What To Do When A Client Denies a T-Shirt Design

As a designer there is bound to come a time in your career when you have worked hard on a design only to be told by the client that it is not what they are looking for. This can be an extremely disappointing experience for any designer, but don’t let it get you down. There are still many things you can do with the design so that it doesn’t end up becoming just a waste of time and effort.

Revise and Repeat

The first and most obvious approach you can take with the design is to try to edit it and make changes based on the client’s feedback. Go deeper than the surface of the disapproval and get to know the specifics of why the design wasn’t accepted. This is essential if you are going to try to edit the design, but it is also very necessary even if you start again from scratch because you will need to know exactly what the problems were, from the client’s point of view, to prevent them from happening again in a second draft.

Assuming the client has given you some specifics about what changes he or she would like to see in the design you can then go ahead and re-purpose it to fit the new specs. For example doing things like changing the color scheme, adding or removing various features in the artwork, doing a new font, or altering the text are all fairly easy approaches that can be undertaken without completely scrapping the artwork.

Pitch The Design for Different Mediums

Very often the client may acknowledge that the design is good, but say that it simply isn’t what they were looking for for this particular project. If that happens try pitching it to the client for a different purpose. For example it might be ideal for use on the client’s website or on brochure printing. Maybe it would be ideal as a poster or in a printed ad in a newspaper or magazine. Find out what different marketing channels the client uses and see if it would be better suited to one of these mediums instead.

Get Feedback from The Design Community

If the client still does not see a use for the design then it may be time to abandon this idea for this client; however, that does not mean that you should simply trash the design completely. If nothing else this is a good opportunity to find out what may have gone wrong and to take the opportunity to grow as a designer. Try getting feedback on the design from your peers in the design community. Compare this feedback to that of the client’s. Often other designers will be better able to articulate the pros and cons of a design because they are typically better able to speak the language of design. At the same time if you are consistently being told by other designers and individuals not associated with the client then there’s a good chance that there’s nothing wrong with the design and that it simply was not a good fit for the client’s company.

Add Elements to Your Design Toolbox

With this information in mind there are still many useful approaches you can take with the design. For example since the design was not accepted by the client you can still make use of various aspects of the artwork. You may have worked hard on something in the design such as a graphic image or ornate lettering, if so simply add these design elements to your design toolbox so that you have them already finished and ready to go the next time something
relevant comes up. You could also consider removing any branding or other client details from the artwork, reworking it a little bit, and submitting it to a design contest.

Display It Proudly As A Marketing Piece

Finally, there are many personal uses that you could find for the design. A great starting place is to add the design to your personal site or portfolio that way you can display the artwork to other potential clients. If you’re really proud of the design, you might even consider taking it
a step further and incorporating it into your own marketing materials for your services. What ever you decide to do with it do not get discouraged and remember that while it is natural to be disappointed that the design was not accepted as is by the client there are still lots of productive things you can do with it.

Please remember, every pitched design is a success whether approved or not. Treat each pitch as an opportunity to grow and develop as a designer. As you continue to improve upon the process and refine your approach….you’ll find yourself being a happier designer with easier clients.

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Blake is in charge of operations at You Design It, a t shirt printing company. He is a fan of all things related to t shirt design and can be found talking shop on Twitter at @youdesignit.