Undiscussed Parts Of The Design Process

3 Apr

These are the process points you won’t find discussed in any book on web design. No website discusses them and no-one admits to them out loud. If there was a panel which discussed them at SXSW or @Media2005, we would all go – but only to see who else turned up and then we would go to the pub and take the piss behind their backs, but we’d know…..we’d know….we’ve all been to these places.

1 – The Partner/Colleague/Wife/Offspring Bomb-Comment

It doesn’t matter where you work. Whether you work in a studio or an office or at home there will always, always be someone available to wander up behind you, stand there watching over your shoulder (over your shoulder dammit!) and then casually say something like: “You’re putting that image there are you?”…pause…”I see.”.

There aren’t words in the English language to describe how utterly annoying this is. Constructive criticism after the design concept is complete is both expected and gratefully recieved – but during?? This can have a disastrous effect on both the life of the fledgling design concept and your relationship with the person who dared to utter such foolishness in your presence. Unfortunately, the only real solution is to kill everyone else on the planet thus ensuring total silence until your muse has finished shitting. Of course the really, really irritating thing is that 90% of the time, they’re right. Bastards.

2 – The Gestation Period

This is the crucial part of the process whereby the design concept is complete but you’re not yet ready to show it to your client. It needs to sit, unmolested, unlooked at (except by you once every few hours) to gestate. This gestation period can last anything from a few hours to a few days. No one knows why this is necessary. It just is.

3 – The Inevitably Appalling First Design Concept

Possibly related to point one, although you must never admit this to the perpetrator of point one. This usually occurs after you’ve had your graphics app open for an hour or two and you’ve aimlessley pushed a few uninspired pixels around in the rough shape of something or other, squinted at it, decided its not bad enough to be responsible for the outbreak of Cholera and tried to fit an actual design element into it. You then realise how totally shite it actually is. Its at this point that scenario one (see above) usually occurs.

4 – The Dawning Realisation Of Undercharge

This one’s more for relatively new designers. Us jaded cynical hacks are well used to over realistically charging clients. Its happened to us all though, whether as an agency worker with the sinking realisation the Studio Manager is about to kick your arse for failing to budget properly or as a one-person band realising that 6 concept revisions, 12 usability tests and full database makeup and multimedia launch isn’t going to fit into your £250 budget for the site. Whatever the scenario, the end result is the same: congrats dickhead – you just lost yourself a pile of cash.

5 – The Hate Of The Existing Logo/Identity/Colour Scheme

So you get down to brass tacks with the client and ask their logo creators to send you all versions of the logo. This is a tense time. Its not unknown to find a gaggle of web designers (what is the correct term for a group of web designers?) gathered round a machine waiting for a hi-res logo from their new client to download so they can pass judgement on it. When it does, the first 10 seconds or so are critical – if its met with a hissed intake of breath, or sniggers or appalled silence you’re in trouble. Any other response can be taken as a good sign. It is traditional at this stage however that whatever the quality of the logo, if you are the designer working with this client you should bemoan your luck in getting such a hard logo/colourscheme/typeface to have to make something of. Your air should be – yes I’m a genius, yes I can make this work, but its going to be very, very tricky. Appreciate me more goddamit.

6 – The Insomnia Driven Burst Of Inspiration

Otherwise known as Oxton Syndrome, this is where you may have encountered a repeat of point three (see above) a few times when suddenly your muse decides to crap on you in the middle of the night. You know you should jot down the main points and go back to sleep but you can almost hear your graphics app calling to you – nothing will do now except getting up and going to work. You will pay for this dilligence later on in the day when you fall asleep in the middle of the creative meeting with Nike.

7 – The Amazing Disappearing Client

This one’s a fun one. It usually manifests itself between submission of proposal and deposit payment. For a long time I was firmly convinced there was some sort of League of Potential Clients who’s rules included the edict: ‘Before giving the go-ahead, make your chosen designer sweat as long as is humanly possible.’ There are strict mathmatical rules that govern this point e.g. d = (p x Tsn) where d = duration of wait, p = phone calls made to client and Tsn = total scheduling nightmare. This can reach nightmare proportions when d* comes into play where ‘*’ represents the number of clients pulling this shit on you.

8 – The ISP Downtime At Critical Communicative Moment Syndrome

A key point of the design process. This point usually comes along just after you have impressed the client with your professionalism and they are on the point of getting you to take a brief. This point is particularly beloved of freelancers dependant on their ISP for their very survivial. General law is: the tighter the margin, the greater the chance of badly timed downtime.

9 – The ‘90% Finished’ Ennui

You know what I’m talking about. The fun part was over a long time ago. All thats left now is fine tuning your CSS to work in every v3 browser ever made, finising off that 3D spinning logo device the client specially requested and arranging a cut-over date. In your head, you’ve already moved on except that stupid ‘contract’ thing you signed says otherwise. Bah.

Symptoms include but are not limited to thinking wistfully about redesigning personal sites.

10 – The Whore Point

This is the point at which you make a bargain in your head regarding how far you’re willing to compromise on a design. The clients Marketing Dept say your concept isn’t ‘whizz-bang’ enough and want to insert animated wavy flags on the home page to denote each language the site caters to, maybe a full size Flash intro with a hi-res photo of their headquarters in Cockfosters alpha tweening in and various other goodness. A large part of you wants to ask if they’re ‘for real’, or maybe if they could possibly ‘stop trying to physically hurt me’ but the other sneaky part of you says, damn, I really need this job – if I take it, I break even for the first time this year! Such is the Whore Point: the point at which you readily abandon your principles and sell your self. Don’t worry too much, it doesn’t have to go on your portfolio….but you’ll always know.

Anything you think I’ve missed? What other undocumented, undiscussed laws should be added?

21 Responses to “Undiscussed Parts Of The Design Process”

  1. Andy Hume April 3, 2005 at 21:41 #

    Heh heh. Very funny stuff.

    My problem is I don’t realise I have an “Inevitably Appalling First Design Concept” until I’ve got them in CSS, pressed out the bugs, and spent 6 months wanting to re-design.

  2. Not saying here April 4, 2005 at 01:14 #

    Oh my, you’re so right.

  3. Matt Hampel April 4, 2005 at 02:30 #

    My friend says you’re missing #11: after the work is done + online and just when you think you’re safe, the client says “oh yea, we also need this added…”

  4. John Oxton April 4, 2005 at 11:24 #

    Awesome… brilliant piece of writing! 🙂

    @Andy: “My problem is I don’t realise I have an “Inevitably Appalling First Design Concept” until I’ve got them in CSS, pressed out the bugs, and spent 6 months wanting to re-design.”

    That’s why you should have a free templates for downloading spot on your site — 😉

    I need sleep… these questions seem to be getting harder on Gatekeeper!

  5. Pete April 4, 2005 at 14:25 #

    OMFG. Number 9. Too true. I’m printing this out and sticking it up next to my desk. Hold on, that gives me an idea about a new sidebar on my site…

  6. Tom April 4, 2005 at 14:27 #

    What about the whole “Can you just use that contact form for the other site?”, “Yes I could, do you want me to do that now?”, “No, just when you have time”

    Result, three unfinished projects.

    BTW, your comment filter is stupid, bananas can be green as well as yellow. 😛

  7. Kev April 4, 2005 at 14:32 #

    bananas can be green as well as yellow

    lol@Tom. OK mate, made it more explicit for you literalists ;o)

  8. G bancroft April 4, 2005 at 23:30 #

    It’s number ten for me.

    Isn’t a ripe banana black?

  9. G bancroft April 4, 2005 at 23:33 #

    Sorry, what was the question again?

  10. Kev April 5, 2005 at 00:19 #

    Dear Mr Meyer,

    This isn’t going so well. Please equip the next version of Gatekeeper with some kind of Betazoid plugin.

    Hello? Hellooooo?

    Love and hugs,


  11. Jamie April 5, 2005 at 13:24 #

    I try and chat as much as possible to my gf about work stuff (as much as she can take before zoning out actually tbh).

    I was telling her a few weeks ago of a site we were redesigning that was badly in need of some imagery.

    She came and sat with me in the home office the other day and started annoyingly looking over my shoulder.

    “Ooh, yeah, it definitely needs some more photos doesn’t it.”

    “That’s actually the new site I’ve spent the last three weeks working on. Thanks”.

    Destroyed in a single statement.

  12. Mike@TheWhippinpost April 5, 2005 at 14:55 #

    Always allow 3 weeks for 10 min jobs.

    Excellent stuff Kev 😉

    Just like a painting shouldn’t be seen before completion, so it is with websites/music. The real reason is to allow time for improving on a shite idea!

  13. Kev April 5, 2005 at 16:13 #

    @Jamie: My wife’s even more blunt than that. She wanders up behind me and says: “ooh no, I don’t like that“. Sigh.

    @Mike: lol…very true mate ;o)

  14. Schultzy April 5, 2005 at 19:30 #

    Hahah I must have the Oxton syndrome too.

    And the rest is true too.

  15. Jenn April 6, 2005 at 09:29 #

    I was sent your link by my webdesigning partner in a vain attempt to help me understand what he does.
    The words ‘do you think the client is going to be happy with that?’ seem to send him into a spin as do the words ‘you stayed up all night for weeks and you only charged $$$$”
    We could relate to ever point, even no11, sad to think even the down under web designers and clients still play the same game..!!!

  16. Kev April 6, 2005 at 13:29 #

    The words ‘do you think the client is going to be happy with that?’ seem to send him into a spin as do the words

    Oooh Jenn – you’re one of ‘them’!! ;o)

  17. Prabhath Sirisena April 7, 2005 at 11:59 #

    Hilarious, but so true. This is a must read for all designers.

  18. Andy Stones April 8, 2005 at 15:56 #

    I’ve just printed this out and framed it! Someone should translate this into ‘The 10 Unwritten Webdesign Commandments’

    Best thing I’ve read all week!

  19. Nipith April 11, 2005 at 17:39 #

    Yes! I’m not the only one who’s annoyed by all these. The Disappearing Client especially irks me.


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