How/When to "fire" external designer

Hi all.
I am in a strange position and I would like to hear your thoughts.
For my “in-progress” design studio, i have hired in my home country a reputable design studio (local and international design awards). Right now we are in the logo-design phase and later will (or should i say would) be the website design phase.
However, despite the fact that I have provided detailed design brief, mood-boards etc. I am not completely satisfied with the result. I have seen round one, and round two but still we are not quite there.
I do not want to waste my time any more as most likely their design style/character eventually cannot match the character my studio I wish will portray.
This week I am supposed to give my feedback but actually I am seriously thinking to terminate our collaboration and go with another design studio.
My questions are:

  1. Do you think is so quick to terminate the collaboration? Theoretically they say that they can go over and over the design until I am satisfied but I do not really think I want to go through this process. Eventually we will both be unhappy.
  2. How should I terminate the collaboration, if this is the way to go? Of course they will be dissatisfied but I want to do this in such a way that shows respect. The market is small and they are well connected in the broader design scene here so I wish we keep everything in a polite and respectful way.

It is my first time I really ask for design-services and despite the fact that it is a very interesting process, yet it feels kind of strange as I “feel” both sides of the table.


I’ve had to do this a few times. It is unfortunate, but it happens. Here are a few points and steps I recommend thinking about:

  1. do you have a contract? If so what does the contract say about termination if anything?

  2. have an honest conversation with the owner of the outside firm. Let them know exactly what you told us, just as plainly and even more bluntly. Be specific. Give him or her the option of either a) you have 1 week to completely redo everything, follow the brief, and impress me, if not you will be terminated in 1 week, or b) you can opt out now and mutually part ways.

  3. be fair. Pay them out for the hours spent if that is how the contract or agreement is worded. Ask them for feedback, could you have been more clear/direct in your feedback?

Have the conversation, but it’s unlikely you’re going to be satisfied. Awards doesn’t necessarily mean a good fit. Pay them what you owe and move on. If they were smart they would have gotten a deposit or retainer to start the project just to cover this kind of contingency.

yo & dan, thank you for your input.
yo, yes, we did sign a contract and says that they do not return the deposit (that in my case it covers the whole logo design fee as the quotation/contract is tied together based on the way they work.). So, in my case, i have payed more than enough the up to now work so ethics regarding payments (from my side) are not an issue. To be honest though, i would appreciate if they are truly professional if they would partially return the deposit as they will not complete the logo design work.
As for your second point, as we are already in the second round, your suggestion is to give them a warning sign that we may not move on if I am not satisfied and not just out of the blue terminate the project?
Dan, i totally agree and i was/am aware of that and that is why i talked with 6 design studios/freelances that i pre-select and thought that may be good fit.

This is a good experience though for my future client management process as now i see things from a different perspective. Experience is not for free right ? You always have to give something whether is money, time or something else…

Definitely good experience. It definitely provokes the question of how you (or any of us) would avoid being in the situation of that firm, having put hours toward a solution but ending with an unhappy client.

It will happen. Finding a solution for a client is difficult. The only thing that protects you is the contract. We do our estimates & payments based on phases so that we can modify throughout the development process or part ways if necessary (if the client or we are not happy with the relationship).

We had a client once that wasn’t pleased but it was a special situation. They wanted us to break the laws of physics by making a smaller product than the interior components. They went to another firm and had the same problem.

We’ve had to fire a few clients throughout the years too so it goes both ways. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit.

Steppen, just talk to them and hopefully they realize they are not a good fit.

yo, exactly. However I find that I am a “difficult” client as I am a designer myself and as they mentioned, they have never received a thorough design brief. This means that their other clients are unprepared (oh these marketing teams…) and therefore they may accept anything that “looks nice”. Those may be the easy to please clients.
FH13, this is what i plan to do. If this time also does not work though I am thinking to try to give a very specific direction regarding ideas, style, even sketch out a direction or give them similar logos (something that may sound insulting to a design professional) and see if they accept another round of revision in this way. If it is ok, I may continue just for a week to see how is progressing. If not, then we stop the collaboration ( I will let them know of course that this is something that may happen). In this case though I will loose a good amount of money but that is life. I hope I got my lesson as well.

I always go back to treat others like you would want to be treated. If they are reputable, they are used to feedback. If you are happy with what they have in their portfolio, I’d try to give them a chance to get back on course. I know I’ve misunderstood many a design brief, it happens.

After that, if you still feel the same way, pay for the services rendered and move on in a professional manner.

mr-914, just got also another round of designs (4!!! and i am surprised by the number as to me shows that they are now going towards quantity in case I like something) that are all disappointing to me. Yes, on their portfolio I had seen and pointed design directions I liked but I feel that are not there in the designs they prepared.
Anyways, they have been payed all the project actually as, my stupid mistake, they tied together the website design in the quotation (which I agreed on and signed) so the down payment (that fully covers the logo design/development) has already been payed. Stupid, expensive, painful mistake. In any case though, another lesson learnt.