Be the Unicorn You Want to See in the World: A Challenge to Designers


So here’s a question: How many times have you had the ‘privilege’ of explaining, drawing, or otherwise articulating the diagram below?


Have you felt a smug sense of satisfaction and like you’ve finally been able to describe your struggle to the world? We know. We have too. But, we’re sorry to be the ones to tell you (and we weren’t happy when it was pointed out to us) that while this diagram feels justified and down right funny, what it actually communicates is frustration towards your patrons and maybe even a lack of empathy and respect for them. Not to mention lots of defensiveness.

We know, you might be thinking ‘but I have to be taken seriously and make a living and it’s not fair!!!’ We know, boo. We really do. But what this diagram fails utterly to convey, and what frustrated designers so often fail to understand is that most of your clients do respect you, value you, and need you. But they have real world limitations. They’re starting out on their dream too. They often don’t have the capital or time they’d love to have, but still desperately need a brand that can help them stand out in a world full of sameness. When shut out by cost or by quick turn, they go to places that create assets and logos very cheaply (and frankly—poorly). Because, what other option do they have? Guess whose business this undermines? Yours, kid.

Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying work for nothing on completely unrealistic timelines for people who don’t treat you well. But we are challenging you to consider ways in which you can adjust attitude, process, or deliverables to give your clients the quality design that they deserve.

Here are some of the ways that have worked for us:

01: Kill overhead

Traditional ‘agency’ structures require a ton of initial investment. But, design is a low overhead business when you’re not paying bloated salaries and sky-high rent. This way, you can keep your prices affordable while still getting you everything you need (and in our experience, even more).

02: Ditch the Ego

Getting the absolute largest amount of money you can squeeze out of a client, or treating them like they aren’t experts in their field, or worse; are a pain in your ass—doesn’t make you a good designer. It makes you a well-paid, not-very-nice designer. Just because the budget is small, or there are aesthetic or time limitations doesn’t mean the design can’t be wonderful, and when you give your client the perfect solution for their particular pursuit or business, you should feel just as good (albeit idealistically) as if you had made a million bucks.

03: Adjust Deliverables

If budgets are small and timelines are tight, consider assessing exactly what parts of the process that particular client needs. Do they need market research or is that something they’ve already done carefully? We find that’s very common with small businesses. Are they willing to see one or two options instead of three or four? Are they willing to accept a structure with fewer revisions? Are they able to forego rolling over ‘retainer’ structured hours? These are just a few examples of how you can make a budget and / or timeline work for a client you believe in.

Now of course, this cant work in ALL situations. And the venn above isn’t terribly articulate in our humble opinions. But, if you strive to make your venn diagram look more like this one:


We think you’ll find yourself with not only more clients, but much happier ones. You might even find that you feel really great about helping to contribute to their success and saving the world from life-sucking stock design.

Get it you progressive, bold, talented designer you!



Sara Seal