Not in our company – Customers from hell

I worked in a company that designed products and wrote books for the arts and crafts industry. One of my first assignments was to design a line of stickers that adapt to bottle caps. I made a sheet of cartoonish faces, with several skin tones, to make the sheet inclusive.

When reviewing the product line, my boss made a face on the sheet of sticker faces.

Me: Are they too dumb?

Customer: No, they all have to be that color.

She pointed to the lightest complexion.

Me: I was hoping to make this set inclusive, so that all kinds of children see themselves reflected in them.

She wrinkled her nose and said our customers were mostly white, so our products should be white. Yikes.

I made the corrections and started to notice that it happened a lot. Photos in our books? Whites only. Helping hands? White hands only. Image collections? White faces only.

At the last trade show I hosted with the company, a long-time customer came to me and asked if we had any products that looked like him. It was an older black woman who was walking with a cane, so I asked her to be more specific. She indicated her face and I said quietly, “Not in our company. Probably never in our company.

I quit shortly after, started my own business, and one of the first things I produced was a collection of images of black faces, named after this client.

Yikes! What is the most problematic something that a customer has already requested?

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