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Graphic Design is:

No, I’m not trying to get into another 60+ comment discussion about what graphic design is or means. This is a little bit more laid back.

I would like to gather the funniest, most off-beat descriptions you have heard people make of design. Your parents will probably be your main inspiration. Has a client ever described design in a funny and way-off-the-mark manner? Have you ever tried to explain what you do to a bored taxi cab driver? How many times have you heard in response to what you do: “my niece likes to draw too”.?

Stuff like that. Anything goes.

Update: Also include the weirdest requests you have gotten from a client. Or relative.

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ARCHIVE ID 1383 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Mar.03.2003 BY Armin
Michael Clifford’s comment is:

"Is that like, with AutoCAD?"

My first time contributing to the discussion and it's one sentence.

On Mar.03.2003 at 02:58 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Do you mean graphic design?

On Mar.03.2003 at 03:09 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>Do you mean graphic design?


Yes, I mean graphic design. For a few weeks there I had the "Graphic Design" distinction down pat.

On Mar.03.2003 at 03:16 PM
Darrel’s comment is:


On Mar.03.2003 at 03:18 PM
KM’s comment is:

Here you go:

"I wish I could sit and draw on the computer all day."

"So you design graphics for web sites?"

On Mar.03.2003 at 03:25 PM
Corey’s comment is:

At a family reunion, my parents introduced me as "the Director of Bug's Life". I had, in fact, only worked on the logo, and a teaser poster.

Now they introduce me as a computer artist, since that's closer, I've opted against correcting them.

On Mar.03.2003 at 03:27 PM
Sam’s comment is:

The office manager at a former job would answer the phone and say "graphic designs." I would continue weaving my lanyards.

Plural just doesn't work for either word.

On Mar.03.2003 at 03:36 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

While I'm not advocating not studying in your book courses, it did take me a good long while to convince my parents that getting a B in calculus really had no bearing what-so-ever on my ability to get a graphic design job.

On Mar.03.2003 at 04:10 PM
Dave’s comment is:

"I am no art critic, but I know what I hate and I don't hate this."

-- Montgomery Burns

yeah, it's maybe it says art... but you could substitute art for design if you like... i think its still funny.

On Mar.03.2003 at 04:39 PM
plain*clothes’s comment is:

"could you help me fix my computer?"

"my husband likes to paint!"

"so, you do drawings and stuff for people? that's cool."

I usually hear, "oh... cool." followed by the type of awkward changing of the subject that happens when people are completely clueless about what your saying. I try to hold the topic in place and educate them, but often times I just don't have the patience for an uninterested audience.

On Mar.03.2003 at 06:31 PM
pk’s comment is:

"wow, these are really good. i could print these on t-shirt iron-ons for you and you could make a lot of money at the craft fair next month!"

-aunt helen, upon seeing the slides for my nomination to the cooper-hewitt national design awards in 2001.

On Mar.03.2003 at 07:45 PM
Jon’s comment is:

Besides the obvious "you work with computers, right?", the best response was just after I finished Portfolio Center, and I was describing what I did to my young cousin (I think he was around 9 at the time).

"Oh, so you're like an idea guy."

I should have it on my business card.

On Mar.03.2003 at 09:04 PM
Matt Wright’s comment is:

When a client told me he had found someone else to do his "design" work...

"yeah, we're gonna have our JPEG's and GIF's and things of that nature..."

i've also gotten the...

"oh, the computer just does it for you, right?"

On Mar.03.2003 at 11:03 PM
pedro vit’s comment is:

Recently I (55) redesigned a biyearly "scientific" journal from the Mexican Association of Family Therapy.

I showed the first issue, a 96 page volume, to my mother (80) to show her what I had been upto lately and her comment was:

"My God did you write all that???"

With my spirit almost down to the floor I could barely mumble "No, all the written matter was given to me, I designed the cover, the logo, the formatm, the rules for inputing the text, the spacing, the typography, etc etc"

When I saw her looks I realized it was the moment of continuing eating my soup and drop the whole business.

On Mar.04.2003 at 10:16 AM
armin’s comment is:

These are good.

One more help topic: What is the weirdest request you have gotten from a client?

On Mar.04.2003 at 10:58 AM
Corey’s comment is:

The weirdest request was to take someone else's design and "you know, like, do your own thing to it." To which I had to explain that 'my own thing' was to not take other peoples work.

Also, I once got a very irate phone call from the client that I had sent low resolution Illustrator EPS files, and that the production department needed high resolution EPS files. I probably should have known that.

On Mar.04.2003 at 11:41 AM
barker’s comment is:

"I'm an environmental graphic designer."

"Really? I'm all into nature and the outdoors and..."

"No, we do architectural work blah blah blah communicating in physical space blah blah wayfinding blah blah exhibits blah blah..."

"Oh, you mean like signs and billboards and stuff?"

"Um, yeah."

On Mar.04.2003 at 12:05 PM
Matt Wright’s comment is:

"Can you make our logo spin around and put the electric slide in the background? My daughter thinks that would be really cool."

This was for a day spa website.

On Mar.04.2003 at 01:00 PM
Sam’s comment is:

"Can you come in and teach us Flash so we can update the website you designed for us?"

Hey great idea, and why don't I pay you to take work away from me?

On Mar.04.2003 at 01:21 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

What is the weirdest request you have gotten from a client?

Back in college I worked for the campus design group. At one point, management was fired as was replaced by incompetants. The director of food services had this great idea for a campaign and came over to show me.

"You know that No Fear sign? Can you put that across the whole poster and we'll add a tag line to it to promote our food services to students."

"Umm...yea...well, you see, that's a trademarked logo."

"But I've seen everyone wearing T-Shirts of it an putting it on their cars."

"Umm...yea...well, you see, that's a trademarked logo."

"Well, what if it said 'Have No Fear'"

"Umm...yea...well, you see, oh...nevermind..."

On Mar.04.2003 at 03:56 PM
steve’s comment is:

Slightly off topic... but for several years I worked as a newspaper photojournalist. I can't count the number of times I would be on assignment and people would ask, "so, what channel will this be on?"

On Mar.05.2003 at 07:44 AM
Tracy’s comment is:

I'm working on a logo for a marketing comany...the guy gives me a copy of the Metropolitan Museum's logo, you know, the Leonardo "M" with the guidlines and radiuses all over it...He says, do this...but with the letter "Z"...knowing him from previous projects, talking him out of it is not an option, So I coply and do a few renditions that are similar but not exact ripoffs...He likes them good enough, and then says..."now, if someone was to come up to you and ask you why you did this logo for a marketing company...what would you tell them your concept behind it was...explain why you put all those circles and lines around the Z to me, Tracy..." WHAT?! bassackwards I say, bassackwards...

On Mar.05.2003 at 07:59 AM
Sean’s comment is:

I usually have people ask me if I could paint something "cool" on the hood of their truck or side of their van.

I also get, "must be nice to sit around and draw all day".

On Mar.05.2003 at 08:48 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I dunno. Painting something on the side of a van sounds fun ;o)

On Mar.05.2003 at 09:01 AM
sean’s comment is:

I'm sure it would be fun if I knew how to use an airbrush.

[Possible career change]

On Mar.05.2003 at 10:21 AM
smd’s comment is:

My ex-mother-in-law described what I do as, "putting pretty pictures in books." It was at that moment I KNEW I had to get out of the family .

On Mar.05.2003 at 01:03 PM
Eric’s comment is:

When my parents say, "Eric is a graphic designer," they tend to say it with such pride that people's reactions tend to be along the lines of "oooh, wow..."


And when they get blank looks, Dad falls back and says, "Eric's in advertising."


On Mar.05.2003 at 02:41 PM
jc’s comment is:

"that must be so much fun" ... uh maybe

"at least you get to be creative"... uh huh

I get asked to do CRAP for friend's weddings all the time too - like "your so creative, can you design my invite, table cards, etc..." (for free! money is never even a thought - I don't ask accountants for free work because they are my friends)... like I don't have any things I'd want to work on for myself on my own time.

On Mar.05.2003 at 03:48 PM
john Nietzel’s comment is:

could you make the logo bigger?

On Mar.05.2003 at 04:06 PM
armin’s comment is:

One of worst, and that has probably scarred me for life, was when the college I went to decided to name the Graphic Design program “Bidimensional Design.” I guess that meant that I would never be able to do packaging or, god forbid, enevironmental graphics. It's probably one of the most idiotic terms ever applied to Graphic Design. I'm just glad the web is flat.

On Mar.05.2003 at 04:13 PM
keith’s comment is:

When people ask me what do you do? I answer I'm a graphic designer. Then they go on by saying oh yeah your the people that use Printshop and clipart to design newsletters and party flyers.

Ummmm... NO...

On Mar.06.2003 at 07:31 PM
jasmine’s comment is:

Graphic design is a world everyone can see but only some can look at.

On Mar.06.2003 at 10:46 PM
Mimi’s comment is:

One of the most horrible assignments I had to work through was for a business card photo for a national real estate agency. The client faxed me a photo of her of driver's license that she had photo-copied earlier. Honestly, I didn't know what to do. It took 24 hours of complete determination to eliminate the holographic imprint. She still looked horrible.(That's my sinister laughing)

On Mar.07.2003 at 02:52 AM
Tracy’s comment is:

Yeah, I make ads and brochures and things... so...

Naturally everyone assumes that it's for a product that they're familiar with (even if you're working in a small town in the middle of nowhere). If you "make ads" surely you make them for McDonalds or Coke, right?

Or, worse, they hold you responsible for crap from the cable company or local paper...

On Mar.08.2003 at 06:51 PM
Lars’s comment is:

When I say "I'm Web Designer", people say, "Oh really, you as well, everyone seem to be a web designer nowadays." Hmm, I used to feel cool when I said that.

A bit off topic. I was working from my parents home once and my dad had somehow understood that computer/internet and engaged phone line had something to do with each other. He asked if he could use the phone and I said yes of course you can. He said "Oh! Can I use the phone even if you are working with the TV?"

On Mar.10.2003 at 06:54 AM
iDude’s comment is:

i get this one all the time:

-you work in computers right?

-nope, i work with a computer, totally different.

-ok, well i have this virus....

grrrr! so at this time, i have to tell them that i just sit in front of my computer and draw in photoshop all day long!

On Mar.10.2003 at 12:33 PM
L fish’s comment is:

i can't draw or paint - that must be fun!

my daughter is a great finger painter -

yea.......good for her

On Mar.10.2003 at 04:46 PM
CHRISTIAN’s comment is:

"Can you make me a fake ID?"

On Mar.10.2003 at 04:50 PM
Anastasia’s comment is:

Someone once asked me to come up with a great concept for his website, but it had to be purple, because his girlfriend likes purple and she demanded a bright purple for the entire background.

I always get: "What's graphic design? Like interior decorating?"

One client cannot grasp the concept of resolution, even though I've been explaining it to him now for 3 years. Just the other day he forwarded me a small low-res proof of an ad some other graphic artist did that he wanted me to make changes to for a print ad.

The best one was when a client didn't want me to work on my own equipment at home because he didn't trust me to keep honest hours ("it can't take more than a hour or so to design a brochure, right?"). He wanted me to come to his office and transfer all my Mac files onto his very old PC that had no design software on it. When I told him how much money I spend on my computer needs, he was stunned that I would "waste" so much money on something he could eventually figure out how to do in Word 5.

On Mar.10.2003 at 07:35 PM
Michelle LaPointe’s comment is:

I'm a copywriter, not a graphic designer, but I feel justified in posting because for the first ten years of my career, no matter how many times I explained it, my mother thought I WAS a graphic designer. As a result, I have a bunch of relatives who think I am simply being obstinate by refusing to design their logos.

My most effective way of telling people what I do (this is about when the lights come on): "You know those ads you see in magazines and newspapers? They start out BLANK."

On Mar.10.2003 at 09:50 PM
clh’s comment is:

I was asked to redesign a logo for a group that offers services to the mentally ill. The original logo was various pieces of Word clipart put together with a white text box on top of it. The predominant item was a rainbow. The group's leader was told that we'd probably have to nix the rainbow because it's generally associated with the gay community (not that there's anything wrong with that!) and that's not the audience we're targetting. She almost cried and made a comment that this was indicative of her whole life and not getting what she wants. Her friend stepped in to try to help and started scribbling new ideas - all of which were other things (clouds, flowers, etc.) in the SHAPE of a rainbow. My boss and I had to excuse ourselves to laugh hysterically in another office. They left and then an hour later faxed me another sketch of rainbow shaped ideas.

They ended up with a simple, rainbow-less logo that they loved.

On Mar.11.2003 at 12:39 PM
jOHNNY’s comment is:

One time, my poop smelled so good that I just had to take a bite...

On Mar.11.2003 at 02:44 PM
Joanne’s comment is:

One of the most annoying things to hear when trying to design something is "don't you just push a button?" or "gee... you get to work with all these pretty pictures all day..." aarrgh!

I also get people who bring me a photograph that they want scanned and cleaned up or manipulated in some way. Then when you tell them how long it will take, they say "don't you just scan it and print it out?"

...I tell them that's called a photocopier

On Mar.12.2003 at 09:45 PM
Laureen’s comment is:

"What is the weirdest request you have gotten from a client?"

I was doing a logo for a "start-up" medical software company. When the client (a former doctor) saw the various logo options I presented to him, he said "You should NEVER use green in a logo. Color blind people can't see green."

Hmmmm. Okay, I'll remember that never use green in a logo. EVER!

On Mar.13.2003 at 12:00 PM
armin’s comment is:

I forgot to mention this: for some strange reason everybody thinks I like cartoons, after I say I'm a graphic designer they usually say "Oh! You have to see this show on the cartoon network... it has great graphics!"


On Mar.20.2003 at 08:20 AM
rosalind’s comment is:

I love doctors. I once did a freelance job for a shrink. He hired me to design a brochure for a halfway house which he and several other docs were going to build and operate for substance abuse patients. I had to purchase special paper and art supplies, and produced a beautiful comp, complete with copywriting. When I showed it to him, he loved it -- but told me he and the other docs had decided not to go through with the project. He opened a desk drawer, dropped the comp in a file, and shut the drawer. "Thanks anyway," he said. When I asked about my fee, he said, "Why should I pay you? We've cancelled the project." I asked him, "If one of your patients dies owing you money, do you still send their next of kin a bill, or do you just write it off?"

He finally paid me a kill fee on the project, but bitched about it because he said the kind of work I did was nowhere near as important as his work. He always thought I was trying to con him.

On May.18.2005 at 10:20 AM
Rich’s comment is:

I love when I'm surrounded by my meathead friends who constantly suggest i become a tatoo artist because they think graphic design is closely linked with the graphic of a skull that has snakes crawling through the eye sockets.

"Those guys make a lot of money."

"Yeah, they practice on pigskin"

"Yeah, you think you can draw me up a crazy cross with some cool designs in it?"

That's just what I want to do, put a dragon tatoo on the rear of some biker named Killer.

On May.18.2005 at 12:36 PM
gregor’s comment is:

What is the weirdest request you have gotten from a client?

asking me if there was a way to "take down" (i.e. disable, erase, delete, etc) their competitor's website.

even if I were a web designer and had the faintest idea of hacker skills, I'm not the type to enjoy prison food.

On May.18.2005 at 01:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I've always explained my profession to friends and family by defining where I work at or who my clients are — never by what I actually do.

In college, it was "I work at the Art Museum downtown."

Now, it's "I work at an agency that does work for Microsoft."

The rest, no one really cares about or they won't remember even if you told them.

I once had a client that asked if I could paint a mural on one of their walls. Not to design it or hire someone to do it — but to literally paint the mural myself. "Oh, and you could sign it and everything." was the token bonus offering from them.

I graciously declined, citing that I was "too booked to do it." But, "thanks."

On May.18.2005 at 01:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

And I just hate it when a family member will save you a random poster, crappy real estate brochure, or some sort of other printed material that they think is "design" — because they think you'll treasure it as an example to keep.

But instead, they'll get rid of your childhood Richard Scarry books, travel patch collection, and movie posters cause it's just old and collecting dust.

You gotta just love that.

On May.18.2005 at 01:49 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Now, it's "I work at an agency that does work for Microsoft."

sadly interesting, it's not what you do but who you do it for that validates being a designer to family, etc - emphasis on in-laws here (lol).

darn Tan, for future inspiration I was just going to mail you a flyer a handyman hung on my door knob. guess I'll nix that thought.

On May.18.2005 at 02:05 PM
Shahla’s comment is:

What I heard often in the 80’s was:

“Isn’t it commercial art?”,

and 90’s,

“Yeah, I know, you mean desktop publishing. It’s really taking off isn’t it (?) with the computer´┐Ż”.

And now mostly,

“Oh, my (insert family member moniker such as son, niece, etc.) is studying it in college.” which could mean I was communicating what it is that I do well enough or that by sheer chance those around me knew of some aspect (however imprecise or off-color it sounded to me) related to the work.

Increased numbers of those who know what “It” is populate the planet and SpeakUp is where you’ll find them engaged in discussion ; )

On May.18.2005 at 03:05 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

But instead, they'll get rid of your childhood Richard Scarry books...

Ouch. My sympathies. I learned so much of how stuff works from my Richard Scarry books. His work makes information design interesting for little kids too young to care about what information design is.

On May.18.2005 at 05:21 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I love them too, Daniel. So much that I searched and rebought the original books from thrifts stores and used bookstores — and have introduced them to my kids. They are great examples of information design. Can you imagine how cool it would be if malls, airports, libraries, and other public spaces used Scarry's "Busy Town"-style illustrations for their wayfinding kiosks and maps?

On May.19.2005 at 12:42 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

Can you imagine how cool it would be if malls, airports, libraries, and other public spaces used Scarry's "Busy Town"-style illustrations for their wayfinding kiosks and maps?

Or if electronics companies used his approach to describe how to program a VCR clock? I wouldn't be an hour off for half the year.

On May.19.2005 at 01:51 PM
man, I missed you’s comment is:

family overall:

you must love what you do to live in nyc

I could never do something that gets picked at everyday


I would say they know exactly what I do.

On May.22.2005 at 05:41 PM
man, I missed you’s comment is:

family overall:

you must love what you do to live in nyc

I could never do something that gets picked at everyday


I would say they know exactly what I do.

On May.22.2005 at 05:41 PM
Anthony Edwards’s comment is:

From the owner of a small creative shop I interned with briefly before this last superbowl. Ideas for a two color T-shirt dealing with Jacksonville and the Superbowl.

"A skyline shot of the city would be great. OOh, if we could somehow incorporate a huge fireworks explosion and dozens of footballs showering down over the city..."

and then two seconds later

"But not too busy"

Yes. He was serious. Thankfully, I have moved on.

On May.22.2005 at 06:32 PM