Marian Bantjes

Marian Bantjes is a designer, typographer, writer and illustrator who is based in Canada. She opened her own design firm in 1994 before relaunching her career in pursuit of more personally fulfilling work in 2003. Clients of hers include Wired, Saks Fifth Avenue and The New York Times.

On clients and collaboration... I’m not much of a collaborator. I look to the client for intelligent guidance and communication of what is working and if not why not, but I seldom work well with preconceived ideas.

The most important thing is that the client understands and respects what I do, and they trust me to create something interesting. Alarm bells are set off at attempts at art direction: sending me images of other people's work is an automatic “no”, and sending me images of my own past work makes me uncomfortable. I prefer to work with an open brief, or a written description of what they have in mind, leaving the rest to my imagination.

On simplifying the process... I am not one for endless rounds of revision. I provide a first sketch (which may be far more developed than a “sketch”), request feedback on that and, if necessary, either revise the sketch or start over. The second sketch should be close and require only minor revision before going to final. If not, I usually decide I'm not the right person for the job; very occasionally, if I have confidence in the client or a personal connection with them — or if the job is extremely lucrative — I may go through another round or two, but that’s really not desirable.

On time-wasting meetings and mutual respect... I never meet my clients, but the personal relationship is vital. If I don’t like — or come to dislike the client — it makes it almost impossible for me to do a good job. The worst thing that can happen is that I become hostile to the person or the project. This happens when I am disrespected: if my work is unappreciated or I am insulted, or if the client starts to treat me like a pair of hands to create whatever it is they might have inside their head.

It’s very rare, but I did once fly to Chicago for a job and I was astonished by the time wasted in ridiculous, useless meetings; going over PDFs that I could have looked at myself in a few minutes. It really made me glad I don’t live in New York where I would be expected to attend these interminable, unproductive meetings all the time.

From all of this it may sound like I am difficult to work with, but actually I get along very well with most of my clients. We have fun, I’m clear with communication (and expect the same), I don’t have fits or tantrums; generally it is very easy and pleasant. That’s the way it should be.

On the rare occasion that it becomes necessary to walk away... If I’ve agreed to do the job, I’ll at least start the process so if I’m not the right person for it that will be apparent after the first sketch or concept. If their feedback is unreasonable or changes the parameters of the work, or if they are hostile or suggest I haven’t tried hard enough, I just tell them straight up that it’s clear I’m not the right person for the job. It’s not difficult.

The important thing is not to waste people’s time. If I know it’s not working, staying in and struggling just postpones the inevitable and then you risk putting the client in a very bad position having to find someone else without time. So it’s out of respect for the client and their schedule as well as my sanity to get out while the getting’s good.