Be remembered for the right reasons


I’ve been working in various jobs in print media for most of my adult life. Never before though have I encountered someone like the person one of our ad reps had to deal with this week. It offers up some lessons worth sharing.

The person in question is an in-house graphic designer for one of our clients. He designed an ad for a big sale they have every year. It was a fine-looking ad. The main piece of art, as well as some of the other elements, looked to be original, hand-drawn work. There was just one problem — one of the two words in the big headline was misspelled.

When he sent it to us, the designer even said he knew the word was spelled wrong. “I think I’m the only person so far who has noticed,” he wrote, but in his following sentence acknowledged he wouldn’t have noticed it if one of the area weekly papers hadn’t pointed it out to him. Contradiction much?

“Fortunately,” he continued, “a google (sic) search shows me that many other people misspell this word as well.”

The attached PDF of his ad contained the mistake.

When our ad rep asked if he could correct it, he replied that it wouldn’t be easy because the words were “converted to a graphic and are not actual text anymore.”

The ad rep asked us if we would be able to fix it. We opened it in Illustrator, but the text had been converted to outlines and was divided up on several different layers. My co-worker Chris said he would give it a try, but it was going to take a lot of work with what he had. He asked the ad rep to see if the designer would send us the original Illustrator file.

That seemed to do the trick. The designer responded “If it’s such a big deal for you guys, I’ll fix the issue myself.” And he did. Finally.

I had a friend who worked in that very job just out of college years ago — he was the only designer/marketing person, and the business isn’t one that probably has a lot of people who use proofreading skills in their jobs. So I can understand how a mistake can slip through.

But what an attitude this guy had!

So let’s look at the lessons here.

  • Always look over your work carefully, and get someone else to look over your work before the final is submitted for publication. If you work alone, this might be more difficult, but find a way to make it happen. Maybe you have a colleague you’ve worked with in the past in the same position and you could email each other proofs. If you follow any discussion boards, put up your work there for critique. If you have absolutely no one you trust to proofread or critique, build in some time in your deadline to step away from that piece for awhile and look at it with fresh eyes later on.
  • Save your work in a way that it can easily be corrected if needed. If you’re going to transform text to outlines, make a copy of the original text box and drag it off to the side, or put it on a hidden layer just before you create the outlines. That way, if you do discover a typo or misspelling later, you’re not starting completely over.
  • Don’t cop an attitude when a mistake is pointed out. I know it’s hard not to be defensive, especially if you’re just starting out and your work is very personal and important to you. But accepting criticism graciously will make you better at your work, and better to work with. That is one thing you have to continually practice throughout your career, too. It’s easy to not be gracious when you’re already having a bad day or someone else is having a bad day and treats you poorly. Stand up for yourself if you’re right, but take your lumps when you’re wrong.
  • It IS a big deal. A mistake in your work is not just a reflection of you — it is a reflection of your employer/client AND the publication or site it appears in. Readers of my newspaper, had they seen that ad with the mistake, would have thought it was our mistake. I know from experience. And also, even though this was otherwise a great ad, it’s not something the designer could put in his portfolio. Who would hire a designer if they saw that kind of sloppiness in his work? Especially if they have the attitude that “a lot of people misspell it, so it’s OK.”

You want people to remember your name and work. But you want them to remember you for the right reasons.

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