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Ah HA! Success!

When do you know that your design succeeds? Does it take a paycheck in hand, or is it the smile on your client’s face? Perhaps it’s all about being published in a design journal, or award annual. We all have different barometers for measuring success, so what’s yours?

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.08.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
kleid’s comment is:


Although making the client happy, or receiving accolades from those in the industry is nice...I think my work is a success when my client calls me two weeks down the road and says "i get nothing but compliments" or "I just used my business card as part of my sales presentation and heads nodded."

That's the kind of stuff that makes me keep going.

On Apr.08.2004 at 03:41 PM
Andrew Pollak’s comment is:

I am never truly satisfied.

thats what keeps me going.

On Apr.08.2004 at 03:51 PM
brook’s comment is:

when the client offers you more work? or when you really learn something while working on a project...which can come from mistakes and successes i guess.

On Apr.08.2004 at 09:09 PM
pk’s comment is:


On Apr.09.2004 at 12:01 AM
Michael Olejarczyk’s comment is:

Money is nice but probably a small reason what keeps me doing this. A sense of completion on a project. A personal satisfaction occurs when I step back and look at something when it is done.

Compliments from the client and their customers are a mere icing on the cake.

On Apr.09.2004 at 12:02 AM
Greg’s comment is:

How I tell if a project is successful is to hang it on the wall near my computer (or any other high traffic area). If I still like it in a week or two, then it's good. If I still like it in a month or two, it's darn good. When I start to pick it apart, then it comes down. Sometimes that's only a day or so. The process helps negate the "newness" love that I get for a project.

It also helps when every time I talk to a client I've done work for, he or she finds some way to work into the conversation that they love the project. THAT'S fun.

On Apr.09.2004 at 10:11 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I've had a few pieces that have been copied by other firms or designers. Some flagrantly, by people who should know better. It pissed me off royally the first time, but in a few instances since -- it's been amusing and flattering. I guess that's one guage of success for me.

My old business partner used to say that one sure sign of success is deep hatred and jealousy from your peers. "Fucking bastard. I hate you." was the best compliment we could give each other to acknowledge good work.

On Apr.09.2004 at 11:39 AM
tb’s comment is:

Success is when the client gets the final artifact into the market - the site goes live, the print peice is delivered - and everyone loves it...It the perfect solution, more than they expected, and fills their need. Their boss loves it, their clients love it, and they love you. For me, it's all about loving what you do intensely and being loved intensely for what you do.

It seems like you make something that your client loves, or something that designers love - but very seldom please both. i rarely like what i've created... because of tight schedules, ideas are barely born before being rushed out the door - leaving me with a craving to raise and nurture them into the perfect beings that they could have been. Nothing is ever complete, but i can still find success in making clients happy.

On Apr.09.2004 at 11:53 AM
carmen’s comment is:

Allthough it is really nice to hear all the praises coming from everywhere, for me it is more about getting my target to react to design. Being able to draw into the emotions of people; being these good or bad. if I touch someone's heart with design, I have been successful. Romantic but pure.

On Apr.09.2004 at 01:07 PM
KM’s comment is:

I don't really know how to answer that one. To me, true success would be a happy client, a happy audience and most importantly (up to discussion) a happy designer.

A good, friendly relationship with the client and having free weekends - I would consider a success.

On Apr.09.2004 at 01:20 PM
sheepstealer’s comment is:

I believe there are two elements that must come together to define a project as truly successful.

First as a designer you have to know that you were able to prepare the client well to accept what you know in your gut is your best work -- no vital compromises, no design by committee, no Frankenstein combinations of the ideas you originally presented.

Secondly you have to see it work. Like when an annual report makes business week because it was so powerful. Or when a non-profit's donations double because their audience finally sees their story clearly and memorably.

But there was one time, that doesn't exactly fit these criteria, that was especially gratifying to me.

We were designing an identity for a very conservative and non-imaginative client. We did our homework and pitched some of our best work. As we sat in the conference room with the presentation spread out on the table, the client did something I had never seen, and haven't seen since. He looked over both shoulders to make sure no one from his office was around. He shut the conference room door. Then he held out his hand in handshake position and said, "This is f___ing fantastic."

Ah HA! Success.

On Apr.09.2004 at 01:23 PM
Valerie’s comment is:

I consider my work successful if

1) I can look at it 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years later and not cringe


2) if my designer friends/collegues with whom I don't work on a daily basis compliment my work

While magazine design may be an ephemeral thing, I know several people who collect the issues and keep them on their coffee tables for many months after the issue has come out. In that sense, I would consider the design successful.

However, that doesn't mean I don't try to make them better each issue. I will never truly be satisfied with an entire issue, but then satisfaction and success are two different things.

On Apr.09.2004 at 02:27 PM
pk’s comment is:

actually, now that i think about it...one of my wired illustrations made last year's print's regional design thingie. wired sent me a certificate (it arrived at my house completely out of the blue), and i took it as a sweet little thank-you note...especially since i don't enter competitions under my own steam, and they clearly thought it was good enough to get in.

On Apr.09.2004 at 03:17 PM
monkeyinabox’s comment is:

Success is when your current project is better than the last one.

On Apr.09.2004 at 03:45 PM
Roderick’s comment is:

These four things reinforce a successful outcome:

1) Knowing that I couldn't do better.

2) Kudos from other designers.

3) When I've learned something new, and if for a client

4) Gushing compliments, and bonus referrals from them.

On Apr.09.2004 at 05:15 PM
LeAnn’s comment is:

When my work comes back to touch me in some way: when the group of 10-year-old kids doing a project through school and a local environmental organization knock on my door on a Saturday morning, hand me a brochure I designed, and proceed to give me their three main talking points, then refer to the "cool info" they have for me in the brochure.

Seeing people wearing t-shirts I designed 5 or 6 years ago .....sitting in the movie theater waiting for the movie and a slide I designed comes on the screen and the person in front of me says says something positive about it to the person they're with......

That's the best. Seeing work in action and being used.

On Apr.09.2004 at 05:22 PM
x.dv’s comment is:

Tom Stoppard said, "It is better to be quotable than to be honest." So I say... a successful design is simply one part type, one part image and one part impulse.

On Apr.09.2004 at 08:37 PM
Armin’s comment is:

As cool as that "aha" moment is, equally important is the "fuck it" moment. Seriously, how many times has a project gone so eerily wrong that you just know that at that moment is as good, and rewarding, as that project will get? If anybody says zero, you are lying. Sounds defeatist and pessimistic, I know, but sometimes it's important to realize when to stop investing into a project that will never have an "aha" realization.

But back to the original question. Getting an award for something you did always feels nice, even if everybody here has an opinion on why award shows are all wrong and evil, there is something about somebody saying, "this is good work, work good enough to publish it". Whether it "means" anything to clients or not or gets you more clients or not is really not the issue — it simply gives you the feeling that "aha, I knew it was good".

There is an unexplicable moment when working on a project that you just know you "got it". Whether you are moving stuff around in Quark, Illustrator or Photoshop or grabbing a printout from your printer or standing in a noisy press room okaying a proof… it hits you, that what you just did is great — at least for you.

On Apr.10.2004 at 09:12 AM
Rob’s comment is:

I think that I have to agree with most here that success is multi-tiered but with the most important element being that the design worked in regards to the goal(s)l of the project.

I am not concerned about annuals or awards because I don't get paid to win awards, I get paid to design things that work for my clients. This is not to say I don't try to push the envelope in giving them the best solution, but I have no alterior motives in doing so. Too many times, and I think ad agencies are far guilty of this than design firms, you see companies getting all caught up in winning awards and using that as a barometer of success. Clearly, if you have great creative but had no impact on the goal of the client, then in my mind you have failed.

Sorry for going off on that tangent. It's a pet peeve.

Beyond what I've already said, I think that being able to look at a project a year or so later and still say WOW, is a sign of successful design as well.

On Apr.10.2004 at 11:39 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

Success is...

A profitable investment for the client. If I'm getting paid, whatever I create damn well better perform--if I buy a flashlight at Home Depot, it should work every fucking time, and the same with clients who pay upwards of $100,000 in a few months for the work my agency does.

But its not successful if it creates profit by lying or deceiving the audience in the process.

Its also not successful if it doesn't meet the standards I set for myself in terms of production quality, conceptual strength, and design quality.

And while its not terribly terribly important, recognition for the peers is always nice because, well, they know what they're talking about in most instances.

On Apr.11.2004 at 11:52 PM
Tara’s comment is:

I agree with most of the people here, but speaking purely from a students point of view, as unexperienced as I am, I tend to think that first and foremost I have to be happy with my design. If I think it pretty much sucks, how can I possibly sell it to anyone. Of course, the client is extreamly important in the equation and I know I won't always be 100% satisfied with everything I do, but I measure success by my own happiness. Maybe that is naive, but I think it is a pretty good way to measure.

I also think it is really important to make the client happy, obviously. It is always nice to hear how well something you created is working for them.

And the money don't hurt either, but that would be at the bottom of my list of what makes me/ anyone successful.

On Apr.12.2004 at 01:16 AM
griff’s comment is:

Success is unsolicited response.

For someone to notice your work, take the time to track you down, and interact with you about it says some thing. It doesn't even matter if the response is negative or positive, the fact that you gave them the motivation to initiate interaction means you touched them.

This is why I why I pay for shareware, this is why I pay for music. This is why i will drop a note to a strager that designs something beautiful.

On Apr.13.2004 at 03:15 PM
zander’s comment is:

can't design without a goal, if goal is completed, or expectations exceeded then it's a... succes

On Apr.14.2004 at 06:35 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

It's always the design that hurts to get to..the wild card, the one everyone said wouldn’t make it.

Not that it's "wrong" or against what what was

"asked" for it's the one where "That's what I wanted but I would have never thought of doing it that way"

On Apr.20.2004 at 03:07 PM
Valon’s comment is:

I consider my most successful designs to be the ones that I have the most to say about. Say, I did a logo and two months down the line a client, a friend, or just a stranger comes up and asks me "-Why did you do what you did?!" The more comments and insights I have about my own design the more accomplished I feel and hence the feeling of gratification that I completed a task and came up with a design solution...

On Apr.23.2004 at 10:17 AM
Jim’s comment is:

I agree with Valon — the more I can talk about a project, the more I know that it was truly engaging and the solution was worthwhile. After doing a lot of research, I like to know that I've translated my intellectual concepts into practical aspects of design. When I can explain exactly why each aspect is a certain way, I feel the most successful.

On Apr.25.2004 at 02:00 PM
piggy’s comment is:

My point of view for SUCCESS.

For me is success mean satisfaction. Maybe in another hand, clients buy my design. Is not about money is that people appreciate you work. Although sometimes is I was so frustrated that client keep on rejecting the work but, once you get approve i feel that there is no regret doing the hard work. Especially, when your design work is printed or placed on the shelf and it sells.

Success = satisfaction.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year


On Dec.16.2005 at 03:10 AM