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Working for a boss with a poor sense of design

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Jaeson JrakmanWorking for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 16, 2015 at 9:45:25 pm

Just wondering if anyone out there can give me advice.

I've worked for two bosses now with a horrible design sense. I know some may suggest that I'm the one with the bad design sense, so let me give you a couple of examples. One wanted to discard his logo design in favor of using plain Ariel text for his logo, the other wants a video with white text on a white background. Both direct me to create fairly amateurish looking work, as neither have any design sense, while both have a sense of wanting control over everything.

Ultimately, I don't really mind creating bad designs for someone else if they're paying me.

My primary concern though, is when it comes time to look for a new job, and a potential new employer asks to see my work, I'll be forced to show them what I've created with my former bosses' poor design sense. I almost feel I ought to be creating two sets of work, one for them to use, and one for myself that I feel they should have used.

Any thoughts, suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

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Nick GriffinRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 16, 2015 at 10:36:28 pm

Yes. Good idea. Create a shadow portfolio but you probably should never show any of it to your boss if he/she is a control freak. That could just generate ill will.

One tip for interviewing for that next job: NEVER say anything bad about your last employer. Say that you're looking for bigger and better "challenges," not that the last place sucked.

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Jaeson JrakmanRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 17, 2015 at 1:19:36 am

No, I wouldn't say anything bad about a previous employer spontaneously.

But if I show that future employer my portfolio, and then he finds the YouTube channel of the company I worked at, he might ask me why they didn't use the videos in my portfolio. Not sure how to answer that one.

It's pretty frustrating too, because, they have about 10 videos uploaded, and when I was hired I've been repeatedly told that I was brought on board to bring a greater gravitas or flare to the videos. But the direction I'm now receiving is pointing me backwards to the pedestrian videos with poor design work that they already have up.

So it's a bit confusing as well.

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Nick GriffinRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 17, 2015 at 3:39:12 pm

[Jaeson Jrakman] " Not sure how to answer that one."

Shrug your shoulders and say, "I do what I'm told. If my ideas are over-ruled I move on." To a prospective employer that says you're a team player and when they can see that your ideas are clearly superior you look all the better to them.

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Jaeson JrakmanRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 17, 2015 at 4:31:32 pm

That's definitely my attitude.

I don't think I explained it very well earlier, but the problem I'm having now is that I have two bosses. One boss wants me to bring new flare to the projects, the other wants to micromanage with poor design sense. So I have two competing standards, of what I'm being told. The boss with the poor design sense is the one on top, so I'm inclined to do what he's told. But I don't want to disappoint the 2nd in command, who expressly told me several times that they want to depend on my knowledge to bring them to a new level.

I'd like to get them into a room together and have them reconcile their positions into something more coherent so we're all on the same page.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 17, 2015 at 5:42:43 pm

When my wife worked in a similar situation, she had a strategy of making the thing the client spec'ed out, as well as a version she thought would be better, and a "sacrificial lamb" version that was decidedly worse.bad enough ti would NEVER be chosen. Invariably, a client like yours would review these three examples, kill the bad choice, then they would be much more open to considering the good alternative. It was just psychology. Some people just have to put their mark on a project in some way, to feel or demonstrate they've made a contribution.

When you show this work, do you "sell it" with explanations for why you make the various choices, or do you just say: "Here, look at this", without giving this problem person any technical or artistic context? Try talking about the choices of font, of color, of proportions, before you even show them the product; you're building a common reference language between you and them. Example: Client insists on comic sans for the company logo. "Hey, remember when we had that talk about fonts and how certain font features have certain ideas associated with them? Yeah, and when we talked about what you want the company logo to project, you wanted these three qualities, but comic sans has different qualities that would conflict with what you wanted... so, while I did go ahead like you asked, I wanted to share this alternative with you... based on your direction on the way you want people to feel, I picked three alternatives to DO have the proper connotations associated with them. Can you see how one of these might be a better match than Comic Sans, based on these classic design principles we've talked about?"

You make them feel like your idea is their idea. The old saw goes something like: "You can get almost anything done, if you don't worry about who gets the credit".

As others have said, keep a portfolio of all your best stuff, even if it never got approved. This is very common in every area of art and design. I won an award once for a spot that the clients rejected and never aired, but the contest didn't specify the work had to have aired... and the judges loved what they saw.

If the problem never goes away, it is important for your mental health that you keep one or more creative outlets outside of the office to fulfill your needs for self-expression, or you risk getting too much stress in your life. It need not be the exact same kind of creative act that the office pays for and ignores. Just as long as you "own" the outside alternative creative expression, and do it ALL your own way. You'll find that the bad choices made in the office will hurt much less. Don't make the mistake of making those other people's choices personal and about you.

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John BaumchenRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 18, 2015 at 6:28:37 pm
Last Edited By John Baumchen on Feb 18, 2015 at 6:32:15 pm

I'd suggest that you try getting them together in the same room and explain how difficult it is for you when they give you conflicting tasks.

If that isn't possible, always CC your responses to requests to both managers. If one comes in and verbally gives you direction, follow it up with an email to both.

Having one that shows your creativity that has been mentioned in previous posts is a great idea. Mark pretty well said it all.

As an absolute last resort, you might consider going over both their heads and ask for assistance from their boss, without making either of them look bad.

Best of luck to you.

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Jason JenkinsRe: Working for a boss with a poor sense of design
by on Feb 27, 2015 at 4:46:38 pm

[Jaeson Jrakman] "One boss wants me to bring new flare to the projects"

Is your boss JJ Abrams? He certainly has a flair for flare.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my profile.

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