Communication and miscommunication

Just a quick one today about communication.

I browse Pinterest a lot for both life and work inspiration. Over the years, I’ve come across many inspirational and motivational quotes, and I’ve noticed that they’re very popular. I even save a lot of the poignant ones.

Among these, I also come across “attitude” quotes. Stuff that caters to “girl power” mostly. I dismiss many of them as being immature or cheesy. It seems to me that if you need quotes to tell you that you should act more powerful, then maybe you should first work on your own insecurity from the inside out instead of putting on a mask.

I came across one this morning which I think could be quite detrimental to someone, either personally or professionally, and I thought I’d like to address this on my blog.

At first glance, these quotes seem to turn your head upside down. Give you a sense of “thinking outside the box”. But no matter how long I try to understand what this quote is saying, the more I’m sure that it’s just plain wrong.

Let’s leave the personal aside, and focus on applying this attitude in the professional world.

Coming from a graphic designer’s perspective, our priority is to communicate a message. That is our core responsibility, although the manner/style in which we communicate will be specific to each designer.

Designers should never subscribe to such a belief as above. Yes, we are responsible for what we say, but we have to make sure you understand what we’re trying to say as well. We may not get a 100% success rate, but we definitely have to try, and not wave it away as a trivial matter.

And just on a brief final note, it should not work this way on a personal level either. If you are trying to communicate to your family or to your partner, it’s always a good idea to make sure everyone understands each other.

So, really, I’m not sure that I get this quote at all. Does anyone else have a different opinion?

“I need to convince my boss”

The majority of people who contact me for work find me by searching the internet and seeing my website, then contact me either by phone or email. Sometimes, I have to turn them down because I don’t have enough time to give their project the attention it deserves.

Other times, I do take on their projects because:

  1. They are nice
  2. They have interesting projects
  3. They are clear with what they need

And these clients, I have kept for several months, even years. It’s proof that when you can work well together, the relationship can last a long time, saving us both time and money. For my clients, it means that:

  1. They no longer have to search for a designer every time they want something created
  2. They don’t have to explain their business to every new designer
  3. They don’t have to source design files (logos, images, etc) and style guidelines for every new designer
  4. They save time and money by telling me what they need via one email, and they get a quick turnaround

However, there are a very small number of cases, where I’ve agreed to take clients on, only for the relationship to fail before it’s begun. Sometimes it’s due to budget constraints – they only discover a few emails later that the quotation hasn’t been approved (which is why I always state my fee and what it entails upfront) – and sometimes it’s due to project requirements changing during early discussions, and me realising that I’m not equipped to deliver, although this happens maybe once a year.

I manage to avoid disappointments like these by choosing my clients carefully. I confess that I am in a very lucky position to be able to choose them in the first place.

As I have been freelancing for over ten years now, I’ve learnt to discern the personality and demands of clients from our first contact. Like I listed above, the top three characteristics of clients I take on are very important (not only to me, but to everyone). But of course, there are grey areas.

This has happened to me quite a few times, especially in Malaysia. I will be contacted for a job, and when I tell them my fee for it, they ask for a discount. Depending on the person and the project, I may give a discount, or I may openly explain to them that they can have a lower total fee for less work. And I’m completely fine with these discussions, as it helps to manage expectations.

What I dislike is when they put the burden on me, to justify NOT giving them a lower price, or just to hire me:

  1. We have never used you before, so you have to prove your work to us” – I don’t have to prove anything to you. If you choose to use me, the responsibility of choice is yours. You can choose anyone else.
  2. I need to convince my boss that you’re the right person” – Then you need to convince your boss. I just have to deliver on what you ask me to do.
  3. Can you send me some of your work so I can decide whether to hire you” – My work is displayed on my portfolio. Everything I want you to see is there, and you would know my website because my contact details are only listed there, and nowhere else.

Honestly, I have heard these lines more than once, and it always baffles me that some people don’t understand their job and responsibilities. For the last point, it baffles me even more that I should send them work via email, when my portfolio is easily accessible.

In conclusion, yes, this contains a rant, but I also hope to enlighten anyone reading, whether you’re a client who’s just starting to work with designers (or other service providers), or a designer who’s just starting to work with clients. Both sides should know their duties and responsibilities, and be respectful of the other no matter how baffling their words may be. In the end, it’s not the work that counts, but the relationship. You can’t put a price on a good relationship.

Working with designers

Part of my job – and this is actually a part that I enjoy – is educating clients. Dream clients are few and far between, and they only become that way after they have worked with professional designers. So, to all clients out there, here are some helpful tips when dealing with a web project.

Show your designer you value them by understanding that a professional designer always designs to the needs of the customer, and does not sell ready-made templates.

Read the full article here:

“… a good website is supposed to be 1/3 art, 1/3 business, and 1/3 science” – so don’t tell designers you want a flashy website when you have no business having one (and you can listen when they tell you that you don’t need one).

“… the project you’re working on is not supposed to satisfy internal stakeholders-it is supposed to satisfy end users” – so don’t say that the CEO wants this and wants that. Listen when your designer tells you that your customer wants this and wants that.

“Don’t expect visitors to wander for hours trying to navigate your website” – so don’t ask for something “innovative” or something no one has seen before. Even modern art websites follow a certain navigational structure.

“… lift your brand awareness a step higher, and to offer informative content for novice users” – so don’t say that your copy or content does not matter, and you only want a fancy design. Customers stay for the content, and they buy into the content.

On responsive design: “Don’t fool yourself that migrating is easy… They must keep an eye on how every element is performing, and to consider all mobile forms and devices to develop a successful migration strategy.” – so don’t expect to get (or pay for) a desktop design and assume the mobile design is just a click away. Two separate designs must always be made (including all the sub pages), so remember to give adequate time and budget.

This sums it up:

“As a good designer, you need to predict human behavior, and to accommodate functions in accordance with it. There is much more to a beautiful website than its appearance.”

Trust your (professional) designer.

Theatre poster design

A good friend of mine, who is a music theatre composer, will be having a compilation of songs from his musicals performed this week in a concert in Kuala Lumpur. To promote this event, he’s asked me to create a poster that will be shared digitally.

As most of my day is taken up by caring for my 2-month old daughter, it was a challenge to create something artistic, but it’s a nice break from the routine of baby caregiving!

Are you ready for Christmas?

I know, it’s not even November yet and I’m already dreaming of Christmas. It’s the same thing you hear every year – “Christmas comes earlier every year!” or “I can’t believe the shops are already stocking up their Christmas decorations!”.

The fact is, most people like Christmas. Even if you’re not celebrating it for the religious holiday it is, most people relate Christmas to a warm, fuzzy, homey feeling. Unless you’re a tax consultant, or a marketing manager who needs to churn out an insane amount of work by the end of the year. I’m sure some of them still can’t help feeling nostalgic when hearing a Christmas oldie on the radio though.

But anyway, my question is: are you ready for Christmas? In terms of work, that is.

I let most Christmasses slip by without doing anything special for Goodputty; sometimes because I’m too busy working, and sometimes because I just don’t have the inspiration. But to the rest of you budding designers who want to take advantage of this season of buying and marketing, and at the same time want to promote yourselves, here are three ideas.

  1. Create customised Christmas cards for companies you have a good relation with. If you dare to cold call, by all means do so, but I’m a frightful coward and also a non-believer of cold-calling. My suggestion would be to create a design and sell it to these companies, instead of asking if they want one designed. Most people only want something after seeing it.
  2. Take advantage of a budding skill and use it to promote yourself this Christmas. For a recent pitch, I had to try my hand at digital artwork and a minuscule amount of animation. The artwork wasn’t accepted, but I now have an unused Christmas animation lying around in my computer. I might just use it in a personal newsletter or on the website.
  3. If you’re really industrious, prepare from today to do a countdown to Christmas. From 1 till 25 December, take a picture every day, design a Christmas ornament every day, send out an inspirational quote every day… do something every day and post it on your social media. Push yourself to be creative, and who knows, you might stumble upon something that someone really likes and buys. At the very least, it should earn you some new follows and you might learn something new about what you enjoy doing.

I wish you all the best in what you decide to do!

Of summer breaks (is it, really?)

I’ve been on a short sort-of break for the past two weeks, as a good friend of mine was visiting from Malaysia. A break is a wonderful thing… except when you know you have deadlines to meet!

I tell friends who want to visit that summer is the best time to visit because I’m always less busy, as many people are on holiday during this period. And it was true the first year I went freelance (back in 2013). But in 2014 and 2015, I’ve consistently been busy over the summer period, which is fantastic for my productivity (because, let’s face it, when you don’t have work to do, you feel kinda useless) and bank balance, but not so good for the friends coming over.

Now that my friend has flown home and is starting her own stress back at work, I have more time and energy to catch up with all my work. So that makes me feel better. It’s been a long while since I’ve drawn or painted something, and I’m itching to do it – but commissioned work takes priority.

Hopefully you’ll be able to see something new on my feed before the end of the week!

The European launch of 3M’s new brand identity

I had the good fortune and pleasure of working with 3M and Poet Farmer on the launch of 3M’s new brand identity in Europe. With Rik van der Kroon and Patrick de Regt from Poet Farmer managing the project, we created hundreds of print assets and delivered them to over 20 countries. Here are a few pictures from the launch in Germany!

3m1 3m2 3m4 3m3

A new toy for a freelancer

After a week of online research and fervent discussions with good friends, I finally purchased a compact camera of my own yesterday.

I had only two…okay, three wishes in my camera. I only fulfilled two of them, but I figured the third wish was the least important compared to the “good”ness of the first two.

  1. Better pictures than my iPhone 5
  2. Good grip for travel and one-handed shots
  3. Wireless internet

I decided to chuck the wireless internet wish when I saw that all the cameras with WiFi were either over budget, or took hideously crappy pictures.

The choice was between the Sony Cybershot RX100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC LX7.

All over the internet, and even in the camera store, people were waxing lyrical about the Sony. I was about ready to fork out an extra 60 euros over my budget for it until I stumbled upon the Lumix. Where the Sony fulfilled only one of my three wishes, the Lumix fulfilled two. I loved the pictures the Sony took, but I really, really didn’t like how fragile and slippery the body felt. Apparently, many people feel that way too, which is why Sony is selling an extra stick-on grip. But this sticker costs 17 euros and only increases grippy-ness by a small percentage.

Now, I was ready to compromise on my budget AND the grippy-ness because every other camera in that price range produced flat and dull photos. But when I started researching the Lumix, I discovered that, to my untrained eye at least, both cameras produced similar photos. Now it’s not easy to judge photos because you don’t know how many settings people have adjusted to produce that photo, but these two were definitely a head above the rest. Add in the fact that the Lumix is very nice and grippy (and looks like an actual camera to boot – the Sony looks like a sleek, smooth smartphone) and it’s just on the budget, and I pretty much reached my decision there and then.

I haven’t had the chance to fully test out my Lumix in the outdoors, where I hope it will fare better than it has done so far indoors. Here are a couple of shots I’ve taken at home.




None of that normal superhero nonsense

The dream I had last night impressed me so much I actually have to write a blog post on it, even if it may bore you readers out there.

I’ve always been intrigued by the language of dreams and how your brain “chooses” which dreams you should have this time.

I’m not about to discuss some philosophical idea about my dreams, but I just wanted to say: I was a superhero last night.

Despite the comicky name “superhero”, it was really a serious dream. Proper evil beings were sneakily attacking the group of people (including me) who were trying to eliminate them. But what was my superpower? This is the part I love.

It wasn’t a run-of-the-mill power like, say, superstrength, teleportation, martial arts, or that sort of Marvel universe thing. It was actually something creative – I had the ability to pick up any object and transform it into something (related) that could be of use in my attack. So, let’s say I found a pair of chopsticks (the fight was on a deserted floor of a shopping mall). I would have to pick it up and instantly transform it into a weapon before then flinging it to the evil being approaching. So, what could chopsticks transform into? Perhaps that’s too simple. Chopsticks = steel rods, or super sturdy needles, etc.

The challenge was if I found, say, a sticker left on the wall by some kid. Take just one second to think of a use then transform it in your head. I transformed it into a larger piece of sticky item and wham bammed it against the evil being to the wall.

Oh, I forgot to mention… I did have superspeed (although not the out-of-this-world Superman type). I just had it in order to have some momentum in my attack, because all my attacks had to be melee. Which is strange, as I always prefer to be the marksman in RPGs.

Now that I think of it, maybe this dream does have a meaning relatable to my everyday conscious life. Perhaps, my brain is trying to tell me that what I do; create something special out of something ordinary is valuable. Perhaps I’ve been feeling down about myself and my brain decided that I needed a pick-me-up.

Whatever it is, thank you, brain, for a pretty scary, but pretty awesome dream.

The (very brief) theory of (website) evolution

About a year or more ago, Poet Farmer launched their newly-redesigned website (designed by yours truly, view the project here). You may or may not know it, but a truly effective website is always evolving according to what the viewer behaviour is, or what the market needs at that moment.

This is why, when working on a website design, clients should be aware that it will never be 100% finished, nor 100% perfect before launch. But this is just a remark, in response to rueful stories I’ve heard from project managers over the years.

Poet Farmer has followed this route and updated their Cases page according to research and stats they’ve acquired over the year. This has included tidying up the page and adding a more personal touch by using quotes and pictures of people involved in the projects.

Which brings me to why I’m writing this post in the first place! With this update, I find myself having another opportunity to plug myself and try to get onto Google search results again, by announcing that I’ve been featured on one of the Cases pages. It’s for another website (designed of course, by me, view the project here) and the page contains a more in-depth rundown of what the project consisted of. Much better than I could have written (or would have wanted to write) on my own page.

Check it out here: