The client that got away. Or was it?

The client that got away. Or was it?

At least once a week I ride by this corporate business park building, with a great big logo on the side of it. It’s not a great logo either. It’s not even good. In fact, it’s lame. Every time I look at it, I cringe and think what could have been. That logo could have been my design.

You see, a few years ago I had an opportunity to work with this company, the very one that owns that building. I was contacted by an independent marketing consultant, who through a friend of a friend who knew I was a logo design specialist. The client was a rather prominent Southern California corporation with about eight subsidiaries under their wings. Even at the time, they were successful because of their product and not from their branding image.

So, I was contacted to see if I could meet with them and check out my availability for the project. Well, after a rather thorough run-through of their logo design needs, I thought I had hit the mother lode. Not only did they need a new corporate logo, but a complete family of logos for all eight of the subsidiaries, including a graphic standards study for corporate identity, collateral, websites and company vehicles. This was a big project and I was up for the task.

Upon returning to my studio, I went ahead and busily put together a complete estimate and proposal for the promising new project. Of course, a sudden panic sets in. That sort of nervous panic that begins when those somewhat menacing timelines appear in black & white on the page. How am I going to do this? What about my other work? I might need some help.

But, don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.

I get a phone call from the marketing consultant with a few extra parameters that needed to be included in the estimate. He says they needed some ideas on how the collateral pieces could be done with some simple layouts. And before they could decide on the designer, maybe some possible ways that the logos could be tied together. Oh, and that even though they had several logos to design, that the client was very cost sensitive. Uh oh.

Really. Layouts? Logo themes? Hey, who isn’t cost sensitive.

Well, my spidey-sense got triggered pretty quickly after that conversation and went into over-drive. How was I going to handle those requests and still keep my integrity? I’m not giving away the milk for free. What’s to keep them from taking these suggestions and having their obviously under-qualified in-house lackey do the work? It’s certainly not coming from me.

Then I got an idea. When I submitted the estimate and proposal, I included a very rough outline of the collateral items in simple line art for their reference. Nothing too specific and just vague enough to satisfy the request. Then, just as vaguely I suggested the logos could be tied together with color, graphic elements, icons, typefaces, etc.—you know, the obvious answers, but not to the point of giving it away. I then priced everything accordingly for a logo project of this size and scale and submitted it.

Almost immediately I got a response phone call from the marketing guy. He thought the design fees were too high. He thought the extras were not specific enough. He wanted to negotiate. Hmm.

I’m not above negotiating with anyone, but I’ve got to feel like I’m getting something out of the deal. And after much discussion and a couple more phone calls, I decided to walk away.

When the design fees started plummeting enough, I started thinking of the side of the building. When the logo finally made it on to the penthouse level for everyone to see, how would I feel? Would it be a job well done, or would I feel like I got robbed? I had a distinct sense it would be the latter.

I’m glad now I can ride my bike past that building and think of what could have been, instead of finding another route.