Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: Dumbfounded in Dayton

Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do and we always invite our readers to submit their questions: [email protected]

Dear Bonnie,

I was recently hired to design a logotype for a restaurant set to open late this year. The client immediately agreed to the terms of the proposal and handed me a check for the full amount at our very first meeting. I said that it wasn’t necessary to pay in advance, but they insisted. So, we went away to work on the logotype and several weeks later, we gave them an initial presentation.

They were very enthusiastic and loved several of the directions, and said they would loop back with more feedback shortly. Several days passed, and after I got in touch, they let me know they were in the midst of some staffing issues and construction setbacks, but would write soon. After three more weeks, I wrote again. The client casually let me know that they were going to keep their generic placeholder logo that had been designed in house. And that was that.

I’m stunned—not that it didn’t work out, because these things happen—but that they responded favorably to our work, then changed their minds and made no attempt to engage us to rectify the problem even though we had been paid in full.

We did a lot of good work and earned our fee, but the client wasn’t satisfied and behaved unprofessionally. What’s the appropriate response in a situation like this?


Dumbfounded in Dayton

Dear D.,

I am not sure I feel your pain here. This is a business relationship and from a purely business standpoint, they did okay by you. From an emotional standpoint, not so much. But it sounds like it was more out of neglect than spite.

I agree that they should have kept you updated, but I bet that they just weren’t sure which way they were going, until they were. And, I agree that when they finally did clue you in, they could have been more sensitive. But again, this is a professional relationship, not a romantic one.

We all, ideally, fall in love with what we are working on and get excited to see it in the real world. And when that doesn’t happen we are, of course, disappointed.

But, as I hope you know, a rejection like this is not necessarily a judgment of your work. Maybe the logo designed in house was actually created by the owner’s husband who hasn’t had any work for six months after he and his partner had a huge falling out over money issues and he thinks his logo is just perfect for the restaurant. And maybe she hated what he came up with and spent weeks trying to get out of using it, but finally, after much indecision, agreed in order to make her husband happy on his 50th birthday. 

You’ll never know what actually went down, but you can always make up a story to make yourself feel better.

It’s also not too late to ask them if you can show the unused work as part of your portfolio since you loved it so much. It’s better to agree to something like that beforehand, but if you ask and they don’t respond (and it sounds like they won’t), just go for it.

Jobs | February 23