Celebrities Make Life Terrible For Graphic Designers

Any graphic designers watching The Celebrity Apprentice have no doubt cringed during nearly every episode when it comes time to bring in the graphic designer. While it's fantastic to see graphic design showcased on the national stage as a strategic business tool, the show can also be used as a perfect example of how NOT to interact with a designer in your own business ventures.

Certain celebrities are better than others. Jesse James seems to understand the role of art direction. Clint Black, on the other hand, would be a nightmare client.

While watching the show this past week I compiled a list of things that the celebrities do to their designers that are unadvisable if your goals are to have a top-notch design. I understand it's a television show and things are done for the drama and not for the reality of the situation. However, we can surely still learn a few things about how not to act when working with graphic designers.


Standing next to the designer and looking over their shoulder telling them where to click and specifically what to do. The contestants tend to use this technique in every episode and I can't stress enough how inappropriate this behavior is.

Why It's Wrong:

The graphic designer is not an extention of the computer. They are a human being with a knowledge of not only the tools but also of design theory. Micro-mange them like a machine and the results will suffer. Plus, you're probably going to really piss them off.

How To Do It Right:

Realize that the designer is an expert. Let them do their job without interference. Communicate your desires to them, walk away, and review their work when it's complete. This is the number one tip to take away from The Celebrity Apprentice.


Too often the project managers on The Celebrity Apprentice think that they are experts on every topic. This leads to a terrible job of listening to their team.

Why It's Wrong:

Your team knows things that you don't. They can bring ideas, concepts, or critiques to the table that are valid and need to be considered. Excluding team members results in poor morale and low productivity.

How To Do It Right:

Listen to them; open your ears, eyes, and mind! You don't have to take all their ideas but make sure that not only are ideas heard but that the team feels like their ideas are heard. That is an important distinction. And always remember, the designer is part of the team! Include them in the decision making process.

Make it Bigger!

Making the product as big as a New York Sky Scraper, does not communicate effectively. We've seen this technique week after week on the show. Too many messages on one piece or an over emphasis on the size of the product or logo.

Why It's Wrong:

Branding does not mean louder, bigger, bolder, and more copy. Branding has more to do with staying in line with the image that you simultaneously project and is projected upon you by your customers. Making a design louder, bigger, or adding bursts everywhere will not communicate more effectively than a well designed, targeted, branded, and sophisticated piece. Quite often the saying, less is more, is true.

How To Do It Right:

Don't try to shove 10 lb. of S*** into a 5 lb. bag. Edit your content. Know your brand, know what is crucial to the message of each piece and cut the fat.

Huge Egos

Dealing with the egos of a Joan Rivers, Clint Black, and Dennis Rodman all at once is surely a nightmare for the graphic designers on the show.

Why It's Wrong:

While this is a much bigger problem for celebrities it should also be mentioned for real-life practices. Having a huge ego leads to clouded decisions, an upset team, and a poor final outcome.

How To Do It Right:

Act humbly and gracefully. This is, obviously, easier said than done. If it's a major problem for you then it may be beneficial to see a psychiatrist as there are most likely larger issues at play.

Unclear Messages

On the show the poor designer is taking commands from several people who all have different ideas of how the final product should look. Which is why so many of the final products look so terrible.

Why It's Wrong:

Graphic designers are communicators. They take the message of business A and communicate it visually to potential customer B. If you can't communicate your message clearly to the designer how can you expect them to communicate effectively to your audience?

How To Do It Right:

Define your message clearly to your self and your closest team members. Pick your target audience and decide on your message. Sit down with a designer that listens carefully and understands their role in the process. Communicate to your designer effectively.

Are there any other things I may have missed? Have you learned any lessons from a silly reality TV show?

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  1. Thank you for posting this. You can often replace 'clients' with celebs, seriously. But I also think its our responsibility as designers to educate our clients how the process works and build trust. No one likes to be micro-managed.

  2. Firestorm,
    Glad you liked it.

    Lauren Marie,
    Thanks for the link. There's some good stuff in his article.

    True all around.

    Chris Green,
    Seriously, we should start to charge by the surface area of a logo. Maybe that would stop the madness.

  3. Along with the know-it-all portion would be that every time somebody has a single, halfway decent idea they ultimately feel like it's the best idea ever. Now, understandably, they've all had success in all sorts of various fields, so they've probably had some good ideas and made some excellent choices that makes them a celeb (except for the Kardashian). Saying that, your idea is not always the most viable or best idea. Don't undermine your team or your team goals just because you're too stubborn to admit that you don't have the best idea.

  4. Thanks James!

    Being based in Ireland, I haven't seen the show but I think this is a great list of do's & dont's for clients commissioning any kind of creative work. And interesting to see that these situations are almost universal!

    I agree with the earlier comment about communication and building trust - if we brief client's correctly at the beginning of projects and make sure their expectations are realistic, we can design out the problems. It's two-way street after all..

  5. Oscar,
    Good point. Very true.

    Hilarious song. Thanks for passing it along.

    Absolutely. I agree that educating our clients is part of our duty and so is understanding where they are coming from.

    Yes, this is the worst thing you can do. When someone is watching your every move you become so tense and basically freeze up. It's not a good way to cultivate creativity.

  6. Hilarious...and all so true! I interned at a place that actually ENCOURAGED the 'Hovering' method of design - not fun or productive at all.

  7. Apparently it was deemed 'unprofessional'.. I was told after suggesting to a client I would make changes and send them through (client was perfectly happy with this), instead of doing the hover method. I swallowed my response and decided maybe not the place for me 😛

  8. Matt,
    Really? I never caught that show. But I did see a parody of it on the Chapelle Show that was pretty funny. I can imagine P Diddy pulling some of that though for sure.

  9. I like this alot. I will be sharing it on my groups fan page on facebook. You can like us @kreativejoosgraphix. This is alot of information that graphic designers and those looking for graphic designers should know about. thanks



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