Could You Solutionize That For Me? When Clients’ Dumbest Requests Become Art

Creatives turn their workplace face-palms into art for a good cause.

Ah, the relationship between creative professional and client. A give and take ballet as old as commerce. Caricatures abound on both sides. On one side you’ve got the “suit”–the sausage-fingered, short-sighted philistine whose imagination is as limited as his power to make meaningful decisions on the direction of a project. On the other side you’ve got the “creative”–the self-involved, petulant hipster who just wants to satisfy her ego and pad her portfolio, business results be damned. Of course these are mythical extremes. And yet… Like all cliches, there is some truth at the heart of the cartoon. There’s no arguing that tensions arise when a client, who has presumably paid an agency or other creative entity for the creative skills and opinions of its staff attempts to then insert his or her own creative directives (and limitations) into the process. “Make the logo bigger” is the ur Bad Client dictum, but every “creative” has her own favorite.


Irish creative team Mark Shanley and Paddy Treacy recently orchestrated a lemonade-making sort of project that turns clients’ less informed requests into art. The pair asked ad agency creatives, designers, animators, directors, illustrators, and other creative types to take their “favorite” client comments and turn them into posters. Under the banner “SharpSuits,” the group organized and exhibited the posters at a Dublin gallery, with all proceeds going to the Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

According to Treacy, all the comments you see are real. And as for client feedback on the project: “Nobody’s said anything yet. But we presume we’re fired,” says Treacy. “That’s why we kept all submissions anonymous.”

And, not for nothing, Treacy also acknowledges that clients are hardly alone in being occasionally intolerable. “Creatives are as bad as everyone else. Maybe worse! To photographers, directors, illustrators etc, we’re the client and we come out with this crap all the time. Last week I heard myself asking a voice-over artist to “go again, I can’t hear the smile”.

Take a look at some of the client comments above.

Next week: the clients’ revenge? (Come on clients, you know you want to submit some of your own bonehead creatives’ comments).

About the author

Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Co.Create. She was previously the editor of Advertising Age’s Creativity, covering all things creative in the brand world.