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Working with a designer whose work you hate

  • # November 23, 2012 at 4:17 am

    I am currently working on a project where the look and feel of the site is being dictated by a marketing department. The woman responsible for the design is pretty good with print, even if it’s a bit dull and corporate it is well executed. Site design is a bloody shambles though.

    The whole design looks as though it’s from 2005, and every PDF she sends me is accompanied by dozens of jpgs with shiny gradients and form elements that look like they’re from OSX Cheetah.

    To twist the knife, she name-drops HTML5 in every conversation to make it seem like she’s knows what she’s talking about, but at the same time has a requirement for a flash menu and windows meda video.

    I’m trying to concentrate on creating high quality code but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that this site will look close to a decade old on day one. And what’s worse is that the seniors in the company are totally blind to the problem; they trust that she knows design even if they think it’s not right.

    Has anyone been in a similar position? Proposing the right technical direction isn’t a problem because I don’t really need to consult with anyone, but I need advice on influencing the design so it’s at least approching a clean, modern feel. Any tips?

    # November 23, 2012 at 4:37 am

    I think you should tell them from a technical point of view. Tell them a flash menu is not the best idea since iDevices won’t be able to navigate the site. Tell them web-videos have new standards and show them some good examples. You’re the techie, so you tell them what is the best for them. From a graphic point of view I would tell them the look of the page doesn’t seem fresh or up to date and provide them some good examples (go look on http://www.awwwards.com/ ), but you’ll have to find the right words to do it. It all depends on how your bosses are like. There’s bosses like nazis and then there’s those who listen to you..
    Personally I think that the web is going “flat” in the near future..

    http://layervault.tumblr.com/post/32267022219/flat-interface-design

    # November 23, 2012 at 5:42 am

    That tumblr looks like it’s well worth following, thanks. I also agree with what they’re saying, but at the same time I don’t like the way this approach has been used in Windows 8. Very subtle use of box-shadow can add a lot to a page without looking overblown.

    I have linked key people to http://www.designmadeingermany.de/sites-we-like/ to little or no avail; they always say ‘Yeah, it’s nice but it doesn’t suit our audience’.

    I have decided to make a clean design of my own that also sticks to the company’s brand guidelines and send it along with the design I have been given. I’ll include a carefully worded explanation and justification. I don’t think subtle hints and a soft approach is going to work in this case.

    # November 23, 2012 at 5:52 am

    easiest way to explain to them a design is dated is to show them what their competitors are doing.

    @JoniGiuro flat design just feels like another variation on minimalism web design which has been a bit of a trend in the past year or so. Tbh I think theres a bit of a struggle going on in design because of responsive media and the variety of formats exploding, trying to find something that works well looks good provides essential information at lower resolutions while good visual appear at higher levels without resorting to vast swathes of under the hood mechanics to acheive it.

    # November 23, 2012 at 6:10 am

    I’ve been in a similar position once.
    It’s tough since the designer has already earned all the credits.

    I’d express my concern about spending so much time and energy and in the end not giving them the ultimate user friendly experience.
    I’d call in a meeting and tell them and herself that you like and respect her work and ideas (I did) and she’s needed in the process since we want ‘unity’ in the design, but also that you are concerned about the web design since you feel it’s not meeting today’s standards in more then one way. And that that’s not due to lack of professionalism on her side but that is because web design is a whole other profession and some “standards” change over night, you can’t know everything. That you feel this needs more attention.
    That you’d want to recommend consulting and even hiring a web designer or maybe an interaction designer for feedback and changes on the current design so that ‘you as a team’ can deliver a design and website that meets today’s standards.

    # November 23, 2012 at 6:10 am

    >I have decided to make a clean design of my own that also sticks to the company’s brand guidelines and send it along with the design I have been given. I’ll include a carefully worded explanation and justification. I don’t think subtle hints and a soft approach is going to work in this case.

    Look at it this way…if you were a home decorator and were being paid to put up wallpaper…it’s not your job to like the color…it’s your job to make sure it gets on the wall.

    We all have jobs we didn’t like. When it comes down to it we’re paid to do a job and once the design has been decided upon, for whatever reason, it’s up to us to get it done.

    If you’re being paid to come up with a design that’s fine but otherwise, why are you giving them your work for nothing…pride?

    Just leave it out of your portfolio.

    BTW…your thread title is slightly off…it should be

    **Working with a design you hate**

    # November 23, 2012 at 6:13 am

    I’d stay out delivering a new design when it’s not asked for, since you won’t get paid for it and also I think it will cause rivalry, something you just try to avoid if I understand you correctly, and also IF they are going to use it you might not get the credits or want to change things that you feel shouldn’t… it puts you in a difficult position whilst your is real clear now.

    # November 23, 2012 at 6:33 am

    @Paulie_D – This is a great way of looking at it, but at the same time I’d like to help my comapny avoid terrible design which has the potential to cause some harm.

    On reflection, making a design of my own would be a bad move, especially for relations between the designer and myself.

    I am putting together some examples of competitor sites and sites that have a great look and feel that could support our product. I will also be clear on technical issues and make the definition between print and web design so I can speak with authority.

    I am working on another project at the same time where I am responsible for the design and development, and there has been plenty of good feedback, all while remining faithful to the brand guidelines. Not only does the good feedback work in my favor, but I can also push for consistency across sites.

    Thanks for all your advice – sometimes I just need to let things go and not care so much!

    # November 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    What you’re talking about takes more than just a 5 minute conversation with your boss. You need to do the research of the competitors websites. Show the standards in today’s development and why certain implementations won’t work. At the end you could throw in a few good examples of designs that match the client’s area. To conclude, you should add that you’re worried that this might not work and would reflect poorly on the company you work for.

    I would print all that information and create a small packet for you to hand to your boss.

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