of the project come together effortlessly, and everybody walks away happy.

But not always.

Sometimes its a battle from start to finish to just find a solution that pisses off the fewest number of people.

Projects like these are incredibly stressful because at some point you have to accept that not everybody is going to walk away happy. And since it's your job to make everybody happy, you can't help but feel like a failure even when the project ends up a success.

One time I was called in on a project which had been dragging on for months because the two previous graphic designers couldn't come up with an acceptable compromise. The client was a large-ish company which had a president, a board of directors, an art director, and an advisory committee... all of which had to be appeased before any design could be signed off on. On top of that, there was also a photographer and an artist involved, and they too needed to have a voice in the project. All told, there were fourteen people I had to work with. Fourteen people who each had opinions as to how the project should be handled.

No wonder all previous efforts had failed. Getting fourteen people to agree on something as arbitrary as a design concept is nigh impossible. I certainly had my work cut out for me this time.

The first thing I did was hold meetings with all the entities to find out their goals for the project.

Secondly I met with the creative people to find out what they felt would reach those goals.

Thirdly I reviewed the rejected works that the two previous designers had done.

Unfortunately, there was no clear direction for me to follow. So I decided to do something a little crazy. Instead of coming up with a single design that addressed everybody's goals, I decided to come up with five different designs that specifically addressed individual goals. I then made five separate presentations and got the five approvals I needed.

I then created a new design by carefully combining elements from all five projects which I had crafted to work together from the very start. Then I went around to everybody to present the finished design. At each stop, I placed emphasis on the pieces that they had contributed while de-emphasizing everything else. In this way, everybody felt as though their part was the most important.

And that was the key to getting approval on the project. NOT by trying to make everybody feel as though they were equally represented... but instead by making everybody feel as though their part was the dominant, most critical piece of the puzzle. Human nature dictates that everybody wants to feel more important... more special... than everybody else. I was just providing the illusion that this was the case, even though the reality was that everybody played an equal part.

Obviously, I am more talented a negotiator than the politicians in charge of the US budget.


For crying out loud. Democrats want a 30 billion dollar cut. Republicans want a 60 billion dollar cut. Just call it a 45 billion dollar cut and declare victory already! All this stupid shit about shutting down the government makes me want to nuke Congress. Yo! Dumbfucks... it doesn't matter what you do... it's how you sell it. Any politician worth their salt can spin shit to sound like victory no matter what happens. But the egos here are massive, so declaring victory is apparently not good enough.

Which leaves us with name-calling and finger-pointing.

And a potential government shut-down.

I say put Tim Gunn in charge...

Tim Gunn Photo by Bravo TV
Photo by Bravo TV

Make it work, people. Make it work...

Categories: News - Politics 2011Click To It: Permalink


  1. Annabelle says:

    Tom Gunn, yes!

    There’s a fundamental flaw in a system that would allow for a shut down. Do your jobs f#ckers.

  2. Sybil Law says:


  3. Steve in NH says:


    This is a lovely entry. Beautifully-written and I couldn’t agree with you more.

  4. Patrick Chadd says:

    …if only politicians were (good) graphic designers lol – and yes to Tim Gunn!!

    It might even be helpful to have Heidi…”Obama, the potential shut-down was not an original or creative point-of-view, so unfortunately – you’re out!

  5. timothy says:

    People do have selfish tendencies (are they innate?) and equal does not work for them. What a clever plan to make them all feel dominant–alpha-male/female!

    Even here in Uganda, the threat of the shut-down has had quite an impact.

    With Tim in charge, at least we’d know we looked good.

  6. the muskrat says:

    Tim Gunn? Hell, I think Charlie Sheen could do a better job than the current crop is doing.

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