Your digital triage kit

This Wednesday, I received a disheartening call from my graphic design partner, Eileen, on a new freelance job we’re working on: Our mutual client didn’t like the short “success profile” I’d written. Frankly, it came as a bit of a shock — I thought I’d followed the assignment to a T, and that the profile captured the tone they were looking for. It’s always a bit of a kick in the stomach when that happens…mercifully, it doesn’t happen all that often.

As Eileen and I talked through the feedback, three things were clearly the main obstacles: 1) I had written an early sentence that the client didn’t like, 2) one of the comments was “it just looks like a big block of text” and 3) another comment was that it was too long — she wanted it to be one page.

Well, we had all agreed that we’d get signoff on the text before going to design stage, and heaven knows Word ain’t pretty. Moreover, they’d contracted for 500 words; I’d had to spill onto a second page to hit the count. So, we went to Plan B: I’d execute some edits to reword the offending sentence and shorten everything to fit on one page, and Eileen would put it into a designed page.

Mentally, we prepared for the worst. Eileen, who now had a design on the line, joked that she was ready with her “digital triage kit” if her layout got shredded, too.

Amazingly enough, the client absolutely loved our second shot at it. She thought the content was 100% better…even though I’d probably only touched 10% of it.

Most designers and editors are hesitant to do too much design work before the text has been approved — and rightfully so, because you can waste a lot of time on the wrong thing. But sometimes, even though we’re Word People, you need to recognize the influence that form has on function. A talented designer will make your words a lot more powerful to someone who’s more visual.

In the comments, please share your tale of a successful…or not so successful…Plan B on a freelance job!

Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group, an editorial services firm, and blogs regularly as Dr. Freelance.

4 thoughts on “Your digital triage kit”

  1. Hey Jake, I notice that in all my work in video there is a common denominator—when it’s actually on video most non-industry people seem very impressed regardless. The form/function factor really is a big part of the presentation, I think.

    That’s one reason that when I work in video, I never show the raw video to the clients–only the finished product. It’s like letting them see me working in my pajamas–they just don’t need to see that.

    I personally am a big fan of the mock-up when combining graphics and text. Even if the graphic is a placeholder, they get to see and “feel” the presentation.

    GREAT post on this–it’s a reminder that visually oriented people sometimes need a bone thrown to them even when the text-only version is up for review. The time we spend on the mock-up is the time we probably won’t spend doing take two if they like the look.

  2. Thanks, Joe. I can definitely see how that principle would apply in video, too! The key is simply to figure out (quickly!) what works in a given situation — a freelancer who’s too rigid or who has too many rules is going to suffer a lot more than one who adapts to the circumstances at hand.

Comments are closed.