Laura Breiling: Rejected Design.

For the past couple of months, we’ve been asking designers about the work that never saw the light of day. We hear tales of success all the time, but of course failure plays a big part in the creative process too. Every month here on Eye on Design you’ll find new examples of rejected designs along with the stories that go with them.

So far, we’ve spoken to Erik Brandt about his poster that was rejected by a competition jury, as well as Mario Hugo of NYC studio Hugo & Marie about an album art commission that involved hearing no music whatsoever. Today, we hear from the Berlin-based illustrator Laura Breiling about a commission that never made it to the finish line. After the client rejected her work, Breiling had to navigate a strange grey area that she’d never trodden before: after she uploaded her illustration to social media, the client quickly told her to take it down. Today Breiling gives us a glimpse into the life of a rejected illustration after the spike fee has exchanged hands.

Laura Breiling: Rejected Design.

“I received the brief in 2014. The client wanted me to design a poster for a left-wing festival, set to take place in 2015. The topic was ‘no land in sight’ and they wanted to draw attention to problems within the German refugee policy. I l immediately had this bold image in my mind: rich folks on a boat, representing our affluent society, and then the people in the water that aren’t allowed on the boat.

“I just sketched this one idea. Usually I always discuss sketches with clients, but in this case they didn’t want me to. I compiled the concept and the final image rather quickly, and delivered it on time.

“They didn’t respond for a while… After a week or so, they told me they decided to go for a different idea (with a different illustrator): the image they went with was of a sad looking boy with bloody scratches on his face. I decided to upload my poster (clearly marked as rejected) onto my website when they released their final version. It was quite funny was how people reacted: my rejected version got far more likes than the client’s choice, although they posted it on their official social media page.

“The next day the client wrote me an angry and threatening email stating that they highly recommended that I delete the image. I looked back at the original email chain, which didn’t say a word about keeping rejected images under lock and key. A few annoying emails later I decided to just blur the slogan from the poster I uploaded, and then chose a version of the illustration without any text to put onto my website and social media. I still fully support the image and received very positive feedback for it, so why shouldn’t I show it? The client hasn’t taken legal action so far, so I think they are okay with it by now.

“From this experience, I learned that it’s important to always discuss sketches and ideas, and also, to stay true to oneself. Four years later, I still like the image, so as well as the kill fee, it continues to benefit me.”