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Whose fault is it when YOU mess up?Sounds like a silly question doesn't it? If YOU are the one to mess up, then shouldn't it be your fault? That's what I thought. However, after reading through the heated discussion in a Facebook group about graphic design, I realize that some people aren't so sure about what constitutes a mess up. I was so perturbed about what I read that I decided to devote this podcast episode to this one topic.
Here's a bit of context: In a graphic design Facebook group I came across a question posted by a designer seeking advice. The gist of his story when something like this. He designed a flyer for a client who then took the artwork to a printer to have the flyer printed. Towards the end of the design stage the designer had sent a proof for the client to sign off on. Instead of signing off on the job, the client told the designer that everything looked good, however they decided to change one word in a heading and would sign off on the job once the designer supplied them with a new proof with the requested change. The designer made the change, sent a new proof to the client for verification and promptly received their signed approval. The designer then produced the final PDF files for the client to supply to the printer. End of job. Or so the designer thought.
A couple of weeks later the client contacted the designer saying there was a mess up on the flyer and they couldn't use what they had. They needed the error fixed and they wanted the designer to pay for the reprint.
Now I know what you're thinking. The client signed off on the proof so it's their problem, not the designer's. The designer even had a clause in his contract stating that he wasn't responsible for any errors in the artwork once the client signs off on the job. So why the issue?
Here's where things get interesting. It turns out the proof the client did not sign off on when they asked for the word change in the heading was 100% ok everywhere else. They had had it proofread and verified by several people. Somehow, when the designer changed the word in the heading, something else must have happened to mess up a completely different section of the flyer and nobody noticed. When he sent the client the final proof they did not verify the entire flyer again, they only verified the word change and then signed off on the job.
So after this long explanation (which was even longer in the Facebook group) The designer asked the group whether or not he was at fault.
Who is responsible for the mess up?
Maybe it's my old fashion ways, but I was surprised at how divided the discussion was. Half the people said it was the designer's responsibility because he had messed up something unrelated to the one change the client requested. The client had no reason to look over the rest of the flyer again after determining that it was OK. The other half said it was the client's responsibility because they signed off on the proof with the mess up on it. They should have verified everything again before signing off on it. The discussion got pretty heated. Much more so than I thought the topic merited but everyone involved wanted to hold their ground.
I decided not to get involved in the discussion, and I don't know what the designer ultimately decided. I do know that he mentioned arguing with his client over the matter, which is why he was asking for advice.
When you mess up, you should man up to it (or woman up to it).
My stand on the topic is that the designer is ultimately responsible. Not only for the mess up, but for his integrity and his reputation. Should the client have rechecked the entire flyer? Perhaps, and they probably will on the next project. But ultimately they had no reason to. What would have happened if instead of asking for a new proof, the client had instead signed the first proof and told the designer the project was approved with one simple word change. I know this has happened to me many times. “Mark, here's the signed approval, just add a period to the end of the second paragraph and everything is good.” If the client had done something like that instead, the mess up would clearly be on the designer. But because he showed them that he had changed that one word, the question of responsibility is now up in the air.
It's not worth it.
I don't know how many flyers were printed with the mess up. I have no idea if it was a $200 job or a $20,000 job. Regardless I hope the designer makes the right decision and takes responsibility for it. Not just because I believe he's at fault. But because of the possible repercussions for his business.
The designer mentioned that was arguing with his client over the matter which is never a good thing. It's ok to have disagreements with clients, or difference of opinions. But arguments should never enter into the equation. I can almost guarantee that even if the designer takes responsibility for the mess up, the damage has been done and the client will be looking for another designer for any future projects. And what of the designer's reputation? When word gets out in the business community of how he handled the situation it won't look favourably for him and could make it harder for him to find future work.
Do you disagree?
Who do you think was ultimately responsible for the mess up? Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
I have another Question Of The Week to answer. If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Toby,
Hey there Mark I have a question for you that hopefully you may be able to shine some light on. I check up on my clients sites fairly often just to make sure everything is up and running and in working order, and just recently I noticed that a particular plugin that I have used for multiple clients pages is no longer functioning as the provider has changed their API, essentially breaking the plugin. I have said all that to get to my question which is how do I handle explaining to my client's (some of whom may not be understanding) that it is broken and is not my fault? I have not informed any of them yet as they are past clients I have not worked with in a few months, but seeing as when I handed the site over to them everything was working as it should and now it is not due to something out of my control, if they notice and then come to me for a fix would I be in the wrong to charge them to fix this? Thank you so much for the knowledge and help!
To find out what I told Toby you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org