In-House Observations: No. We Don’t Do Windows.

No. We Don’t Do Windows.
By Ed Roberts

Okay, at what point did some of us become “The Help”? When did the word ‘no’ transform into an expletive, never to be uttered from in-house creatives?

Look, blindly saying yes to every project request that comes across your desk will never translate into any real job security. Saying yes to every request will eventually erode your team’s morale and dilute their industry value. Stop! Just say no. If you don’t, you’ll lose respect for generating those church programs, baby shower announcements, or yard sale fliers created for co-workers down the hall. Keep it up, and you could find yourself in the financial director’s office deciding which fluffy kitten picture is cutest and having to hang that winning decision on her wall. Seriously, just say no.

Recently, I received a request from a project manager representing a committee comprised of employees that needed several documents designed for senior management. During the discovery phase in the project initiation meeting, all pertinent questions were asked and answered in order to define the project, create a solid brief, and embark on a solution suitable for online use that met the committee’s stated goals. Our solution was well produced, ultimately approved by senior management, and prepared to hand off to our Web developer. Done, right? No way. At some point between senior management’s approval and the phone call I received three weeks later, the project manager and a few committee members went rogue. Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Project manager: We want you to recreate everything in a Word document.

Me: (long, pregnant pause) With all due respect, I thought senior management approved the design for the online solution. Our Web developer is a genius; he can easily take our design and create an online form that will be a much better solution than a Word document.

Project manager: A Word document is what we [subcommittee] want from you.

Me: (pause) I’m sorry, but no. We don’t do windows, I mean Word. I know an awesome admin who can help with this type of request. I’m happy to bring her up to speed so she can develop the best Word document that will meet your needs. By the way, thanks for thinking of us first for this new opportunity, but we don’t design anything in Word.

I’ve known for quite some time the value in strategically saying ‘no’ to both pet projects and those better suited for an administrative assistant. Don’t get me wrong; I respect good administrative assistants—they have a tough job—but we are not one and the same. It has been a long time since I’ve had to tell a client no. Saying no won’t make you popular, but done professionally it will clarify your role as a strategic business partner. It took me a few seconds to mentally process that project manager’s request for a design created in Word. I thought, “We’re not ‘The Help’!” And neither are you. No. We don’t do windows.

Ed Roberts is Creative Director at ElectriCities of NC, Inc. and manages a team of creative superheroes. Follow Ed (@InHouseObs) on Twitter for more inspiration and insight.


13 thoughts on “In-House Observations: No. We Don’t Do Windows.

  1. Toasterdroid

    Thanks for the article. I’ve had a couple of clients recently that turned sour as well. Unfortunately, it was too late to say no so I’ve ended up taking a huge price cut just to get the project off of my desk and out of my way. It’s always good to make sure things are clear up front and ensure that all the bases are covered, otherwise – a polite but professional ‘NO’ is the last, best resort.

    1. Paula

      @Erin, check out PRINTsprokit by Educational Marketing Group Inc. They have developed what is basically a print-on-demand tool that produces high-resolution PDFs. I am working on implementing it at my institution, and am optimistic about its success. The tool is as easy to use as MS Word, and gives the creative team complete control over all aspects of how the templates are used. Sorry to sound like a salesperson for this, but it’s a remarkable tool for the price.

  2. Daniel Green

    Erin —
    If the need is heavy on design, but light on the editable parts, I’ve created some template layouts in InDesign, saved the files as PDFs, and then created editable/interactive fields using Adobe Acrobat Pro.

  3. Robert

    THANK YOU! The trend I have noticed is that in the grip of “The Recession” graphic designers have turned into a bunch of “Stepford Wives” with no ability to say “no” to clients! And overly compliant to every niggling client request (filtered through equally über-compliant account execs and management). Not that these off-brief requests are “wrong” or a big deal, but they ADD UP! Burning up time and profits, increasing deadline pressure, and generally diminishing the design experience. I am pretty senior and on my way out soon. But it’s sad to see how the fun of our profession has been so diminished by economic conditions and a general acceleration of the velocity at which we now operate because of digitization and the internet. When I entered this arena, we had to work hard, but there was more time to “think”, savor the creative process and enjoy what we’re doing. Clients paid the bills, but they were more like partners than overlords. There’s a lot of creative work being done, but also a lot of derivative work being done with net-swipes & copy-catting just to please client & meet ever-shrinking deadlines. No this is not a dinosaur’s last bitter death-moans. I proficient across most digital platforms and can crank out work with the best of them. I just don’t want to live in the land of “Instant Yes” anymore.

  4. Scot C.

    oh gee…did this strike a nerve! i’m the inhouse guy for a small company that was recently taken over by a much bigger company. we sell “electronical” stuff and all my technical literature is produced in InDesign with lots of graphics created in Illustrator and Photoshop. less than a week after the new owners took over I was asked to convert everything over to Word because thats just what they did. luckily i didn’t have to comply or it would have been a bloody nightmare. i still had to change the design a little to make them a little more like their crappy Word docs but I think if I would have had to convert them, I would’ve walked out the door…

  5. Deirdre Wilson

    Ask WHY. Find out what is the purpose that a word file will serve that an InDesign file will not. In my experience it is often about the client wanting to have an up to date word file that they can make changes to during the process of creating the file. This seems to come from a need to feel in control of the process and is a really good opportunity to show the client how much of a partner you can be by meeting their (unexpressed) need. In this instance showing them how to mark up an enabled pdf or linking the InDesign file to googledocs will give them a feeling of control. We have converted several clients to pdf markup and have set up googledocs links for several clients who wanted to work with word files. Not one of them has used the googledocs links but they have all dropped the request for word files!
    These sort of “crazy” requests are an opportunity to understand our clients a bit more and prove that we are there as an ally, not as a service provider.
    Of course, we occasionally end up having to produce something in word, recently it was a newsletter which would have been quicker to produce in InDesign. In order to be cost effective we modified a word template to suit the client’s style and now we produce the newsletter for them using the word file! Why did we get stuck like this – because we were dealing with someone who was dealing with the client – lack of direct access is a huge inhibitor to being able to provide a really good solution. But then you can’t win them all but you can keep trying!

  6. Cornell Coello

    I don’t actually agree with this.

    The reason being one word ‘service’.

    If a client requests a design to be converted to Word, it’s often because there’s an ongoing need to make simple changes inhouse like change a date or something which they can’t justify the cost in getting a designer to update.

    I always explain to the client that Word is a wordprocessor program not a professional graphics program, so it means that the design shall need to be modified and won’t look as good. It shall probably take a longer time to achieve too, hence shall cost more too. If the client understands and accepts the compromise, then I say who are we to get offended?

    Give the client what he/she wants! That’s what I believe to be good service. Design and creativity is not the ONLY thing about this business.

    And regarding the example of church programs, why should a design studio team be upset about designing a church communication?? Is it not important to use our God given talents for HIS work?

    Why do we have to pamper our designer employees so much by only giving them juicy creative work for big name clients all the time?

    There is a design challenge in every project – just depends on our attitude and energy. We make our teams lazy if all we do is give them style guides of big name clients with preset designs, and the world’s best photographs. That’s just designing for one’s portfolio – and ego.

    I say give them the low budget jobs too – expect the best even with low quality amateur photos to be completed within 1 hour.

  7. Victor Mabenge

    Once had a (bank) client who asked for their newsletter to be designed specifically in word. After all was done, we were asked to convert it to PDF!

    Morale of the story, understand client needs and offer most reasonable solutions.

    Say YES but NO!

  8. Vyb

    I once bought a computer that could TALK to me and UNDERSTAND the words coming out of my mouth. I told it to burn me some music which I could listen to in my car on to an audio CD.

    The computer burnt the music…but onto a DVD and started explaining how DVDs were better and cooler. My car could not play music from DVDs. But I somehow could not make the computer understand that. It thought that what it was trying to do was to make me cool and it thought that it knew better…but I needed my music on Audio discs…I sent the computer away to a dark place. It is still there but it still does not understand what I need and it still thinks that it is cooler than I am…may be that is true…but I need my things my way…not your way…

    Good design does not happen on Mac Or Windows / Photoshop Or Gimp / Indesign Or Word…Good design is working with whatever limitation or advantage you have and making the best of that. Thats what I think.

    And that’s why I give my clients music on Audio Discs or Magnetic Tape or whatever will work out best for THEM! Its about the client isn’t it.

    If you want it to be about you…then please please please get up from your desk and announce to everyone that you are not a are an artist and you will do whatever the hell you want to…because you are a magnificent artist…wow…you ARE amazing.

  9. Robert "Butch"Greenawalt

    It has become increasingly popular for upper management for time management purposes to delegate the initial legwork to someone has has no earthly idea what their doing to facilitate getting a project underway. Once the scope of the project has been decided and approved if at some point someone decides something else is “really” what they wanted a “NO” would be only applicable response you could professionally give. Good for you.

  10. jose

    Yes! I do windows, I do publisher, and I also do all the Adobe CS… If I don’t there is a big chance that they will create a really out of branding piece… I work hard, and I service my employer and the company I work for… I am a designer… no a NO NO No can do!