Scrap the ‘Richard’ inside you | Paul Attard

We speak to Paul Attard, one of the writers behind the seemingly bold industry guidebook ‘Please, don’t be a dick’ – a plea to clients to be nicer and more understanding with the graphic designers they employ.

When and where did you first get the idea for the book, and what was the collaborative process of putting it together like? 

When I was working in Malta I wished I had a manual I could give some clients on how to behave, what to expect and what to do. Alexey [Golev; co-writer] had the same experience when working in Russia.

When we started working together we often joked about creating this manual and giving it to our clients as a sort of agreement of our terms and conditions, but nothing materialised from it until Modest (who we had worked with on several projects) told us that he wanted to create a book for his clients explaining some fundamentals about print, photography, quality of drafts vs. output files.

We slowly started putting together bits of advice that we wanted to share with our clients. Alexey and I focused on the areas that handled choosing and working with designers, expectations, documents, while Modest focused on the different types of design jobs, output types. 
Then came the task of refining everything down to the essentials and sending it off to Ann [Dingli; editor] to be edited into one voice. Natasha [Averyanova; illustrator] was left with creative freedom for the illustrations, which could not have worked out better.

Did you consider different avenues of publishing before opting for an exclusively online approach?

We decided to go ahead with selling it ourselves instead of working with a publisher or publishing platform because we weren’t sure what the reaction to the book, or even the name, would be.

Using this as a testing phase for the content and idea as a whole. With the response we received, as well as requests for a printed version, we’ve started to get quotes for printing as well as approach publishers to handle everything.

There are no definite plans yet, but we will eventually release a printed version – either self published or through an established publisher.

The title of the book, of course, suggests that you were going for a more jocular tone throughout, but the ensuing content suggests otherwise. Did you set about writing the book with the aim of it being primarily practical, with any cutting humour being a secondary extra?

The book was always meant to serve as an advice handbook. The title was a much-debated factor that took second place to the content. It was initially going to be called Clients from Heaven as a response to the Clients from Hell website. The current name was agreed upon just two days before releasing it.

We chose that title firstly because we wanted something that will attract attention at first glance and secondly because that is the key point we wanted to bring across with the book for both designers and clients: Whatever you do, just please don’t be a dick.
As for the humorous elements, besides being very opinionated we are also very sarcastic, so we had to flavour the content with a bit of our characters.

Were there any particular ‘incidents’ that spurned you on to write the book? Is the book directly informed by your experience? 

The book does come from experience, as well as stories we’ve heard from other designers and clients. We simply approached it in the way we normally approach projects with our clients: going from step to step and writing down what it is that we actually do, how we work, what we expect from the client and what they should expect from us. 

How would you say the book differs from more openly confrontational takes on the same idea, like – say – the Clients from Hell website?

I’ve always hated that website, I find it a place for designers to whine about problems they’ve had with their clients without trying to find a solution for them. It’s also a place to massage designers’ egos and let them know that their clients are idiots. 
I believe it differs because it is a solution to all these problems – if your clients know what to do and what to expect then there shouldn’t be any of these problems.

The problem with that is that designers do love to complain which is why a large percentage of people talking about our book believe it is just a bunch of designers bitching about their clients.

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