When do you stand firm?

Cheryl Kees Clendenon Design Disasters, Funny Design Stories, In Detail Says 6 Comments

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I am up against a wall. May be fired. Probably will be. But at what point do you say “taste is subjective but good design is not?”

I always try to work with clients who may have design ideas that are different than my own recommendations. Trying to figure out workable solutions. Or really, just listening to what a client is really saying…meaning often they are not “in love” with a particular element…but the “idea” or perception of that that particular element may mean to them.  I always think I can work with anything. Right?


There must be a time when you really, really strongly disagree to the point of walking away? At least, from that room in the house? Is this possible? Hey, I do not agree with the direction you want to go in this room, so will let you handle alone and I will help you with rest? Or, do you just say “oh well it is a job and then make the best of it?” I guess it may be to “what degree” you disagree.

I really am not sure. All I know is that I think it is very hard to make certain design elements work in certain situations. And there are so many clients who trust and want your honest opinion based on your experience and your proven skills.  Should you waste time and money working with someone who does not? I do find myself losing interest in a project where I am consistently trying to make it “work” when clearly my recommendations are not being considered. I become sort of like the secretary of the project. Just simply taking notes, order taking and doing as told. And listen up! I am NO SECRETARY!  I am a designer! And I have your BEST INTERESTS in the forefront of my mind at all times Mr and Mrs Client! It would be easier, and I would go home much earlier if I am simply AGREED with you. Even when I do not WANT to. But I do not. Nope. I would rather be fired.

I hear Whataburger is hiring.

What do you think?

( no offense to secretaries…am using some dramatic license here!)

Comments 6

  1. I don’t know if I can thread my way through this minefield or not, but I’m going to try, because I do see the situation from both sides. If I am hiring a designer’s services, I want the designer to keep in mind that, in the end, I’m the one who’s going to live with this. I would never use “hot colors,” as I point out every chance I get, because they will become obsolete. Maybe the designer wants to continue insisting on a double sink when I have stated that what I want is a single sink. And so on. What I want the designer to do for me is to take the thoughts in my head and design the kitchen I would design if I had that person’s talents.

    When I first began ghost writing, I had a problem with making certain changes to the finished product. Over the years, though, I learned that it was not my name on the finished product and that it needed to reflect the desires of the person who commissioned it. I still fight for the integrity of the piece, but I have learned that there are lots and lots of ways to express something, and we only need one we can both agree on to make this work.

    As a woodworker, though, I have a different point of view. For starts, unless it is to match an existing piece, I will NOT stain wood. Want it stained? Get somebody else to do it. I also do not want to put my name on an inferior product. I will not use melamine, will not do a lot of things that people may wish to pay for because I am much too passionate about wood itself to compromise it away. There are any number of other woodworkers who will do just want you want, Mr. Client. Make us both happy; hire them.

    The one thing I knew about you right from the beginning, Cheryl, is that you are totally passionate about your work. I don’t know what your spiel is when you’re meeting a new client, but perhaps that should be part of it: “I’m passionate about what I do and I fight for what I believe in. Want a milquetoast? Get another girl.”

    In the end good design really is a subjective choice, as is using—or not using—wood stain. But that does not mean one cannot fight for these things. By god, I do! On my own website for custom picture framing (haven’t had so much as a NIBBLE thus far—and don’t really give a damn!) I pointed out that my stuff costs more because I use solid mahogany for my own molding which I then give a hand rubbed oil finish. My fellow woodworkers all tell me that, with stain, any wood can be made to look like any other, but if that’s what I’m gonna do, I’d rather drive a bus.

    Stick to your guns, Cheryl. You’ll be happier.

  2. I have to say AMEN AMEN AMEN. Although I firmly believe in respect of the client and their home, I do believe that they hire US for our skills. Clients should always hire a designer based on the portfolio of work that designer has produced. If said client is not comfortable with certain styling, colors used, or materials found throughout the body of work they should move on until they find “the one.” I am a believer that the client/professional relationship is just like dating and both sides must have mutual interest for the best result.

    Sorry that this has happened to you Cheryl (who wouldn’t be totally head over heels for your work!?!?!!) but I am glad you posted because there are days I feel exactly the same way… and wonder what to do. Great post.

  3. Post

    Thanks Janalin and Joseph! Boy, just a quick post because was “feeling” it…ya know??? And, I always am respectful of style and taste…a look at my website shows this….I am not a “my way or highway” designer at all …but sometimes do not want my name associated with something I completely disagree with….you can only go so far I think!

  4. I think it totally depends on the client! We usually will do what the client wants but will heavily warn them or even go in writing telling them it is not a good idea. There is some liability on a designers part, especially in commercial design.

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