Designer, My Profile

Design Confessional

We’re back, after a couple months of unforgivable neglect. Thanks for your continued emails and support. I promise we’ll get back to regular posting and reviews.

As for myself, I’ve been busy starting up a new business with another designer,, and have really started to see the logo design business from the other side of the desk.
It’s been weird starting this enterprise, because it’s forced me to think like more of a marketer. I’ve never enjoyed that kind of thing. I’ve been pulled kicking and screaming into the role of a businessman, and it’s made my mind think about my early days as a designer. Embarrassing, strange things. So the point of the post is to confess an early memory, and to hopefully provoke you to air out your most buried design secrets.

Back when I was working at a t-shirt printing company, I was starting to get more confident as a designer. Designers were just starting to discover the potential of the internet, and I found the site elance. I advertised my services as a designer/illustrator, with what I thought was an impressive portfolio.

Side topic: do you ever look back at your early stuff in your portfolio and just cringe? Hopefully, we’re all constantly improving and progressing as artists, so your past things should always feel amateur.

Anyway, I was contacted by a guy that wanted a t-shirt illustration for a chessboard with the pawns as cartoon characters, all come to life and fighting each other. It sounded fun, so I quoted a price and looked forward to spending a few days drawing an impressive first draft.

Once he approved the estimate, I got the worst feeling of dread.

Every self-doubt consumed me. How can I pull this off? What if he hates it? All the drawing I’d done for hire was for friends or employers, so this felt different, because it was an anonymous buyer that was investing hard-earned money in ME. It was nerve-wracking pressure, a feeling like none I had ever had. I still can’t understand why I was so scared of this project.

I sent the guy an email and LIED, which I still feel horrible about. I made an excuse like I had a death in the family, and couldn’t take on any more projects. He said it was no problem. It was probably no big deal to the guy, and he just went with the next artist’s bid, but I felt really bad about letting a client down.

This was many years ago, but I still feel a little twinge of guilt and weirdness about it. I haven’t talked to any designers about it. Since that time, I’ve taken hundreds if not thousands of these typed of projects, the huge majority of them ending up great for both parties. It’s just a story of my first time breaking into what I felt were the “big leagues” and finding myself paralyzed with the “design responsibility” of pleasing a client and creating good artwork from nothing.

There you have it. My designer confession. Let’s hear from the rest of you about your dirty little secrets you’ve had during your design career. This is an anonymous forum, remember, and I’ve always felt like confession is good for the sound, and it’s valuable to learn from others’ experience.

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  1. Linda

    Oh man, I was looking for ideas for my logo when I ran into this particular post. This is exactly where I am right now: a real project for someone I don’t even know and I haven’t even officially started my business yet. I’m about to chicken out but ho and behold, reading this has convinced me not to! I’m just scared shitless, but I’m so glad it’s not just me:) Thank you!

  2. Paul

    Don’t chicken out! I wish I hadn’t. Have confidence in yourself…you’ll have plenty of clients that tell you did great work, and a fair amount of those that don’t like your stuff…and you can always refund them and learn from the experience. Good luck.