Suggestions for Designing Around Profoundly Bad Artwork

I have a small web project from a client who has obviously done his own artwork. I’ve worked with bad artwork before, but this isn’t just bad, it’s bad.

I’ve got two logos here (not sure why). It’s a lousy picture of a piece of equipment and the name business name in the first font they could find. The next one is worse, it’s bunch of clip-art randomly strewn around (full of aliasing and all … they didn’t even try to blend it).

The budget is tight as it is; there is no room for rebranding.

Any tips on designing around such incredibly bad artwork?

Welcome to Sitepoint. I am confident you will get a series of great comments here from members far more qualified than me on this subject.
But my first thought is to simply BE HONEST. Explain to the client (politely, of course) that the website will be a representative of his business (a billboard on The Information Superhighway) and, in many cases, a [potential] client’s FIRST IMPRESSION.
For that reason the graphics - above all else - must evoke confidence, quality, integrity … you can fill in all the other words that will make the point.

When all is said and done, it demonstrates more integrity on your part to be completely candid and honest - even though you do run the risk of insulting the client.


Not every client is worth taking on. That’s all I feel like saying on this. :slight_smile:

Of course, first try what ParkinT suggested. Honesty never hurts … but if you don’t feel right about a project, you aren’t obliged to take it on.

Not every client is worth taking on. That’s all I feel like saying on this.

Not a problem, that thought certainly has crossed my mind.

First off: Have you taken on the client, because if so you might look at this as an interesting project on working with constraints, and a learning experience in client selection (I know I have had a few of those experiences :frowning: ).

I would find out if the client intended for those to be the logos used for the site or if they are more proof of concept? For the logo, initially maybe the best thing is simply a text only logo. Perhaps you can make some recommendations based on your knowledge of the various typefaces to your client.

Hi, i would suggest designing as best you can, trying to integrate what the client thinks its beautiful. Remember, what you see as ugly, he sees as artwork, so its no point convincing him it`s bad.

  1. there is no accounting for taste. believe it or not to the client this may be the pinnacle of aethetics. A frank discussion may be necessary.
  2. BUT dont under estimate tricky clients ( welcome to scope creep country) I have across clients with whom I have made an agreement to code and produce a site, with basic graphic design based on provided materials ( product shots, bg, people, etc). Essentially the low end of my service spectrum ( thus the lowest cost ). the images provided were off a 1MP cellphone camera ( this is not to mention poorly lit and framed). When I pointed the quality of the photos to the client he actually proposed I go through the company directory and schedule time to shoot all their employees, and products with my equipment. Clever way for them to try to get 1500hrs worth out of a 30hr contract.

Another good case was one, seemingly informed, client who wanted another “simple” informational page with branding/art direction/design based on the company’s logo. When the logo file came to me it was a large b/w screen capture of the company name typed in MS WORD! When I called the client back, simply to confirm the font/text treatment as I figured I could obtained cleaner results by simply TYPING in PS rather than masking the file they had sent the client reveled the expectation that since I did such nice logos I could do the logo for the site so that it could then be based on MY logo design( a file I would assume they would later also want for the rest of their campaigns and branding). Remember however that the original agreement specifically stated they would select/provide the logo/base graphics. So clients can be intentionally sneaky.

  1. But maybe they aren’t evil. This could be just the limits of their budget. Sometimes they just don’t have the connections or $$$ and their entire branding/promotions/etc is done by ‘a friend’, who isnt even a graphic designer , working with MS Paint. So then is up to you, do you want to provide all those free hours of work?

I usually code and design with everything begin treated as an “element” anyway. Generally the best thing is to concentrate on what you were hired to do, SPECIFICALLY, so if you were hired to code a site give deliver the best most efficient code you can. It’s possible at a later time they may have proper design and production budget( for graphics) and they may then re contract you for updating the site with the improved artwork.

An art direction tip: no matter how tempting, don’t fix ONE OR TWO OR A FEW of the “most important” pieces of artwork when putting the site together t will make the rest look more awful. It’s all or nothing.