Cookies for dinner

Every day we make decisions on when to push back and when to let it go. I used to push back to my son about eating raviolis every night for dinner. It resulted in tantrums and stress. I started to dread dinnertime and would feel tears of frustration welling up as I was preparing his well-rounded healthy meal of chicken, rice, and sensible vegetables. But one day, I was too weak to fight, and I made raviolis for the second night in a row, and as it turns out, all was fine. It was still fine the following day and the next when I cooked raviolis. He’s still alive despite living on a diet consisting primarily of raviolis and peanut butter sandwiches. Now dinner is not something I dread but actually enjoy.


I always struggle with push back on design. On one hand, I want an amicable relationship with my client and I want future work, so more often than not, I silently acquiesce and give them the raviolis for dinner. For the most part, this works out splendidly with minimal consequences. You want to swap green for blue and this picture for that one? Ok, fine. You don’t like this font that we agreed on earlier in the concept phase, ok, I’ll select a new one. I’m too weak to fight those minor details. And, as I learned with my son, it’s not worth the battle anyhow.


But then there the decisions that really test the integrity of the project. This is where the client doesn’t just want raviolis, but, in my opinion, wants a plate of cookies for dinner.  And therein lies the problem. I know the instruction is poorly thought out, but instinct sends me to the cookie jar because I hate conflict.


When I was a young, struggling designer, I would just hand over the cookies and be done with it. But now, I know that I’ve been hired to recognize what constitutes a well-rounded meal, a plate of raviolis, and a platter of cookies. It’s my job to point out (or choose to silently ignore) those differences. Thus, when I know the feedback significantly compromises the integrity of the design, I’ll fight back (in a very humble way of course!).  These battles can’t always be won, and I have to live with the occasional design casualty. However, I’d say about 90% of the time, I succeed in getting the client to see my side. The secret is finding the right balance between the raviolis and the cookies. If you give cookies all the time, the project will suffer and not only will you feel resentful and annoyed, but people will know you are pushover and you will end up with a portfolio of junk. If you fight back and push the chicken and veggies every night, you’ll be perceived as an intractable diva (a frequent problem for many designers). So, like everything else in life, (please take this advice Congress) you’ve got to choose the battles wisely, and accept that it’s ok to tell your kid that he can’t have cookies for dinner. But raviolis? Why not?