A few months ago I finished a pretty big graphic design project for a client, it was a project that came to me late and had a large volume of work to be produced in a very short amount of time (scenario probably sounds familiar to other designers). By far the most important piece to be designed and produced was hundreds of metres of branded hoardings or wall panels that had been erected to hide construction work ahead of a planned launch for the redeveloped wing of a shopping centre.

Up for the challenge

I was supplied with a hand drawn map and measurements on a few scanned A4 sheets – each relevant to a different section of the centre… untidy yes but not entirely illegible, so any ringing alarm bells were quite faint at this point.

Keen for a challenge (and the pay) I took the job and began planning my designs based on the sketches. Keeping in mind that producing 5400mm high designs can be a challenge in it’s self, not withstanding that measurements needed to be converted to 25% scale and the design adapted to fit each panel. Some were corner recesses, some were very prominent, others had doors that needed to be designed around, some were image based and some were text.

Work Begins

I hit go and got stuck in – planning, developing and designing. After a A LOT of hours the first section was complete, and in the process of being signed off when halfway through the second section of hoardings an issue arose with the measurements.

It was only at this point, in discussion with the client that it dawned on me that I’d been reading the ‘top view’ plans in reverse (meaning I’d designed from the hidden construction side not the public facing side) and to make matters worse some of the elements had been designed to flow seamlessly from one panel to the next, so just spinning the panel caused those design elements to be misaligned… a momentary silence and a long internal wail of pain.. followed by the forehead slap, head in hand and very generous donation to the swear jar. It was a heart sinking moment – all of that work!

Unfortunately with such a tight deadline I couldn’t immediately fix my mistake – I had no choice but to let the client know what had happened, before pushing ahead with the rest of the job (after ensuring someone on-site went back out and re-measured each wall, which in itself picked up a number of errors).

Sections two and three rolled out relatively well and the final result was crisp, clear prints, with great imagery and spot on brand messaging. Section one… well that’s a different story, I ran out of time to fix it up, the press was held, the installation guys were booked, the launch couldn’t be delayed so it simply had to go to print with the awkward non-flowing, flowing line design!

In the grand scale of things this isn’t the biggest cock up ever – I’ve heard of worse. But I run a small business and that client is important to me. Thankfully they were very understanding and acknowledged that the planning, time scale and circumstances were less than ideal. In fact a few design glitches were actually quite a minor issue when faced with the prospect of no hoardings at all.

My Take outs

So for me the learnings were; be confident in the face of any new challenge but be realistic about what’s achievable. As a small business owner the last thing I want to do is over promise and under deliver. I had a get out of jail card when I was given the hand drawn plans, and sketchy wall measurements. I could have said ‘no thanks’… but I wanted to secure the work so I took the risk. In the end the damage was minimal – and I’d imagine very few people even noticed the error.

As with any mistake, whether it’s in design, business, work or personal life; take it on the chin, be proactive, own it, learn from it and move on.

If you’re interested you can see some of the launch material here, including a mock-up of the dreaded wall panel designs.