October 31, 2017 By Vicki

Halloween Horror Stories: The Chilling Design Experience Edition

5 minutes Design
Product Marketing For Product Success – From Conception to Launch
Product Marketing For Product Success – From Conception to Launch
Design for a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy
Design for a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy

Just to clarify, we're not the designers from hell mentioned in the title of this post! :P

This is a quick collection of horror stories our clients and contacts* have shared about their past design project experiences. * All names have been changed for privacy.

Your website is coming soon...

...Said the web developer repeatedly to poor Alex who had already been waiting for 2 years and counting. All he wanted a simple e-commerce website to sell his home decor products but the web developer whom he engaged from one of those crowd-sourcing platforms kept going MIA.

The work done to date was glitchy and absolutely not ready for launch; any change requests made took ages to get done (if they were done at all) and weren't carried out properly.

It was a tedious and blood-letting experience, not to mention the opportunity loss while his goods were sitting in storage waiting to be sold,  but unfortunately Alex had already paid the web developer in full and couldn't pump in more funds to reboot the project from scratch.

Alex continues to be haunted by his half-finished website...

Say 'No' to the 'Yes' man

Clara had engaged a wonderful logo designer off an online platform who said 'yes' and 'no problem' to everything that had told him over a Skype call, so Clara was looking forward to seeing a masterpiece for her logo. Unfortunately, the work delivered was all kinds of wrong, and not at all what she had wanted.

When Clara started asking for changes, it became clear that the designer was simply someone who knew how to use the Adobe Creative Suite software but didn't have a design eye at all. She had to take on the role of an art director and literally instruct every single edit she wanted with little creative input from the vendor. After an eternity of back and forths, Clara gave up as the process was taking up all her time and energy, plus she was falling behind schedule for her business plans. Clara ended up using a logo that she wasn't happy with.

Clara is consistently reminded of the 'Yes' man's creepy presence every time she looks at her logo, but has plans to revamp her branding soon.


Take it or leave it – that was the situation that Anna found herself in with the off-shore outsourcing web development firm she had engaged. She had paid the fee in full upfront to get her corporate site done up and the end result was far from what had been promised.

The website did not suit her branding and did not look professional. It was also full of bugs and did not display properly on mobile devices. After several attempts to get the website corrected, the web development firm told Anna that any revisions request were billable which came as a rude shock to her. Being a startup and having to be careful with her funds, Anna did not want to risk paying for the revisions as she was already unhappy with the vendor.

Fortunately for Anna, was able to escape further danger as she had closed a few business deals which allowed her to redo her website with us.

How to avoid a horror story of your own

We hate hearing about such bad experiences, so here are our best tips to help you engage a reliable and good design partner:

1. Take the time to prepare a project brief

You must know what you want in order to know what to look out for.

Design projects are usually based on work scope and don’t come as a flat fee, so you’ll need to provide a basic project brief. It creates an outline and give you clarity on what you want to achieve. You'll also find that you don't have to keep repeating yourself over and over again if you end up talking to more than one prospective vendor. Here is a general project brief guideline you can follow:

  • Type of project: Is it a logo design, a brochure design or a website?
  • Purpose/objective: Is it for general brand awareness, a launch or a special promotion?
  • Where/how will the design be used: Is it for a particular event or conference, or for leaving behind with a prospect after a meeting?
  • When do you need the project to be completed: The answer always seems to be ‘yesterday’!
  • Examples of what you expect: Do your homework and find samples of what you have in mind to help everyone get on the same page, and to set expectations
2. Ask your network for recommendations

Weeerk that network! Ask around for recommendations — you’re bound to have some people you know who have hired a designer before. Most design firms will have a forte or clear specialisations. Be sure to highlight what you want to your network, e.g. “I need a boutique design studio that works extensively with SMEs.”

Ask about the overall experience, and what they liked specifically about working with the designer.

3. Check out the portfolio and references

Assess the portfolio based on range of design style, range of industries covered, aesthetic value and practical application. You may also want to ask if the agency has any additional work that they would like to show you that’s relevant to your project.

4. Keep an eye on response time

This is a clear indication of how they will be corresponding with you when you are a client. To be fair, allow up to 3 to 5 working days for a response to your initial contact. If you don’t hear back by then, don’t bother — why should you when they clearly won’t?

5. Meet face-to-face

Who likes to go on a blind date? Not many people. Whenever possible, meet the people you’ll be working with in person — human dynamics play a huge part in the outcome of your project. If the designer is based overseas, there are always tools like Facetime or Skype – it'll help you find out if you've got a good rapport with the designer.

6. Ask about the work process

Projects flow better and produce better results when you have a better understanding of the work process. A good design agency will take the time to share and educate you about this, as it builds a stronger working relationship.

You may also want to ask if the work is going to be done in-house, or if parts of it will be outsourced. This is important to know as you’ll want to know how outsourced contractors are going to be managed for reliability.

8. What are you paying for?

When asking for a quote, be sure that there is a breakdown of the scope of work and deliverables, so you can be clear on what you will and will not receive. Read the fine print of the contract, so that everyone is on the same page before moving forward.

Typically you’ll be expected to pay a downpayment prior to commencement of work. The amount may vary — you should be able to negotiate a win-win fee schedule that both parties are comfortable with. Upon final payment, you should receive the deliverables highlighted in the agreement.

Unless you've had a long-term working relationship with the vendor or if your close contact has worked with them extensively, we don't recommend making payments upfront in full.

Unchain from brand mediocrity. Happy Hellowin. #designforbusiness#smallmediumenterprise#brandidentity#webdesign

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So there you have it, Halloween Horror Stories: The Designers From Hell Edition! We hope that your next design project is a Hallo-win, not a Halloween fright!

If you're currently stuck in a horror story or nightmare, please feel free to send us an SOS and we'll see how we can help. 

“I Don’t Want To Make Business Life Easier.”
(Said No One Ever.)
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