Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

You Can Lead Them to Water

Everything is negotiable. Except color. And dignity.

“The work you’ve done so far on the website is really good. I really, really like this treatment for the top of the page, but instead of the blue Helvetica, can I see the headline in bright neon green Comic Sans, rotating 300 times per second using the Flash, exploding with a giant flaming skull shooting through the background, then a picture of the American flag waving in 3D, and can you put ‘Britney Spears’ into the alt tag so people will find me when they search her name? My friend told me you can trick search engines like that.”

“OK, that sounds like a great idea, but we might want to consider not using animation because it can distract people reading the rest of the page. And I would advise against using irrelevant information in the alt attribute, but that’s not a big deal anyway since we are using regular HTML text for the headline, not an image. Although I really like your ideas — you’re very creative! — I think the original design really helps people read the page.”

“Hmm. That makes sense. Although I really think flaming skulls conveys excitement about my offshore banking operation, I don’t want people to go into epileptic seizures when they open their Internet software. OK, so if we have the green neon headline at the top, can we have the flag waving in 3D OVER the headline SLOWLY for just a second before you see a guy walk out from the side of the screen and fold it up?”

“This is great feedback. Thank you. I really think we should avoid most animation all together. Studies have shown that it really distracts from the rest of the page and makes it harder to read. I honestly feel the blue Helvetica really conveys a sense of professionalism, which is what we want to establish with your offshore banking operation.”

“I talked to my wife and my friend and this guy I used to work with and looked at some of the drawings my son did for the website design, and I really would like the headline in neon green and set in the typefontface Comic Sans. I use if for my church newsletter and I think it would be perfect. I think it really makes a statement about the brand’s market leadership and being a disruptive post-Web 2.5 startup.”

“OK sounds like you have some experience designing so let’s try the idea. Here is a new comp with the headline in Comic Sans. As you can see it really clashes with the rest of the design. I think sometimes it works great like your church newsletter, but might not be the best option for an offshore bank targeting senior Mafia members and corrupt hedge fund managers.”

“Hmm. Maybe you’re right. Let’s stick with Helvetica but make it neon green please. Green is the color of money and growth and makes people think about the environment.”

“Here is a new version with the headline in green.”

“I really want a bright green. Can you make it glow? In my church newsletter I use WordArt to give everything a shadow. Can you do that too? It will make it pop more.”

“I’m not sure neon green conveys money. Maybe a more conservative forest green? Also, the software I use does not have this advanced ‘shadow’ effect you talked about, so I’m not sure how to get that effect.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think so — Word is a very advanced program. Are you using the Adobe? Also, let’s stick with the neon green. It represents BIG money.”

“Here is a new version with a different green.”

“That’s closer, but not very neon. I need it to GLOW, like VIBRATE on the screen.”

“I’m not sure I have that color in my software. I’m not sure what you’re asking for even occurs in nature.”

“You should use Word. I have it here. Can you use Word to design websites? I mocked it up in PowerPoint for you.”

“I really think that green is not going to work.”


“Here is a new version with the green you asked for.”

“Very nice! I knew it would work out. I like how you’ve make it pulse like a pile of nuclear waste. I would like the same pulsing effect on my business card. Can you do that?”

, , ,

commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

That’s funny stuff.


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

I really like how they say, “are you using the Adobe?”

Adobe what? Adobe what?!?

Oh and everyone knows that Word is such an advanced program and now I’m really wishing I hadn’t wasted all that time in college learning Photoshop only to find out that I could be using WordART instead! What a rip!

If only I knew how to make my stuff pulse like nuclear waste!


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

OK, as a general disclaimer for past, present and future clients that may be reading: This is conversation is fictional. Just in case. :)

Natalie Jost

wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

the Adobe. nice. now quit eavesdropping on my conversations!


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

Makes me glad I don’t deal too much with what color things are. However, I do deal with layout. Including requests to have ads on the top left side of the page. ‘Because people click there the most’

Thank you for making me laugh this morning.


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

I realize that this conversation may not have actually happened with you, but this is anything but a made up conversation.


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

Thanks for the “fictional” conversation. It sure made my day (especially references to two things I despise the most – Comic Sans and WordArt).


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

I see you’ve met some of my clients.


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008


You’ve made what I have been dealing with seem trivial ;)


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

Haha, so funny because it’s so true!

Thanks for the laugh!


wrote the following on Tuesday April 22, 2008

I would like to say fire the client. I really would, besides they might be happier getting a student or someone with a similar “aesthetic”.

As an in-house designer most of what I do now and many of my projects in the past are design by committee. Perhaps not as scary but they can get plenty boring. That’s why I do pro bono work – I work with the client’s needs but since I’m not getting paid and they tend to be grateful they often actually take advice.

About Webdesign

wrote the following on Wednesday April 23, 2008

Funny and so true!!

The Jer

wrote the following on Wednesday April 23, 2008

this is so funny. I actually had a client want a flash splash page and then once it was over it would load another one. This was to invoke the feeling that they were super awesome. She also got a bootleg version of photshop and made red writing at 12 point font on 2500px wide pics for her 400px wide gallery. then wanted to know why you couldnt read it. what are your guys horror stories?

Stephen Reid

wrote the following on Thursday April 24, 2008

Brilliant. Reminds me of the time I made a website for a farm that produced free range eggs and the client insisted of a trail of bouncing eggs following the mouse around the screen.

Although tbh I was still in school at the time and thought it was a worthy enhancement. Now I know better.


wrote the following on Thursday April 24, 2008

Interesting… I hear things like this all the time… which is why I like sticking to development… it is not so visual and clients (Management) tend to leave it alone…
I expect you will get a lot of responses for this one… it is a common problem for designers…


wrote the following on Friday April 25, 2008

You know that moment when you’re laughing really hard and then you kinda choke on your laughter as it dawns on you that this could very well be happening to you? Just had that moment.


wrote the following on Friday April 25, 2008

<GROAN> This is too familiar. I think the worst one I got was a desire for “confetti” in the background of the ENTIRE site – the whole page. It was an ecommerce site and you could barely see the products for all the confetti. They didn’t even sell anything related to confetti, like party supplies – it was just supposed to be “fun”.

For anyone who thinks headaches are fun, I guess.


wrote the following on Friday May 2, 2008

Uncanny! I work in-house and I have that conversation several times a month. Especially the “Adobe” portion. I used to try and explain that Adobe is the name of the company that produces many different applications but after countless blank stares I have given up. Thanks for reminding me I am not alone in this!


wrote the following on Saturday May 3, 2008

That’s awesome… It’s exactly like working with some of my clients. “I don’t know d*ck about design, but I’ll tell you what to do” – why don’t they just make it themselves then…


wrote the following on Sunday May 4, 2008

This post just won yourself another subscriber.

You might want to take a look at the tabbing order of your site though. In this comment form, pushing tab to go from the url field to the actual comment field jumped me up to the logo graphic for some reason.

Stephen Olmstead

wrote the following on Tuesday May 6, 2008

Thank you so much for this. I was having a downer day here in design world with clients and requestors. This was just… perfect. Scarily accurate too I’m afraid. ;)


wrote the following on Thursday May 8, 2008

Scarily enough, I had that conversation, nearly verbatim, just a couple weeks back. Right down to the nuclear waste green, and the super fantastico “design” created in PowerPoint. I even had to throw in the speech about how making everything blink would be cough not perhaps so good for epileptics and migraineurs.

It’s so disheartening when an otherwise smart businessperson is insisting that you drag their site back into the stone age of 1995.

But how could you have forgotten the best part of these conversations?

“Where’s the click counter?? Everybody knows you’ve GOT to have a click counter on the bottom to be really professional and slick. I don’t know why I’m paying so much money to someone who has obviously never done a web [sic] before. I’ll just have my 12 year old nephew do it. He knows all the computer stuff.”


wrote the following on Wednesday June 18, 2008

Yep! When it comes right down to it, sometimes you just have to throw the rules and education out. After all, they are signing the check.


wrote the following on Thursday July 3, 2008

Don’t forget it happens to the copywriters, too. ‘You might want to use the words ‘leverage’ and ‘cutting edge’ a little more to make it really stand out!’


wrote the following on Thursday July 3, 2008

This underlines a very specific point…it is not about the subjective suggestions the client makes, but how you as a creator choose to engage with the client. I found the fiction entertaining, yet the reality is that you too, creator, have made a mistake by engaging with this type of person. Lets all do our homework and scrub through difficult clients and choose better ones.

Suzanne Wesley

wrote the following on Wednesday July 16, 2008

I know this is fiction – but tone it down just a bit and I think I’ve made a logo for this guy before …

Very funny and too true!

Sometimes clients don’t want a voice of experience – they just want you to create EXACTLY what they say they want. The best you can do is try to give them your best advice and if they don’t take it you should not feel guilty creating what they want instead. (You just might not add it to your portfolio!)


wrote the following on Sunday August 3, 2008

ha, ha, ha….I wondered who my client went to for that project. I guess I can stop working on trying to make my neon green show a pulse.