The 7 Levels of Graphic Design Purgatory

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Dan Brown’s latest bestseller, “Inferno,” has sparked increased interest in Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” which describes seven distinct levels of purgatory. Prompted to learn more about Dante’s work, I soon found that purgatory is defined as a “state of temporary punishment.” And it’s a state many graphic designers have found themselves in, whether deserved or not. What if we could similarly describe seven levels of purgatory, but for graphic designers? The following represents my attempt to classify what each level of graphic design purgatory would represent.

Level I:  “The Logo Is Too Small”

You’ve put the finishing touches on that stellar brochure design, invited your client in for the big reveal, and they promptly declare the logo is too small. And, no matter how large you make it, your client still finds it to be too small. You’re forced to design brochures, postcards, banners, and websites that feature nothing but logos, over and over.

Level II:  “I Just Need One More Revision”

You’ve put the hard work in to make your client happy, and they proclaim to love your design; yet, they want just one more revision. You make it. They love it. Yet, they want just one more revision. You make it. They love it. Yet, they want just one more revision…

Level III:  “I Need It Tomorrow”

A client pops up with a poster design project they need completed last-minute – by tomorrow. You frantically work to make it happen, then they balk at your rush fee. And, they need just one more revision… for eternity.

Level IV:  “I’m Not Paying You For This”

You’ve done everything you can to appease your pain-in-the-rear client, even going so far as eschewing all professional design tenants to give them what amounts to a Microsoft Word clip art greeting card – exactly the ridiculous design they said they “wanted.” Then, they refuse to pay. And your mortgage is due.

Level V:  “I Need You To Work On Spec”

You’re forced to work on spec for days on end, then your client declines your design. Two weeks later, you see your design on their latest brochure.

Level VI:  “My Website Is Down – Fix It Now!”

Your client calls and tells you their website is down. You check, and it works fine on your server. Your client refuses to believe you, despite their obvious lack of internet connection. You spend a literal eternity on the phone trying to explain to your client that they need to check their wireless settings (and they probably turned their WiFi off by pressing the button on their laptop).

Level VII:  “I’m Angry”

Your client calls you and unleashes an expletive-filled rant about how they expected their flyers to be delivered yesterday and they’re not there, and how you should crash and burn in a fiery accident on your way home from work. You’re not the printing company, nor did you handle the printing. The phone call never ends.

What could be worse than these examples of graphic design purgatory? Let me know in the comments! And, if you want to hear some real-world examples of graphic design purgatory, check out one of my favorite sites, Clients From Hell.