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Sometimes You Gotta Ask For Directions

June 23, 2016

Yes, sometimes you have to stop and ask for directions.

Even when you’re dead, apparently…cadaver lost, roaming around city morgue, can't find proper cold storage drawer he should be in, consulting directory sign on wall

You Gotta Ask

BlankVertSpace.8pixelsBlankVertSpace.8pixelsA good designer (illustrator, contractor) always asks for directions.

No, wait, I take that back.

They always ask questions.

If they don’t, the client should hear alarm bells, and head for the door.

Not even the most informed client can think of everything in advance. He’s looking
for a collaborator– a specialist– an expert.

And the expert (designer, illustrator, contractor) can’t act without first assessing the client’s problem.

If a client can’t (or won’t) answer questions, the designer should be the one hearing
the alarm bells. It means the client isn’t fully invested in solving his own problem.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Why It PaysBlankVertSpace.8pixels

BlankVertSpace.8pixelsAsking for “directions” (asking questions) pays off. How? Here’s my short list:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

  1. determines credibility (both sides): no questions/sketchy answers => trouble ahead
  2. inspires confidence: designer is seeking a clear understanding of client’s problem
  3. determines whether it’s a good job match => if designer is right person for the job
  4. clarifies the scope of the project, and narrows the focus
  5. determines if the client has a budget for the project (or given it any thought)
  6. allows the designer to demonstrate his expertise (or lack of it)
  7. gives the designer the opportunity to clarify the value he or she can provide
  8. sets a certain tone– hopefully, a spirit of collaboration and mutual commitment
  9. it’s a chance for the designer and the client to learn each other’s language
  10. in reflecting on the exchange, one or both parties may think of other questions
  11. helps clarify options designer can offer (we can do A or B or C), so client has a choiceblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In Conclusion

Oh– there’s one more reason why it’s smart to ask for directions:

Because it’s embarrassing to be seen wandering around, looking for your drawers… : )BlankVertSpace.8pixelsblank vertical space, 32 pixels highdetail image cadaver lost, roaming around city morgue, can't find proper cold storage drawer he should be in, consulting directory sign on wall

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If you’re a freelancer, do you have a standard list of questions you ask a new client?

If you hire freelancers, have you ever backed off because someone did not ask questions?

Ever seen anyone walking around with a tag on his toe??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2016 3:51 PM

    You know you’re reading my mind now. With all the ‘senior caring,’ around my house – I think about the morgue quite a bit (not for the over 80 crowd living with me or very nearby, but for me ’cause they’re all sending me to an early grave;)).

    I remember well the days of design meetings way back when I was someone who came with a fancy business card. And everything you state above, my humorous wise friend, is so very true. I had all the designers always asking questions, taking notes, in advance of any actual detailed design work… And making sure they never left any design meeting with unanswered questions or wrong directions – though – sometimes we were revising until the last minute anyway:)

    hiddy ho

    off the the daughter’s high school graduation this eve – yikes! – how the heck did that happen


    • June 24, 2016 8:07 PM

      My dear AM! Your opening paragraph made me roar with laughter, sober up, go into mild shock, and shake my head– first in wonder, then in admiration, then ruefully. You remember Rue— that was the Morgue where Edgar Allan Poe used to hang out, looking for The Raven what stole his drawers… : )

      You write, you draw, you teach, you’re a caretaker, you even find time to leave comments on blogs– how the heckus does ya do it?? No, don’t tell me, I don’t wanna find out you’re a strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal Italians– that would ruin your, um, mystique is the word I’m looking for, I believe… : )

      Design meetings, fancy business card, a solid gold rolodex on your wrist for easy contact info reference– I really must learn more about this hidden chapter in your life someday. If I’m going to sell your life story to National Enquirer, I must have all the details… : )

      Your daughter made it thru OK? Excellent. That gal’s goin’ places, mark my words. I remember I went places after high school graduation: the poolroom, the barroom, the streets, the gutter– and that was all in the first week! Ah, memories… : )

      Many thanks for the visit. Seeing you always great pleasure is, as Yoda used to say to his bathroom mirror… : )

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 26, 2016 2:12 PM

        if I’m from another planet it better be made of cheese;) I do many things – but I don’t know if I do them well;) what is it they say – jack of all trades, master of none

        where would I be without your lovely, whimsically wonderful words, my funny talented friend!
        yes, ’tis true, long ago I had a real job and I got to boss people around;)

        the daughter made it thru (now let’s hope the same for college :))
        and next up, the giant son – heading into 11th grade this year
        thank you for your grandly sweet and spirit-lifting words


  2. June 24, 2016 11:19 AM

    Your are too funny and make perfect sense. I better do my homework before R.I.P. so I don’t walk around naked.


    • June 24, 2016 8:20 PM

      Ha! Eliza! Your comment made me bust out laughing. It conjured up an image of someone lying in a casket at a wake, with a homework paper clutched in their hand. If I ever see such a thing, I’m gonna walk over and check the grade– see if they passed! If not, I’ll tell the cemetery nightwatchman to stay alert and have his heart medicine handy… : )

      Great to see you, many thanks for your comment!


  3. June 26, 2016 3:14 PM

    My friend, I do see the humor here- although it’s a bit dark for myself and my wife. Her father, my father-in-law- died June 18, and the funeral was last Friday, the 24th. But I tell you truly, Bill can see the wisdom in asking for directions, particularly in his transition of late. He had the great opportunity to be part of his own funeral arrangements around Memorial Day weekend or so, and to get started on a bucket list. Mere moments after MIL called to say he’d passed on (about an hour or so), my wife and I could sense his presence. She said she felt he seemed frustrated that he didn’t get everything done that he wanted to, but we reckoned he’d gotten the important parts done- especially to be part of the funeral planning!

    Bill had been one of my best consultants for many DIY and repair projects, so I can assure you he sees great wisdom in your guidelines! He did ask questions, presented me options, and so on. It’s something a good old friend of my wife’s (and that friend’s father is also a good friend- and NOW a neighbor, and ward/congregation churchmate) confirmed the other day- that Bill was attentive and patient in offering her counsel and support.


    • June 27, 2016 9:13 PM

      Hi, Jak! Many thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. Must confess, I never thought about planning one’s funeral when I wrote about the need to ask questions and “get directions” when starting a project! I’d say your comment confirms that it’s good advice across the board!

      Your father-in-law sounds like a right guy. Facing one’s mortality and embracing it in a positive way is, IMO, one of life’s most courageous acts– we all need that kind of example, ditto his reaching out to others who were in need. Cheers, always good to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. RKLikesReeses permalink
    June 26, 2016 7:31 PM

    👏👏👏👏👏 What a gem! It’s great advice, Mark, not only for freelancers, but also for anyone who’s part of a dynamic provider/client relationship. It’s teamwork, and you’ve explained the need for it brilliantly.

    Also: Haaa! Poor dude, no GPS in that toe tag and no pants for a map.

    Wonderful humor & art, as always.


    • June 27, 2016 9:01 PM

      Haw!! No GPS in the toe tag!! Poor cadaver! => he was unable to reap the rewards of the digital age! Er, either that or his tag was in a dead zone… 😬

      Thank you for your wonderfully kind and supportive words, RK– your comments are always more revitalizing than the electrodes in Doc Frankenstein’s lab!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. June 29, 2016 3:40 PM

    And there is only one person I would trust to get directions from for this life or the …other: the gifted Mark Armstrong! Oh, yes! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


    • June 29, 2016 7:52 PM

      Oh. My. Gosh… Oh my golly goodness gracious gumdrops with sugar sprinkles!! My dear Marina!! I’m blushing so furiously that motorists for miles around are pulling over to the side of the road, certain there’s some kinda emergency because they can see a bright burning throbbing flashing light that keeps getting stronger and stronger–!!!

      And since I’m just sitting here at my computer, nowhere near a major road, you can just imagine the sheer magnificence of the crimson flush that now suffuses my handsome features… => 😳😳😳💥 🚑💨

      I thank you for a comment so outrageous and extreme, it could only have originated at the Ambrosia Café, high on a certain mountaintop… 🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨🍨😋😬😣😵 🚑💨


  6. July 1, 2016 7:08 AM

    Im not sure how I missed this post, but I’m so glad I looked for you and found it….I can ‘t tell you how refreshingly-delightful I find your brand of giftedness–imaginative and quirky intelligence is so appealing! In addition to the entertainment value, your post is so informative and helpful, Lastly, when I read, “Oh– there’s one more reason why it’s smart to ask for directions: Because it’s embarrassing to be seen wandering around, looking for your drawers… : )”, I laughed so hard inside my head (it was early morning at the time, so I hadn’t yet mustered the energy for a belly laugh). Thank you for being a guaranteed source of joy….never any question as to whether or not I can count on that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 1, 2016 9:39 AM

      My dear Truly!! I was washed away by your incredible comment, carried off on a raging stream of pure giddiness!! When I was finally dragged to shore by a friendly beaver, I found I was miles from my computer!! Now, after getting a lift back from a logging truck and plucking out several dozen splinters, I can say: thank you!!!

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the post, and I thank you very sincerely for all the kind words. You are one of those wonderful people who build up and sustain others, and so keep the sun shining on even the darkest days. In short: thou art invaluable. And now I must open some drawers and try to find some dry drawers– thanks again!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 1, 2016 9:47 AM

        I mean this in the most G-Rated way….you never fail to tickle my fancy! Thank you for your wonderful response/thank you…such an entertaining and smile-inducing show of gratitude…I am touched 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. soul . to . earth permalink
    July 1, 2016 10:10 AM

    Sir LOL, I’m never lost for laughter here at Dam Good Work!! As a ‘drawer’ of such a wondrously talented and funny picture on more-tale-ity, you throw new light on what it means to go towards the light! 😀

    [Note: I’m quite grateful the late Mr. Smith De Nudey in your picture isn’t yelling “Tag, you’re it!” Phew!]

    Have a great summer, Mark and a very happy birthday to come soon! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 1, 2016 9:36 PM

      My dear Radhika! I felt a sudden warmth here in the cold refrigerated confines of “The Vault,” and suspected at once that you were in the neighborhood– welcome! If you see Mr. Smith, just ignore him. He’s looking for the local Bed, Bath, and The Great Beyond. Has his heart set on a paisley sheet, instead of the usual plain white. Instructive: I’ve always suspected that vanity endures after death, that seems to confirm it… 😊

      I wish you a lovely summer as well. Been very dry here in ol’ New Hampshuh, and I’m shocked at the dearth of mosquitos. It may be the end of the world, but it does seem to have its bright side… 😊

      I’m looking forward to my birthday party down at the Ganges Club. The chef– Major Bertram Thingummy-Bob Baskerville-Smithe, Bengal Lancers (ret.)– tells me that somebody ordered a cake for me in the shape of a half-size replica of the Taj Mahal. I’ll just say two things: 1) you shouldn’t have, and 2) we’re sure to run outta ice cream.

      Lovely to see you! May you dream of elephants every night, see black monkeys when you arise, and may a peacock cross your path on the way to the Indian Filter Coffee machine!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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