5 In-House Designers on Frustratingly Funny Clients

A while back, John Foster asked designers to weigh in on the crazy things clients say, and they discussed everything from odd requests to moms at meetings.

In the mood for some more funny stories, we reached out to five in-house design teams to hear about their most frustratingly humorous in-house clients and work relationships with non-designers. Read on to hear about hilarious deadlines, designing in Word and the struggle for artistic license.

Time to Vent: 5 In-House Design Teams Share the Frustrating and the Funny

“It always revolves around timelines with us. Over the last few years, we’ve built a ton of trust with our clients (co-workers) across the company, that we rarely get ridiculous creative requests. That said, at least once or twice a week we get emails that look something like this: ‘I know it’s really short notice, and you haven’t heard about this project before … and it’s the middle of the day Thursday, but we really need this project completed by the end of the week.’ Sometimes they’re frustrating, sometimes it’s just hilarious how ridiculous the deadline requests are, but either way, we get it done.”
DEFY Media director of creative services Greg Huntoon

In-house design work from the team at The Houston Zoo; photo by Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo Staff Photographer

In-house design work from the team at The Houston Zoo; photo by Stephanie Adams, Houston Zoo staff photographer

“Most animal keepers have a background in zoology, and so as scientists, have the general belief that MORE DATA is better! Artistic renderings of animals is also a fine line to tread, as they like accuracy and not interpretation.

But as designers, of course, we have the opposite inclination. We want to streamline information to be simple for the public to read and understand, and we want the visuals to be interesting and eye-catching—even if we have to take a little artistic license.

So, sometimes we clash as we try to merge our opposite worlds together. It’s often a huge lesson in compromise for both teams, but so far we’ve managed to come to some great solutions—and no one has been thrown to the lions!”
The Houston Zoo creative director Kirsten Ufer

One of the many annual reports Riker designed for NPCA

One of the many annual reports Annie Riker has designed for NPCA

“I occasionally get requests to ‘work your magic’ on a Word document design that another colleague put together. I’m not sure what kind of magic they think I have, but that phrase always rubs me the wrong way. I’m not making rabbits appear out of hats for crying out loud! Good design takes a lot of thought and years of developed skills. However, designing in Microsoft applications is definitely not one of those skills …”
National parks Conservation Association creative director Annie Riker

Work from In-House design team at HousingWire

Work from the in-house design team at HousingWire Publishing

“Ha. This happened a couple of times: We pitch our concepts and the clients love all of them and decide that they want to mix all of them into one big idea!

One of the most offending crimes is trying to art direct an art director: Can you move this to the left? Right? Add more colors here? And to top it all, Can you make the logo bigger?

It’s a challenge that I love to live every day.”
HousingWire Publishing senior art director Rosangel Torres


A cover by the in-house design team at Riverhead Books

“When juggling lots of projects, a new rush request often seems hilarious (or tear-inducing) especially since a lot of the work we do is done by hand from scratch. The deadlines are tight and the bar is set high so the expectations can feel overwhelming. But we’re lucky enough to work in a setting where our coworkers (who are also our clients) are respectful of what we do. So, although the pace can feel punishing at times, we always have each other to lean on when things get hairy and always know that our efforts are appreciated.”
—The in-house design team at Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA)


The In-House Design Awards is all about celebrating your in-house design team’s hard work. Hear what Mandisa Fabris, art director at Robert Half Legal, has to say about her team’s 2015 win:

As with most in-house teams, our team handles a lot of work whose primary function is to support the needs of the business and our company. The In-House Design Awards have always been an opportunity for us to showcase the work that we as a team are the most proud of. … Our participation in the In-House Design Awards serves as motivation for our team, inspiring us to push our creativity further every day.

It’s an honor for our team to be recognized and be included in a group of other talented in-house teams. Just as we look for inspiration from others in the industry, we hope that our work in turn inspires others. For us, it means acknowledgement of our work at an industry level and validation of our contributions to the company’s goals and success.