June 6, 2019

Nagging bait

Here’s something my dad taught me when I was about 16. At the time he was doing print stuffs, like paper bags for bakeries, catalogs and the like. So he was getting feedback on graphic design work from people who have no fucking clue what they were talking about. Plus: they were clients. Clients always need something to critisize. They need to be pampered and appreciated for their very valuable domain knowledge and general smartness, and they also need to feel you doing as they say since they pay you.

If you do everything right, if you give a perfect solution and deliver 120% and also early — the client will find something. They have to. Otherwise they would feel useless I guess.

So my dad would build in nagging bait”. Nagging bait is a very obvious mistake”, something everybody can spot on first sight and be absolutely right about nagging, correcting and critisizing. He would then expand on the feedback, ask more questions and make sure the pampering came through. Then he would iterate on the design”, which meant waiting for a couple days, then present the original finished piece before the nagging bait was built into it.

It might feel foul at first. But most clients of design work are themselves foul in the first place. They wouldn’t tell a plumber how fit the pipes of their sink. But sure as hell will they tell you how the typeface isn’t quite what they like.

Hopefully needless to say: unless you do very thorough, thoughtful and high-quality work, don’t even think about using nagging bait. Unless you have at least two reasons for every design decision you made, stay off political games like that. You are probably producing enough real mistakes as it is.

Nagging bait is especially useful when you try to do something for a comittee. Comittees are the worst. They are usually unaware of how political they behave and how difficult it is to get some decisions out of them. On nagging bait they can instantly agree. They can chew it from left to right and back again and then discuss it forwards and backwards and feel like they just had a very productive meeting.

It doesn’t just work for design work btw. You can put nagging bait into everything you create. As long as you do it with the right intentions, it‘s allright.

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