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How do you design something you don’t like?

How do you design something you don't like?

This blog article is about something that I am sure happens to all designers at some point in their career – You are asked to design something you don’t actually like. Now it’s not that what you are designing is wrong, in fact it’s perfect for the intended market. However, you yourself are not the target market and the brief does not encompass your style. Therefore, you do not like what you are actually creating. 

Personal Style

Whether it’s keeping your designs clean and simple or layering things up with lots of textures and illustrations, us graphic designers all have our own natural style. This is what is great about our industry, we all have our own individuality. It’s this that sets you apart from other designers and is often a strong factor as to why the client chose you in the first place.

However, occasionally you are asked to design something that you wouldn’t normally design. It’s not that what the client is asking for is wrong, it’s just that you don’t personally like it, it’s just not your style. How do you go about designing something you simply don’t like?

World Beach Rugby

As we’ve mentioned many times, we design a range of rugby clothing for the devon based company, WBR World Beach Rugby. Designing the first range was great. Based on the brief we designed a range of surfy / sporty themed t-shirts. However the brief changed during the second year and we were asked to create much more simple, blocky designs leaning towards a rugby theme rather than surf. We are keen wearers of surfy style clothing and during the summer months can be found lounging on a beach somewhere next to our VW campervan, so we now stopped being in the target market for this product and were asked to design something that we not only didn’t like, but wouldn’t wear.

Now I’m not saying that we can’t design something that we aren’t the intended market for, quite the contrary in fact. It’s quite rare that we work on design projects that we are the target market for. It’s just that when it comes to rugby clothing we aren’t too keen on what’s in the market place and what we were asked to design. In the end the client loved the clothing designs and they sold really well (much better than the surfy style of the first range), prooving that their vision of the brand, and the subsequent designs we produced were much more targeted to the intended audience.

However, it was particularly difficult to design something we didn’t like. We still supplied the same level of perfection ensuring all the usual design rules were followed. For example, the typefaces all worked well together and the design made good use of space etc, etc. In fact, the level of ‘quality control’ was much higher for this project as we were trying our hardest to like the designs. It certainly took us longer than any other project as we were unsure when to stop as we didn’t like the final pieces. We were, therefore, constantly questioning if the design was actually finished. 


It’s great when you get to design things that you like and are proud of, but I do believe it’s not a bad exercise to design something that you don’t actually like once in a while. It certainly forces you out of your comfort zone meaning you explore new areas of design, therefore pushing your own personal boundaries. Although you may come out of the project unimpressed with the work you produced, as long as it fulfills the design brief and appeals to the target market then the client will be more than happy. Also, if you look back over the design process I expect you will have learnt something new, and that can never be a bad thing.

Have you ever been in this position? How do you design something you do not like?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 9:23 am
Posted In Graphic Design, T-shirt / Clothing design | Tags: ,

8 Responses to “How do you design something you don’t like?”

  • Tracey Grady says:

    Sometimes I find it a bit more challenging to design in a style which doesn’t match my personal taste, but for the most part I find it makes things easier because I’m separating myself emotionally from the work, especially if changes are later required by the client.

    Do you think that perhaps you had an additional challenge because you had a bit of a bond with the first World Rugby clothing range, having designed something you would wear yourself?

  • Luis Ahmed says:

    Totally agree with you Tracey, the main thing here is to approach the clients expectation to your aesthetic world. “Educate” the clients are not impossible.

  • Lu says:

    Hi Tracey – Very interesting angle. I can see how you can be further detached therefore less precious about the design when it’s not your personal style. I think you are completely right about the bond. We certainly did enjoy creating the first WBR clothing range (and it didn’t help that a lot of it is in our wardrobe!) and it made it harder for us to make that transition from surf to pure rugby wear.

    Hi Luis – Educating the client is important and in this instant educating the designer is just as important. We don’t know the market (or shouldn’t know) as well as the client and we need to learn where they want to take the project to appeal to their clients.

    Thank you both for your comments!

  • A great blog on a subject I haven’t seen discussed anywhere else, it is yes very difficult to design in a style you don’t like and the reason why is that because you don’t like it, you sort of have no idea whatsoever as to when it looks ‘good’.

    To you, no matter what you do, it doesn’t look ‘good’ and so it’s hard to perceive as to whether what you have created looks ‘good’ to it’s target market!

    As you’ve found, it requires more hours than usual to arrive at something you feel works reasonably well. In your perception or what you handover it’s only just ‘passable’ as a design concept, but in reality it’s probably really great at that point.

    Well, that’s what you found – something you didn’t even like much performed really well.

    I can relate to what Tracy is saying, because it can sting when a client doesn’t want to use a design concept that you think is revolutionary great … but on the flipside I can’t stand handing over designs that I don’t even like that much (and they certainly don’t ever see the light of day in my portfolio), so to be honest I do prefer working in designs that I can visually appreciate.


  • Lu says:

    Hi Amanda,

    I’m glad you like the post! We certainly thought it was an interesting subject and one we thought other designers may have experienced. We found it most difficult to design something we didn’t like and it took more man hours than usual to get the design to where we feel reasonably happy to send it to the client.

    I agree that it is not only easier but more enjoyable to work on designs I like the look of!

    Thanks for your thoughts Amanda!

  • kristin says:


    Great blog and post. I loved graphic design up until a point. I need to do things that I like not what the client dictates. I have so much work I was too embarrased to show or put on my website because the client selected the worst option. But then again, why would I even show them an option I wasn’t crzy about in the first place?

    With one illustration project is now a clothing line and have found my passion as a clothing designer. Actually making clothes, not just graphics on clothes which I like as well. So in a away, I see graphic design as a journey. I don’t regret it! I think what it comes down to for me is that I like deisnging products to sell versus services. Of course there are upsides and downsides to both but so far I like my clothing line and enjoy learning a new industry. Though I still freelance to fund it. .;-)

  • Lu says:

    Hi Kristin,

    Thanks for stopping by and letting us know your thoughts. I am glad to hear your journey was fruitful one and you’re now doing something you truly enjoy. I know the feeling of showing clients designs and not feeling happy with them yourself. That is a prime example of designing things you don’t like, and as a result of not liking them they don’t end up on your portfolio but they may be pieces that potential clients may think are great.


  • world times says:

    That How do you design something you don’t like? / eightyone design / graphic design blog must to be great!!

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