I have a project for which I needed a room drawing which includes an observation area, from which between one to three people can observe a number of other people working below them.

In response to this remit, my artist drew a barrel (admittedly a fairly large barrel, of the wooden sort, upon which it might be possible to squeeze two people, if they both stood on one leg). In the email accompanying the barrel sketch, she wrote:

"In the end I created a barrel for the observation area. What do you think about it?"

To my mind it appears that this barrel is somewhat outside the original remit. What do other people think? How best to respond?

(I exchanged 28 emails with the artist about the project outlining everything I could think of before we began. Including some fairly detailed financial negotiations.)

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    I'm really confused. Are you posting this as a joke? – AndreiROM Nov 24 '16 at 15:41
  • No. This really happened. – The Master Priest Nov 24 '16 at 15:41
  • So .. did you email this person back? The exact text: "Is this some kind of joke?" should convey your feelings on the matter. And if this person is indeed a freelancer, as your tags suggest, then perhaps you should point out that they don't get paid for the time they spend drawing cartoons. – AndreiROM Nov 24 '16 at 15:43
  • I feel that might upset her if it was some sort of artistic decision on her part. I just can't fathom how she'd manage to get the idea, even as a joke. The rest of the email was quite professional in tone. – The Master Priest Nov 24 '16 at 15:44
  • Joe, do you consider the question demonstrates poor communication skills? If not are you perhaps deriving your assumption from elsewhere? It seems an unpleasant thing to assume of a project leader, asking an ernest question. – The Master Priest Nov 24 '16 at 15:46

This is what's happened here.

enter image description here


We don't have visibility of the previous 27 emails passed between you and the artist, so we can't judge what's happened. It seems fairly clear that there's a break-down in communication and expectations here which has resulted in the artist submitting something/anything.

We can't see both sides of the story here, but we're now getting up to the requisite 28 comments without really understanding the purpose of this observation area or how you see it happening, or how you communicated your requirements to the artist.

Sorry if this comes across as being somewhat sarcastic. This isn't my aim, but this graphic does seem remarkably apt.

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  • By the way, there are a number of problems with the tire-swing solution outlined in the cartoon. Not least the accumulation of moisture in the tire and the relative lack of comfort. I maintain the project leader's solution as closer to optimal, though alternatively placed, so as not to stifle the swing's range of movement, which is perhaps the problem itself? I appreciate that the many other outlined solutions do all seem to address problems which seem to exist, though I feel that lack of documentation will not remove the tree, but rather... hhmm... perhaps we need a new tree ;). – The Master Priest Nov 25 '16 at 21:57

Your response should be the exact same as if you attempted to purchase one product and were delivered another. "This does not meet the specifications in the following ways ..."

Since you have 28 emails to refer to you have plenty of material to refer to for ways in which it is out of spec.

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  • I feel that as a primarily artistic endevour where as well as upfront payment the artist is entitled to a very significant profit share things may be a little different. But I appreciate until I had proffered this information -- which I have now done in response to the psychological prompting taken from your answer, that it was not possible for you to know this directly. I would not treat an artist as I would a delivery person, as sometimes the parameters of art are porous. – The Master Priest Nov 24 '16 at 16:21

So you paid this person to design you an observation platform, and she decided to send you a sketch of a "fairly large barrel".

To me it seems that this person is either conveying dissatisfaction with the requirements provided her (perhaps a lack of specifications), or that asking her to design a platform meant to "observe people working below" didn't go over well.

Regardless, her response was severely unprofessional, and perhaps even meant as an insult. If the requirements were unclear, she should have asked for clarification. If drawing a platform meant to supervise others somehow insults her sensibilities she should have kept it to herself.

You are not paying her to draw cartoons on your time, and you should tell her as much. And so, my reply would be just a few short words:

"Is this a joke of some sort?"

Her response will determine whether you should keep working with this person or not. I have a strong inclination to recommend looking for a new artist.

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  • Interestingly, I did suggest there should be a mildly cartoonish undertow to the picture. Though of course you weren't to know that, because, mindful of the limitations of interest levels and close reading among those who do not share the commitment and on occasion fascination I have with the project, I only reproduced what I thought to be the most important details, and left it for others to ask clarification in the comments. My artist is young and just out of college, but extremely talented. I wish to nurture and chastise at the appropriate levels. But I appreciate your response as well. – The Master Priest Nov 24 '16 at 17:19
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    The problem is that you already think you know the requirement, you don't ask for clarification. My guess is that the OP asked the artist for an "observation area for 1 to 3 people" which sounds clear enough, and the artist drew just that. – Masked Man Nov 25 '16 at 4:08
  • The 'observation area' produced by the artist would not fit three people. Do you suggest an && vs || problem? If so, this question has been miscategorised and is not primarily opinion based. – The Master Priest Nov 26 '16 at 0:14

In response to the artist's email I wrote the following:

Hi [Artist Name],

Looking over these and speaking with [The Composer] and [The Pixel Artist] and we're all in agreement about the ways it needs to be changed, so I think we've got a good level of understanding within the team. Particularly, we are all a little uncertain as to why a barrel would be a suitable observation area.

Could you clarify this so I can forward the response on to the other members and help us understand your artistic vision?

Personally I was thinking a little like the sort of section you get at the top of a barn, where the hay and such is stored -- don't know if you've seen those. But essentially a platform, with either stairs or a ladder going up to it.

We're all also keen to have a meeting together as soon as is feasible to discuss the project and make sure we all understand each other properly and how all of our different roles fit together, as well as just a general sort of 'getting to know who you're be [sic] working with' thing. Probably via Skype or Discord voice chat (if it's via Skype then with video, if people want to switch it on, though they're welcome to keep it to just voice). [The Composer] may be visiting with family though, so I'm not certain on her availability. If you could let me know times for your availability for this if possible."

I then suggested I will provide her with additional documentation (above the generic project spec and line-drawing with annotations specific to the remit, I had provided to her prior), outlining the differences between the product and our vision.

Hopefully this was useful.

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    It looks as if treating the situation with decorum has resulted in a far more engaged employee who is speaking to me right now and seems to have renewed enthusiasm for the project. She informs me she thought I meant like a 'podium'. So I'm glad I treated the situation as I did. But obviously your millage at your own company may vary and it might be that you choose to treat employees differently. If it works for you... – The Master Priest Nov 24 '16 at 23:34
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    "Personally I was thinking a little like the sort of section you get at the top of a barn, where the hay and such is stored" was this in any of the 28 emails? – cdkMoose Nov 25 '16 at 16:37
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    My point was that you had a very specific idea in mind and it wasn't clear that you shared that in the remit. – cdkMoose Nov 25 '16 at 21:58
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    In this answer you gave the specific idea of a loft/mow in a barn. That is more specific than your remit. If they is what you wanted, it should have been in the remit – cdkMoose Nov 25 '16 at 22:15
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    If it was worth including in the email in your answer, it was worth including in the original project description – cdkMoose Nov 25 '16 at 23:52

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