1. The Ominous Open Deadline
It sounds like a dream right? It’s due whenever you’re finished. Finally you can take all the time you need and all the time you want. Waste hours on theoretical explorations of rain clouds. Get lost in the intrigue of the letter “q.” Only it never works like that. After 6 or so months of moving it back on the schedule when you do finally feel ready to tackle the never-ending project, you’ll find that your motivation to work on it is gone. And your client, the one who gave you all the creative freedom you’ve ever dreamed of, well they’ve forgotten about it as well, or they’re wondering why there’s been no progress on it. Either way you’re destined to fail and all because of one simple thing: we need boundaries. Deadlines represent order and the absence of which is total chaos. Do yourself a favor, set a deadline, even if it’s an arbitrary one. Keep it open if you want, but start talking about dates. Reviews, approvals, revisions, etc. Future you will thank you, I promise.
2. Partner Approval Limbo
Just when everything seems to be going well and your project is on it’s way to completion you hear those horrible words, “I love it. I just need to run it past my boss.” That’s it. Your project is now a dead man walking. DOA. It never had a chance. And it’s not because Tim’s boss is a total tool. She’s actually a pretty nice person. No, it’s because you didn’t make sure that all the decision makes were not involved from the beginning. You need everyone’s buy in to make things work. If your contact has a boss, they need to be in on the ground floor. And while committees are where good designs go to die, you need to make sure you understand each and every person who has a vote and what to do to get them involved. If they haven’t seen anything until the big presentation, you might as well set your work on fire and toss it out the window, because the battle is lost. Remember, get everyone with a stake in the project involved as early as possible.
3. It’s quiet. A little too quiet.
We all love it. That moment when the client says the magic word, “approved.” It marks the end of a long and hard-fought road and announces that it’s time to crack open the Zimas and tell the team to start the celebrating. But hold your horses. Approved with no comments? No feedback? No nitpicking or curveball questions? I don’t know about you but I don’t trust that kind fo approval. When there’s no comments, something is wrong. This almost never happens. It means something was missed. It was too fast, too painless, too easy. If it sounds too be good to be true, it usually is. Inevitably while you’re breaking it down on the conference room desk, popping and locking all over the pace you’ll get a call from the client. The verdict is in. LOTS of edits. If you ever get approval without comment, double check. Ask if EVERYONE has weighed in. Don’t move a muscle until you are sure that it’s a go.
4. Execution by Examples
Many is a time you’ll get an email with a pinterest link to some other equivalent stack of images from the internet that says something like “here’s a few examples of what we like.” Translation, I want you to rip this off. Of course you can’t just say no outright. You need to handle this diplomatically. Inspiration is one thing but plagiarism, or in this case, copyright infringement is a whole other deal. And assuming that you have strict moral compass and more integrity than sense, here’s how you handle it. Reassure the client that you will absolutely look to these examples for inspiration, but make sure they know you will be showing them something unique, specific to THIER particular project, that might not look anything at all like the examples. For their benefit (legally as well as creatively). Talk about how it will be in the similar “tone” as their examples or it’ll reflect the same conceptual values. And more importantly, there will be nothing out there like it.
5. Working Title Tragedy
Let me be frank: working titles are harder to shake than student loan debt. You have to spend as much time killing the working title as you do creating the new amazing name that they have hired yuo to create, and in the end, they’ll go back to their working title anyways. It’s inevitable. They’ve bene living with this name for months, maybe years. It’s just in there. It grows on you, like Toby Maguire, and you couldn’t stand to see poor Toby just discarded, could you? Here’s what you do. You have a funeral for the name. At the end of your Kick Off meeting stand up, bro your head, take a print out of the working title, lay it on the table, put some coins over it’s eyes and announce that it has passed. Invite everyone to say a little something over the body. Then toss it in the trash, gently. It seems silly, but it’s a great way to take that name off the table and give everyone a chance to say goodbye.