If you’re a web or print designer you know this story.
You’ve just spent hours or days on a design. The client has seen the first draft and the second, made small changes, gushed about your work and approved the “Final”. That was really easy you thought as you begin to publish or print the design and then you get a frantic email from the client, WAIT!!! They tell you
“It seems our CEO, the PR team, our accountant and Hugo the office cat all want to see the design and they may have changes”.
Yes you may know this story well. It ends with a lot of changes and sometimes a full redesign. It may take a few days or a few weeks to get a real final approval from the actual decision makers. After an experience like that you may decide you don’t want to work for that client ever again but before you part ways consider this small step that can make your life and your communication with the client much easier and clearer.
The Spec Doc
Spec Doc is Short hand for Specification Documentation and it can be either a quick and simple or very specific and detailed letter that states what you need and how soon you need it to get the design job done. Some spec docs include details about what it will cost the client if they don’t meet the guidelines, such as design hours they’ll be charged for after a number of changes or a final date etc. I like to make sure it appears official; usually an attached document that reads more like a memo is perfect. This will help get the attention of the person you’re dealing with.
For example I work as a graphic designer in the movie motion picture industry and almost all of my work goes through an intermediary or two before it gets to the actual final decision maker (or office cat) for approval. I rarely have contact with decision makers at movie studios but if the intermediary has the Spec Doc I’ve provided them with they’re usually tasked with making sure I have all the information I need for the design. This might include being sure I have the correct Image assets, Film Ratings, Copyright info, the Title Treatments and the correct flavor of the film (2D, 3D, Read D 3D, IMAX and more). Once I have all the things I need to finish a design it should just take one or two rounds of review for an approval. If it’s taking more reviews it’s time to rethink your spec doc and ask the intermediary if you’re not being clear about what you’re asking for.
So next time you have a design job to do ask yourself what you need and what you anticipate they want, put it in writing and save yourself and the client some time, money and aggravation.