Controversial: Is it smart to do work for friends and family?

Last week I posted some fun infographic work we have done in between client work. We are working on another infographic this week about the "we are the 99%" ( and will hopefully have it all finalized shortly and post it here soon.

In addition to the creative self commissioned work we do, we are often asked if we can help our friends and family with some design and or photography requests.This I think must be a pretty common request asked by a lot of designers and photographers out there.

Due to time constraints unfortunately we cant always help out even if we would like to - but a couple of months ago I had a bit of spare time up my sleeve so I helped out one of my best friend's Dana with her wedding invitation. Sometimes when you work with family and friends it can be become complicated but working with Dana and Garrett was an absolute pleasure. I think it was because they came to me and said that their only real request was that I match the colour palette they used on their Save the Date and that the invite would be post card size, but otherwise everything else was up to me. I think it was the fact that they said they trusted my creative vision and didn't try to micromanage me that it turned out to be really fun.

I guess when it comes to family and friends it can be really complicated if the communication is not clear. As long as some basic terms are set up, such as whether there is an idea or style they would like me to create or whether its totally my call and how many subsequent revisions we are going to go through. Often design projects have a way of spiralling out of control if you allow endless revisions. By enforcing a couple of rules, like how much time you will give the project and if its not working and leading to feelings of resentment and annoyance then it is time to speak up and be honest.

Giving one of these projects enough time and effort can really be difficult because you are always feeling pulled to return to your paid work. But then I always feel torn b/c if someone asks me to help out and my name will be associated with the finished product then I want to give 110%.

Anyway here is the invite I did for Dana and Garrett - which is really true to my style - strong typography and simple illustration. I wish I had been able to give this invite some more time. When I look at it still I see things I would have changed but overall I was pretty happy with the final product.

While I was writing about Dana and Garrett's invitation, it got me thinking about when I designed Brando and my wedding invitation. Partly because Dana said she liked my invite and wanted to go with that style. Easy.

Anyway last year when I sat down to sketch some initial concepts for our wedding invitation I knew I wanted something different and anti traditional wedding. I went for a long DL sized double sided invite using some beautiful stock from Raleigh papers. B/c I love typography I made that the feature. That along with a lot of white space. I also love white space and wanted an interesting composition. When I showed my family the initial concept, they all thought I had gone mad - "really? that doesn't look like a wedding invitation? are you sure?" or "hmmm I dont quite get it" "do you think people will be able to read it?". I mean along with all the complexities and family drama that go along with planning a wedding in Hawaii, the comments regarding the invite were nothing.

When the invite was finally printed and my family had had time to get use to it, they all changed their minds and said they "loved it", "so unusual", "really different". Maybe thats not what they thought, but its what everyone said out loud :)

I would love to hear other peoples comments about how you feel about working with family and friends. And if you have good or bad stories to report...