In this week’s episode we share some embarrassing stories about when things have gone seriously wrong for us as designers. From bizarre looking safari animals to a gorilla design that looks more like a pineapple – stay tuned to find out some of our biggest failures over the years. We really don’t hold back in this episode, and we hope you enjoy the honesty.


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Meet Your Hosts

The Honest Designers Show started when our founder Tom found he was regularly chatting and sharing tips with top designers; Ian Barnard, Lisa Glanz and Dustin Lee. We soon organised a weekly call where we would help each other with areas we were struggling with and try to give each other actionable feedback. Soon we realised that the collective experience of the group was proving so valuable for each of us, that we thought ‘why not share these conversations with the world?’.

And so, The Honest Designers Show was born! This podcast is an insight into how to succeed in the creative industry, as well as giving you a totally transparent, under the hood look at some of the tougher, less glamorous hurdles to overcome! We also tend to get a little goofy along the way, so this is a chance to get to know each of us a little better :). We’ve loved recording this show for you, and we hope that you find value and enjoyment in listening to it.


Please find full show notes for this episode below:

[1:00] This week we talk about all the stuff that can go wrong as a designer
[2:00] Lisa shares the story of having to do an illustration of a zebra and witnessing the client’s face change when he saw it and him going very quiet
[3:00] Lisa was surprised as she thought the illustration was good
[3:40] The hosts suggest sharing these graphics on the ‘wall of shame’
[4:15] Looking back at the graphics Lisa realized how bad they were and Tom says he would love to see them
[5:00] The failed zebra design made Lisa decide she needed to study illustrations
[5:30] Ian remembers when working for an internal Honda magazine and having to create examples with text in different languages and ended up losing 10 or the 20 that he’s designed
[6:15] This meant having to work a very long day to recreate them
[7:30] He realized that he forgot to add a new tape to store the digital files
[8:00] When Dustin had to create a few examples of lighthouses for one of his first clients and the feedback from them was that they expected the work to be more professional
[9:40] This really hurt Dustin as he thought the designs were good
[10:30] He remembers getting clients from Craigslist and thinks that this might not have been such a good idea at the time
[11:20] Ian has a folder on his computer called 99designs
[11:40] Tom used to enter design contests, and remembers having one of his designs chosen to be used for a website redesign, being asked to do a multitude of revisions only to be told in the end that they were not going to go ahead with his design
[12:50] This was really disappointing for Tom and he got a lot of support from the other designers
[13:30] Looking back he realized the web design maybe wasn’t the best but wished that he wasn’t asked to take it to the final stage only to be told no then
[14:20] The hosts talk about 99designs and clarify that there is a place in the market for them and there is something for everybody on this website
[15:00] Dustin used to also enter contests on 99designs and started winning early on – one of the contest eventually leading to his first job as a lead designer for a big company
[15:40] 99designes ended up being a positive experience for Dustin and Tom remembers this was very useful for him too as he got very quick with revisions and could enter many contests
[16:30] Ian suggests that all the hosts should enter a contest on 99designs now
[17:15] Tom thinks Ian would definitely win a hand lettering contest if he entered one now
[18:00] Tom reveals that if he ever ended up losing Design Cuts and had time for projects he will prioritize these contests
[18:40] Lisa is entering competitions on, a website which focuses on wedding invitations and personal stationary with winners of competition having their designs on sale too
[19:30] This made Lisa realize how much she’s missed graphic design and wanting to do it more
[20:00] The prizes for these competitions can be very generous
[21:00] The competitions are a good way of keeping the designers on their toes
[21:50] Lisa finds it hard to hide herself under a pseudonym as people tend to recognize her work
[22:40] Ian did a cover design for notebook, similar to Field Notes, and it was a best seller
[23:50] He also features his designs on Cotton Bureau, but his success rate was only 20%
[24:40] Ian has hundreds of screen prints from which he only sold a few
[25:30] Dustin has a lot of printed shirts and suggest that it’s best not to sell them individually but to offer these as a bonus with a purchase
[26:00] He gives these for single or cumulated purchases of more than $100 and already gave hundreds of them
[26:30] Tom has one of Dustin’s shirts and loves it
[27:00] Ian suggests creating some Honest Designers shirts
[27:45] Dustin remembers having to do a gorilla design and says it ended up looking more like a spiky pineapple with eyes and a pig nose
[28:30] It got to the point where both him and the client knew that Dustin won’t be able to design a better-looking gorilla
[29:30] When it comes to logo design people can ask for so many different things and you must be able to deliver these
[30:00] A solution for delivering something that you can’t do is contracting someone else to do it
[30:20] Lisa had to say no to some jobs she couldn’t do, and says there is a fine line between pushing your limits and saying no
[31:15] Tom suggest Dustin should do a gorilla design for this week’s episode graphic
[32:30] Dustin says he had a restriction on the number of colours used due to printing costs, which made the gorilla design even harder
[33:00] Please share your own “gorilla” like designs and tag us in them using the hashtags #designcuts #honestdesigners
[34:00] Dustin talks about the funny Papyrus SNL sketch featuring Ryan Gosling
[35:00] The hosts are happy that such a niche design topic was featured on Saturday Night Live
[35:40] Lisa asks the hosts is they’ve ever used Papyrus or Comic Sans in their design work, and Dustin reveals he might have used Papyrus ones and Tom once used Comic Sans or a mock-up
[36:20] One of the Design Cuts team members used Comic Sans on their CV
[37:00] Dustin remembers the free Hobo font being used everywhere
[37:30] Tom says one of his failures was to settle for a font he loved and use it everywhere
[38:20] Fonts are becoming more accessible
[39:00] The first font Tom paid for was Proxima Nova and he could only afford one of the weights and couldn’t offer the clients the bold text
[40:00] This meant the same font weight was used for the headers, main text and logo on a web design
[40:50] Dustin remembers how hard it felt to buy an app and it took him three months of owning an iPad before he bought his first app
[41:30] It became much easier to spend money now with an online bank account and contactless payment options
[42:00] Dustin tried to convince his grandma to buy more credits for an app game she was playing
[42:30] The hosts reveal that Ian had to do something with his kids and this is why we couldn’t hear him for most of the show
[43:00] Stuff will go wrong, but you will be able to laugh looking back at it
[44:00] Dustin remembers a quote from an author saying: “I never finish books, they just get published”
[44:30] Tom is really keen on seeing the hosts bad designs
[45:30] Dustin recently shared a failure of a Facebook advert that only made $1.64
[46:00] Tom is keen for the DC social media team to share more funny stuff on our social media channels
[47:00] Thank you all for listening to this week’s episode

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