Some days the glass is not half anything.
A Prelude to a Client Meeting
On a chill winter weekend I found myself looking down a steep ice chute in the San Gabriel Mountains. The view was between my legs while front-pointing in a pair of snowshoes with teeth under the toes. My heels were in thin air.
I was in the middle of a glazed, frozen 45-degree slope, a blank 50′ stretch. All that was keeping me on this face were my sticky gloved fingertips, a lowered center of gravity, and by me very daintily chipping out toeholds. One foot at a time. Step. Chip-chip-chip. Transfer. Repeat.
Puts a day at work into perspective.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been in this situation. Once stupid, Twice idiotic. “I will never, ever, leave my ice-axe home again…”. I had to hear myself say it.
The slanting face I was on would get slushy down to the trail bed sometime in May. There were no manzanita bushes, tree roots, rock outcroppings to hang on to like I’d had in the last two miles. Here, I was naked—this was the crux move of the entire outing.
The steep north-west facing chute dropped several hundred feet out of sight into Wikiup Canyon. If the first twenty feet didn’t kill me, the last three sure would. The intervening seconds would be my last vivid memories of this coil.
I made it to safety, and contoured downwards on the trail in the sunshine. Along the way I saw day-hikers slushing up the trail from the Angeles Crest Highway.
That episode was relevant at a meeting several days later.
The Hypothetical Job Presented
I was contacted by a firm looking for a catalog specialist. Their website showed that they definitely were not bottom-feeders. It looked promising.
Meeting with the prospective client revealed the following information:
- Due to unforseen circumstances, the original designer had left halfway through the project.
- The project was supposed to be printed and done six weeks prior the meeting I was sitting in.
- The sample visual shown was the touted as ‘best of the worst’. This image alone would require extensive retouching to clean up sloppy masks, backgrounds, color balancing.
- There were 170 other images of unknown condition.
- The target for these troubled images was to be a very glossy, high-end coffee-table sized high retail book, where all the faults of each image would be available to intense scrutiny.
- There was no clear future print date or time-line, but there were intensely heightened expectations of delivery.
The Meeting Crux Move
My intuitions about this project were not good. Only 10% of an iceberg is visible. Mr Murphy typically lives below the waterline. As much as I was intrigued by this project, I remembered looking down that ice chute.
I looked the Prospective Client in the eye.
“I do not want to disappoint you, but I have to tell you straight out the way I see this project”.
- Client expectations about print dates are going to have to be set aside to execute this job properly.
- A high-end book is no place to rush anything. There are too many things that will go wrong. I can guarantee it, despite our best efforts.
- This is a project that would realistically engage a studio or design firm for a good chunk of time.
- The ‘best of the worst’ image alone looked like it needed a good 8 hours, and there are 169 unknowns waiting in the wings.
When I finished, the Prospective Client looked at me with a steady gaze. I’m sure that my assessment was not what they wanted to hear that day. They had voiced the Rosiest Possible Scenario. That’s what they do. And it’s my job to provide the most honest, realistic assessment. If you have cancer, do you go to Cedars-Sinai or Dr Phil?
Furthermore, ever been in a room with a client who is frothing with rage because you gave them a lollipop assessment to get the job? And then it went south? It’s up to you, bucko.
I passed on that job. In that instance I would have been in way over my head. There wasn’t enough protection from the exposure. It put my front-pointing episode into perspective.