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Design Disasters

Oh, the agony…

  1. You archive a job that’s just been completed, but your client comes back to you with changes next week. When you try and open the document from the CD, it fails to launch because of a “corruption” error.

  2. Waking up at 10 a.m. and realizing that you overslept in front of the computer, and the work you had to deliver for a presentation is not even near being finished.

  3. Calling your spouse your client’s name.

  4. You bought the latest version of Adobe CS, arrived at home to install it, opened the package, and then realized it’s for Windows instead of Apple.

  5. Having completed a large and complex website, when you present it to the client they spark off with, “Why did you use our content from last year? And will this work be included in your billable hours?”

  6. Hosting a meeting after lunch with spinach stuck between your teeth, and afterwards feeling happy that your staff paid attention for once.

  7. Placing your name on a poster you designed, only to have it partly cut off when trimmed to size. The remaining letters spell a naughty word.

  8. Hearing a client correct you with, “No, actually that looks like Trade Gothic, not Franklin Gothic,” and then realizing that they’re correct.

  9. The PMS color you used was from a book printed in 1989, and what should have been pink gets printed in blood red.

  10. Holding your presentation boards upside down.

  11. Taking a stick of gum from your creative director, who’s leaning over your shoulder for a mini crit and asks, “Eh, what did you have for breakfast?”

  12. During your lecture to the AIGA National Board about the importance of typography in academia, your PowerPoint slides have fonts that default to Courier.

  13. Doing pro bono work for a soon to be father-in-law, who drags the project on far too long, dictating numerous edits and suggestions.

  14. Arriving at a pitch only to realize that you spilled coffee on yourself during the drive over. Your attempt at humor, “Looks like I got some wee-wee on me in da wrestroom,” does not go over well.
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ARCHIVE ID 2442 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Oct.15.2005 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Tan’s comment is:

15. Never eat Thai for lunch if you have a meeting in the afternoon. A burp can be deadly.

16. Never tell your Airborne Express VP client during a big meeting that you'll "Fedex the document to them in the morning."

17. Never leave for an important AR presentation meeting, and leave your final comp behind on the production table. Then try to make small talk for 40 mins while your junior designer frantically drives the comp over. (my business partner did this once...)

18. Never, ever hire the spouse of a friend. If it doesn't work out, and you have to fire her — then you'll also lose your seat at the poker table at your friend's house.

19. Never loan any coveted book, design sample, or treasured tool to a junior that you're not prepared to lose or have damaged.

On Oct.15.2005 at 06:43 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

. . . all funny (and agonizing) additions. Let the list continue.

On Oct.15.2005 at 06:52 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Trying to convince a physically color blind Creative Director that Turquoise and Orange aren't Christmas colors.

Showing up at a meeting wearing a shirt that the new client gave to Goodwill a month ago.

Misspelling the title on a highly publicized poster that no one catches til it's printed.

Accidently putting out the headlight on your boss's Mercedes when backing up in the small agency parking lot.

Deleting - not saving - the whole file while sleepy at the keyboard.

FedExing the blank CD to Japan instead of the just-burned CD. Then racing to their office near the airport to send a second package before they close.

Grabbing the wrong can and spraying Spray Mount glue all over an illustration instead of Fixative.

Leaving behind the ONLY ongoing project file while evacuating from Katrina.

On Oct.16.2005 at 08:14 AM
Theo’s comment is:

-Realizing mid-presentation that the fresh-out-of-college jr designer thought it would be funny to insert barely disguised dirty limericks as dummy text lorem ipsum's...think "nantuckettus...suckus..."

On Oct.16.2005 at 10:43 AM
elv’s comment is:

Having planned a meeting at a friend's office (you are freelance and don't want to receive the client at home) and realising everybody's out. You're stuck at the door and the client arrives...

On Oct.16.2005 at 11:44 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Change the duotone curves for the 2nd piece of a print package to 'improve' it over the first piece, and end up completely wrecking it...when the deadline's too tight for a proof from the printer.

On Oct.16.2005 at 11:52 AM
elv’s comment is:

...then deciding you'll go to the nearest "Café", and having your first meeting with them on a dirty formica table in the oldest ugly noisy burnt-food-smelling café in Paris.

In the (happy) end I've been working for them several times in the past year and a half :)

On Oct.16.2005 at 11:55 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Oh, god. How many of these things have you all actually done?! Of the 14 I listed, I've experienced maybe half of them. Tan's been honest enough to admit his. Elv, Pesky, Chris, Theo? Are these honest to god errors on your account?

On Oct.16.2005 at 12:25 PM
elv’s comment is:

Yes, this really happened to a friend and I :) We had to host the meeting in a dirty café (well I admit the description was a bit exaggerated).

Fortunately the client didn't mind (i'd bet he was amused), he saw we could keep our nerves, and it ended being a good meeting.

On Oct.16.2005 at 01:00 PM
elv’s comment is:

Oh the xxx lorem ipsum reminds me of another one.

We presented a website to a japanese client. He had his picture on a page, and the bloody html guy obviously had an auto-fill feature for the "alt" tags. Suddenly the mouse stopped over the image and I saw the tooltip "chinese.jpg" and quickly moved it away.

The same moron even did it again, on the home page of an office supply website. There was a picture with three girls and the tootlip said "petassepouffiassegrognasse", which translates approximately into "slutbitchtart"... This time I saw it before it was too late...

On Oct.16.2005 at 01:12 PM
Maya Drozdz’s comment is:

When I sent out my first-ever batch of resumes, I didn't have much professional experience, so I used the cover letter to highlight my various strengths. Months later, after a pathetic response rate [and after I'd eventually landed a job], I discovered that I'd misspelled 'proofreading' in all those cover letters. I curse myself for not having someone else proofread what I was sending out, and also the copy-and-paste feature, which can quickly magnify such an error.

On Oct.16.2005 at 03:10 PM
Theo’s comment is:

Tselentis’s comment is:

Elv, Pesky, Chris, Theo? Are these honest to god errors on your account?

oh yes indeed. Somehow the clients didnt notice, which was extremely fortunate, given that they were staring at the screens for a good 10 minutes. The only reason I noticed was because the "shlongus" in "shlongus solong hecoud suckus" jumped out at me.

On Oct.16.2005 at 05:16 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

My biggest Design disaster is looking the other way. It's tough to let what you know is wrong just pass by.

On Oct.16.2005 at 06:39 PM
chris dixon’s comment is:

Much like Maya, my first boss handed out business cards which trumpeted the “throughrough” way in which he worked.

On Oct.16.2005 at 07:08 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

the film for the letterpress brochure cover is output without the crop & folding marks, but the schedule is so tight that it gets sent directly to the printer & I don't see it. No problem, I tell the printer when he informs me, I'll make a guide for the litho printer/finisher. Which I do at 6 am on a Monday after a sleep-deprived working weekend.

So the client goes to the trade show with a couple hundred off-centre brochure covers, I am �700 out of pocket for the reprint & the rest of the badly cut covers become the client's lifetime supply of beautifully printed notecards.

On Oct.16.2005 at 07:35 PM
john foley’s comment is:

Back in 1992 during my second year in business, in a stupidly simple mix-up that still pains me to analyse, I ordered �7,000.00 worth of printed post-it pads instead of the intended �70.00 worth. Once the error was discovered I checked the paperwork and, yes, there in black and white was the order with my elaborately flourished signature below it.

I eventually settled with the vendor for �3,000.00, ate cold beans from a tin for the next two years and have never signed anything with a flourish since.

On Oct.16.2005 at 09:01 PM
ben...’s comment is:

Spending a week and some change coming up with a great concept, design, costs, and anything else you can think of related to a project only to have your boss to say:

"I applaude you thinking out of the box, but not on this project."

Why must I work for a bunch of proles?

On Oct.16.2005 at 09:06 PM
ben...’s comment is:

Spending a week and some change coming up with a great concept, design, costs, and anything else you can think of related to a project only to have your boss to say:

"I applaude you thinking out of the box, but not on this project."

Why must I work for a bunch of proles?

On Oct.16.2005 at 09:06 PM
chris dixon’s comment is:

Spending two weeks coming up with great logo concepts which nail the brief, and then some. Having one of my fellow designers come in on the day of the presentation, forgetting that they were supposed to contribute, they spend literally 3 minutes on their concept, and freely admit that it is the worst thing they have ever done. I now have to look at it every single day as, naturally, they chose the first one we showed them...

On Oct.16.2005 at 11:50 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Chris & Ben, I feel your pain.

On Oct.17.2005 at 06:33 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Tselentis’s comment is:

Elv, Pesky, Chris, Theo? Are these honest to god errors on your account?

Painfully so.

Most were back in the days when I was employed as an art director. As a freelancer, I learned to make less mistakes. It's costly.

The Japanese ad agency was a bit confused though. The 2nd work sent became giant Tabasco graphics on Tokyo's Ginza Line subway cars for a year. Several million people a day looking at grinning Cajuns with hot sauce. Sheeesh!

Oh, except for the one about leaving behind the Zoo mural project sketchbooks. (I found them in an unopened suitcase) only now the Zoo is damaged and the project is halted. I offered to do free graphics while they repair the place. The animals, by the way, survived Katrina, most of them, except some otters and small water fowl. The staff has been cut in half and all effort is on keeping the remaining animals fed. I can't forget that they paid me partially in advance, so my obligation remains open.

On Oct.17.2005 at 06:40 AM
ian’s comment is:

running the gotta get there comp in a fedex envelope to the last fedex open with a ups waybill (client uses their ups account and refuses to pay for fedex).

"um, sir? this is a ups way bill?"

of course it is.

On Oct.17.2005 at 08:38 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

Elv, Pesky, Chris, Theo? Are these honest to god errors on your account?




The mistake didn't destroy the project, but anyone who had part 1 could clearly see that part 2 was...diminished, somewhat.

On Oct.17.2005 at 08:40 AM
ian’s comment is:

the worst i've been a part of:

buy an old journal and letters (cira 1930's) on ebay for the beautiful penmanship. i mean exquisite! amazingly intricate decorative capitals and wonderful flourishes. gorgeous

scan said letters and journals to uses as backgrounds in print collateral for resort property in unnamed southern state.

realize with absolute horror on printer's proof that the letter we used describe what at first appears to describe the beating of a slave but on closer examination states:

Academy of Natural Sciences

Meeting for Promotion of Zoological Researchers

Kangaroo, Flea, Natural Acrobats

Philadelphia, October 26, 1934.

One day after date I promise to deliver to my son Dick, on his bare back, for correctional purposes, ten strokes of a stout leather strap, laid on with energy, sufficient to prove to him my anxiety for his welfare.

Solomon Makeyoumind

[i wish i was kidding]

our only salvation is that it was caught at printer's proofs an nothing was ever printed with the word legible at all.

On Oct.17.2005 at 11:19 AM
Zoelle’s comment is:

Being completely exhausted and leaving a voicemail for your wife prior to leaving a voicemail for a client. Then stumbling over the salutation after nearly ending with saying “’love you” to the client.

On Oct.17.2005 at 11:33 AM
Armin’s comment is:

If anyone has this same setup, beware: If you use Dantz Retrospect to back up your data DO NOT let it do it while you are working on a QuarkXPress file, it will vaporize it into oblivion when Retrospect tries to backup the open file. It neither backs it up nor does it let you save and as soon as you touch a key on Quark it will crash. Specially, if it's a late night, when backups are usually done, skip the backup. Hours and hours of hard work can vanish, just like that. It doesn't happen with other applications, just Quark.

On Oct.17.2005 at 12:25 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Yes, Armin. We had this happen at an agency I worked at. A total disaster, and it appears anecdotally as #1 in my list.

On Oct.17.2005 at 12:45 PM
Patrick Broderick’s comment is:

If proofreading is one of the skills you wish to be reflected in your resume, you should probably spellcheck said resume before sending out a hundred of them, lest you spell it as "prooofreading."

On Oct.17.2005 at 01:19 PM
Matt’s comment is:

#14 hit too close to home for me: Spilling an entire glass of water on the crotch of your kakhi pants three minutes before job interview.

Mental note: wear black pants in future - just in case.

On Oct.17.2005 at 01:31 PM
pnk’s comment is:

You write it down in your notes that very first meeting on the project, poster frame dimensions: 18 x 24. Somewhere between then and final production, you start using the size of the press sheet (19 x 25.5) as the trim size. You learn of this gaffe only when your client hands you a frame and a poster and asks you to install it.

On Oct.17.2005 at 01:56 PM
mandy’s comment is:

Misprinting the phone number on a direct mail piece that went out to 30,000 people, inadvertently inundating some poor dentist's office in Montana with thousands of calls about a new music anthology. THEN having to explain to your boss why you have the pay a $700 phone bill for said poor dentist.

Printing a caption next to an image of Queen Elizabeth I that discusses how the Queen faces West in the painting, towards her Empire. Only the painting was flipped in printing so she actually faces East.

Convincing a company that you should print their URL in large Trade Gothic on the cover of their catalog, only to transpose two letters in the URL and only barely catch it in proofs.

Designing a large website with a beautiful, pale green and yellow palette that you perfected over many days of work, only to have the client decide they really want jeweltones for their colors (think kelly green, dark purple, burnt orange...)

On Oct.17.2005 at 02:11 PM
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

Having the cell phone number of the non-profit's CEO printed on the letter head as the group's main number. Who ever said designer's could proof?

On Oct.17.2005 at 04:15 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Who ever said designer's could proof?

Nice one, Rob.


Getting rear-ended during the school run on the morning of a very important deadline & having to prepare a document for print while on the phone to insurance companies & ending up having to take a cab to the printer to get it there in time because the rental car wouldn't be available until the next day, walking away from the printer to meet the tow truck at the accident site with a heroic sense of accomplishment only to have the client call and start talking about adding a fifth colour because the blue wasn't going to be vivid enough (it's an insert in a pack of plastic bags, for crying out loud!).

How was your Monday?

On Oct.18.2005 at 04:16 AM
Marnie’s comment is:

Suggesting to a client a title which, in acronym form, would become "PISS."

On Oct.18.2005 at 11:25 AM
Jayna’s comment is:

I once did a pro-bono full-page color advertisement that ran in one of the local papers for a benefit concert promoting the recording artist, Taylor Dayne. It read "featuring Emmy Winner, Taylor Dayne." Emmys are TV. Grammys are music. Eesh.

On Oct.18.2005 at 01:31 PM
MCM’s comment is:

Forwarding an email from a client to a co-worker. In the forwarded email to you co-worker, calling the client an dumb-ass. Clicking send. Realizing the client was CC'd in the email.

On Oct.18.2005 at 01:48 PM
MCM’s comment is:

In response to Tan's comment: as a joke, serving Diet Pepsi at a meeting with your client who happens to be Coca-Cola.

On Oct.18.2005 at 01:53 PM
Kenneth FitzGerald’s comment is:

Designing the return address lower than where the mailing address will go on the card, with predictable results when mailed.

On Oct.18.2005 at 01:53 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Eech. Kenneth, that's a sorry one. And quite an expen$ive blunder if it's for a mass mailing!

On Oct.18.2005 at 03:46 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Two more disasters, one mine, another from a colleague.

I once tried to blind varnish a cover that was uncoated Mohawk. It was a large graphic, but it still took 5 passes, each dry-trapped, and the last 3 hits tinted with white ink before it would show up. As you can guess, that cost a few extra bucks of on-press changes.

And I used to work at an agency that did a lot of annual reports. One year, while on press/prepress — a decimal point somehow disappeared off a significant figure in the balance sheet. Don't know if it happened on film or on the blanket.

It was back in the days before the internet, when ARs were filed with the SEC directly as reporting documents. So the client was pissed, and every annual report had to be reprinted or else the company would be fined by the SEC. The reprint cost was shouldered mostly by the firm, which had insurance for such a disaster. So one little bitty decimal point cost the agency tens of thousands of dollars.

>serving Diet Pepsi at a meeting with your client who happens to be Coca-Cola

Actually, you reminded me of another disaster. A friend of mine worked at a large PR agency that handled Coca-Cola corporate events, including press events. Well one of the account people showed up at a press event with a Pepsi ice cooler, and was covered on the news. Coca-Cola was not happy, to say the least, and that AE ended up getting fired for that little faux pas. True story.

On Oct.18.2005 at 04:39 PM
kleid’s comment is:

trademark instead of copyright. oops.

On Oct.18.2005 at 05:27 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

Back in 1987 one of our first jobs was designing for a commercial contractor. Among other things, we designed the graphics for his truck. He gave us a time and place where he would leave his vehicle as Mike and I were doing the design application ourselves. We got to the drop off and started working dilligently as we had just a day or so to get the job done.

A few hours later this guy walks over to us and asks, “Hey, what are you doing to my truck”.

On Oct.18.2005 at 05:58 PM
Kerry’s comment is:

Working feverishly to get a major project completed and delivered to the client. When the UPS guy shows up to pick it up, he notices the word "Anniversary" on the cover is misspelled.

On Oct.21.2005 at 09:54 AM
Julie Y.’s comment is:

My story, like everyone else's definately makes for laughs now, but it was not funny then...I once designed a website for an organization and used a font similar to graffiti, for two weeks the site ran with misspellings before my anyone brought it to my attention. I've learned to always let someone proof read before publication.

On Oct.23.2005 at 12:10 AM
Lucien’s comment is:

Flattening a psd at 72 dpi. Because of accidently hitting command + S and not command + shift +s.

On Oct.23.2005 at 02:18 PM
Viviane’s comment is:

Designing a calendar at the end of the year, for which I typeset the numbers once and then copied and pasted them for all the different months, only to get a phone call AFTER they were printed, because the girl in the shipping department wanted to see what day of the week Christmas was going to fall on and had discovered that all the months read: 24, 26, 26, 27. We had to trash the whole project and never did get to reprint it!

On Oct.24.2005 at 07:17 PM