5 things designers wish their clients from hell knew

The long, painful battle between graphic designers and clients never ends.  There are lots of things designers want to say to their clients, but it seems they never say that directly to their clients (of course, who would?).
After asking some of my fellow designers what they wish their clients from hell knew, I compile a list that would be useful if you are considering hiring a designer:

1. Freelance Ain’t Free

Client from hell

Just because you hire freelance designers doesn’t mean they will work for free. That’s why you should never hold a design contest unless you want to waste your time and money. Crowdsourcing competitions only attract hobbyist designers, amateurs and designers who are not serious about their work. Most of the designs you get from the contests will be based on the designer’s personal tastes, not those of your targeted market. In contrast, a professional graphic designer will do research about your company, your competitors and the industry to make sure the design match your business goals and stand out from the rest.

Once again, don’t expect professional designers to invest time, energy and resources in working for free.

Client from hell

Or even better:

Client from hell


2. You get what you pay for

Client from hell

Don’t expect to get a great and cheap graphic design done in half an hour.  Enough said.

3. Designers are not mere tools

Client from hell
After working as a freelance graphic designer for 5 years, I come to understand that some clients don’t know how to get the most out of their designers. For instance, when giving feedback, just voice your impression, like how that blue color makes you feel, and that you want a more feminine color. Tell your designer that you want a color that will attract female customers, but don’t say you want pink. Unless you have more years of training in graphic design than your designer, don’t tell him or her exactly what to do. Your designer who is packed with years of education, training and experience will know how to solve the problem based on your impression. Trust your designer more and you’ll be amazed with what he or she can come up with.

Fact is, designers don’t only know how to use graphics software, they know all the principles and elements of good design. If you don’t take advantage of that, you are throwing your money away.

Client from hell


4. Less is More. Respect white space.

Client from hell

Uneducated clients tend to cram as much information as possible in a design. They are afraid that the lack of information would drive away customers, but in fact, what they really need is a design that stands out. Once the customer is interested, he or she would go to the company’s website to get more information. The era of passive consumer is long gone.

So why do you have to respect white space? There are numerous benefits, but in general, white space helps attract attention and creates elegant, sophisticated designs. Here are some very good articles in case you want to learn more about white space:

White space in web design
How white space improves readability
Why white space is good in graphic design

5. Hire those who believe what you believe

Client from hell

This is unrelated to graphic design but it’s a very interesting point indeed. I hope you can find a designer who looks at the same direction as you.


So that’s my guide on how NOT to be a client from hell. I know it’s not complete yet and would like to know what you all think. Graphic designers, do you want to add anything else to this list?
To clients: Do you think this list do you justice? I’d love to hear your opinion no matter what it is.

  • David

    Outstanding. How can I get files of these to print and give to my clients?

    • Keira

      Hey David, you can click on the pictures to go to the designers’ websites and contact them for prints. I’m glad you like the article!

  • Tracy Stevens

    This is Great! Can I get a copy? I would love to show this to a couple clients.

    • Keira

      Thanks Tracy. Are you asking about the prints? You can click on those pictures to go to the designers’ websites and contact them for prints.

  • Michael Smith

    Omg, as a fellow graphic designer myself, all I can say is I love you for making this! May I send this to few clients?

    • Keira

      Sure, but I don’t really recommend it you know. Our job is not only delivering great work but also educating clients. An educated client will keep coming back because unlike others, he/she can see the value of your work.

  • jcfromdc

    Most points are well and truly taken. However, use of the “f-bomb” in one of your graphics shows a lack of maturity, unless the Sopranos are your client. Any use of profanity to make a point shows a lack of patience, poise, and a lack of command of the language. Very unprofessional. One of the others is a little too subtle to get the point across (white space)

    • Keira

      Hey jcfromdc,
      Thanks for your comment. Apparently we have a misunderstanding here. I didn’t design these graphics (Click on the graphics to visit the designers’ websites), but I think it’s okay to use the “f-bomb” once in a while to get your point across. Anything that raises eyebrows can’t be forgotten easily, and that’s the purpose of communication.

  • Abinash Mohanty

    Gr8 post and experience that we face with clients :) I just read the entire post on medium and landed on your website. Good read and good work, Keep in up. I have also added you in G+

    • Keira Bui

      Thank you Abinash! I’m glad you like it. I’ve just added you on G+ too.

      • Abinash Mohanty

        You are welcome! Let’s connect :) I am gonna subscribe to your blog post right away.

  • Cath Beaton

    Bravo! There is so much exploitation in this industry, and I’d like to see everyone having the confidence to demand the respect and payment they deserve. Freelance ain’t free! Talent, Experience, Skill, Education and Time go into every job and should be paid for. You don’t expect an accountant/secretary/plumber/teacher to work for free – that would be absurd. Please don’t reduce your rates people.

  • Cindy C

    Bless your soul. This is brilliant. Wish I could send this to every client and potential client!

  • Barb Stengle

    Love this! Gave me a much needed laugh…dealing with one of those “clients” right now!

  • Ella

    One of those posters is mine and there is no credit. Always give people credit for their work.
    Way to being a “client from hell” yourself. :

    • Keira

      Hey sorry I must’ve missed it by mistake. Which one is your poster?

    • Sarah Elizabeth Pedregon

      Have they addressed this?! That’s crazy.