22 things to never say to a designer or art director

Following up on my last post, “Things to never say to a photojournalist,” we have the classic list that inspired it. Reprinted from The American Editor, the journal of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, these gems were originally compiled by Brenda Shoun, who for a long time was a genius designer/editor with the Orange County Register and a frequent and delightful visitor to our seminars at Poynter.

I was prompted to recirculate this list afte a well regarded writer actually said in my presence, “The only thing any writer wants is more words,” and I believe actually meant it. (His CEO’s correction is also worth passing along: “No, the only thing any writer wants is MORE READERS.” One could also argue, more advertisers, but that’s a whole other column.)  If you have any other inappropriate utterances to add, please use the comments field at the bottom – yesterday’s solicitation from my photo friends really brought some zingers in the comments field, so thanks. Feel free to share around your newsroom, and come back next week for a series of posts where we take you inside our redesign of the Chicago Reader, launching April 28!


(republished at www.ronreason.com/designwithreason/)

1. Can you take this and make it look good?
2. The story is 74 inches but there is a mug shot.
3. We’re planning the package now and will involve you when we’re ready to put it all together.
4. Maybe you can take this list and dress it up with some icons or something.
5. I’ll get you a headline later.
6. The story and pictures will be in tomorrow. Can’t you start now?
7. Did you talk to the photo editor before you talked to the photographer?
8. We have to make a last-minute switch and there’s no art with the cover story. Can you pull something together real quick?
9. We’ve worked on this story for a year. You have three hours.
10. What’s with the black clothes all the time?
11. Just leave that part of it to the content people.
12. Can’t you run that picture any bigger? Just trim the story.
13. Can’t you give me more room for the story? Just make that picture smaller.
14. There’s nothing to designing a news page.
15. After the work is done: “Oh, we forgot to tell you there’s a sidebar and solicit box to go with that.”
16. I had this idea and this is what I want you to do.
17. We have to have SIX stories on the cover or we don’t have enough REAL content.
18. Can you fit in this half-page ad on that open page you’re designing?
19. Can’t you make this news page more featurey?
20. Can’t we just Photoshop their heads onto the other bodies? That’d be cool.
21. That’s a little too fun for us.
22. It’s a hard story to visualize. How about an illo?

Have your own “thing not to say to a designer or art director” that you don’t see above? Submit in comments below, or email ronreason@gmail.com – thanks!

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  1. Terry Tazioli

     /  April 20, 2011

    Our readers just won’t understand that illustration if it doesn’t have a cutline.

  2. Great list Ron! I have one to add:

    ‘We have a half-page to fill on the front page. We want to put a chart in there. We have three numbers for the chart.’

  3. There’s too much white space.

  4. I’ve got this story about (plural noun). I think it would be cool to use a (same plural noun)-y font for the headline. (Substitute comic book. See what happens.)

  5. There is a lot of white space in this layout. Is that on purpose?

  6. sally

     /  October 16, 2012

    There’s so much more to add but the list about covers what I have to suffer with but here’s some more:
    1- We have a last minute thing we need! a brochure for [such and such]. It’s several pages long. Can you do it? with the text? and the translation? by tomorrow?

    2- I want a [insert job here] but I don’t know what I want. Can you come up with 234974 ideas for me to choose from?.

    3- You don’t have to like job to work on it.

    4- The client is always right. Even if the design sucks.

    5- This is kind of relevant to #3: You don’t have to like your design to work on it.

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