Graphic design horror stories are a dime a dozen on the internet but this selection is especially unfiltered. Of course, all the identities of these clients from hell will be kept hidden. We’re not monsters—they are. Although granted, we are a company of yetis… we’re one of the good ones.
And as summer comes to a close, we’re greeting the Halloween season early by publishing this graphic designers’ special. But if you, the reader, are a client casually reading this blog, take these stories as an example of how NOT to treat your designers. It’ll make the design industry less of a nightmare and more of the dream they had as kids.
With that being said, revel in, relate to, and learn from the experiences of these 5 designers when it came to dealing with horrible clients. Enjoy!
1. Nightmare on Paint Street
This story was submitted by Chelsea; the brand designer, illustrator, and mural artist behind @good.scary. If you’ve ever had a client who changes their mind often, you’ll feel Chelsea’s pain.
“I was commissioned to do multiple murals for a restaurant for way too little money. I really wanted to get mural work under my belt so I took it!
The day before I was to start the paint application, I get an email saying, ‘Scratch this design and start over on this bit.’
These were APPROVED designs. The murals turned out great but the whole process was a nightmare.”
2. The Rich Client In Poor Man’s Clothing
This story was submitted by Markus; the logo designer behind @markusdaum_logos.
In his case, looks are deceiving. Clients like these are why the term “starving artist” is still very true to this day.
“One client from super hell was an old man and he talked to me about doing a job for him. He was wearing old worn-out clothes and started to haggle about the price.
I felt sorry for him because of his appearance and movement, so I made him a special price. He started to smile as I asked him to fill out the contract.
He wrote down his address and as I was looking at it, I lost my faith in mankind… this guy cheated me. He was living in the richest part of the town, an area full of villas! This guy knows how to make money through saving but I don’t want to be like him.”
3. The Vanishing Client
This story was submitted by Shokou; the graphic designer and illustrator behind @shokoudesign.
If you thought being ghosted by a friend or a romantic interest was painful, wait till you get ghosted at work. Shokou’s experience was nothing short of magic.
“I had a client which needed a restaurant logo ASAP. I worked on it day and night and sent various versions of it. Every time I sent anything, they kept adding elements to it—although I kept telling them that ‘less is more.’
After making me add lots of elements to it, they said, ‘No this is too busy.’
But eventually, they agreed on what they wanted. When it came to the paying part, he said his partner was going through a family problem and they’ll pay and get back to me as soon as possible.
Guess what? It’s been 6 months already.”
4. 28000 Working Days Later
This story was submitted by Ysabell; an art director and designer. Find her at @ysahasbadposture. In terms of graphic design horror stories, Ysa’s experience might just be the most harmful one.
“I already knew this was going to be a difficult project since the client was demanding a LOT of graphics in such a short amount of time.
We calculated the parameters that would make it possible—the client would need to submit the key visuals, all the assets, and copy by the end of this particular date in order for us to meet their deadline.
The client agreed. Did the client send any of these things on time? Not at all.
What’s worse—the key visuals were never approved so in spite of our team doing work, this had to be scrapped the moment their key visual was approved to something else.
We worked overtime, crunch deadlines, and rush revisions. A real horror show.”
5. Beware the Blackmailer
This story was submitted by Davor; the logo designer and owner of @dbworkplay. His experience involved a client who dangled his rating over his head for said client’s benefit.
“It was a revision job—which was a red flag at the beginning. But as I didn’t have any rating, I wanted to start my journey and get a 5-star rating so I can continue getting jobs on Upwork.
After [the first revision], the client didn’t close the contract but instead gave me another job. I didn’t want to do it because he was really weird, cared about every millimeter, and had crazy requests.
But I couldn’t quit the contract because I would get a bad rating. I got paid $150 for both jobs, and I got another grid to make. Third one in a row.
I made a logo lockup in a grid, and he said he wanted to see it created in a size of 150 pixels. The logo looked like s*** in that size and he said it was my fault and that I don’t know how to export the crisp logo.
So, after a few back and forths, I said I didn’t want to do this anymore and he gave me a 1-star rating for the start of my journey. 5 days of back and forths for $150, a 1-star rating, and a very low chance to get another job.
I tried to complain to the Upwork team, but they said they can’t do anything about it. To conclude, avoid these types of platforms where insane clients will blackmail you with ratings and make a fool out of you. The worst part is that they are fully protected by the Upwork.”
Unlimited Graphic Designs with DotYeti
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Check out our portfolio and case studies to see how our Yetis have survived and thrived the horror show known as the ‘creative industry.’ But at the end of the day, having a fair share graphic design horror stories to tell is what makes our work fun!