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PDFs... and why I hate them

by Steve Braden

PDFs... and why I hate them

“This is so frustrating,” I remember a client telling me on the phone, sitting in front of his PC. “Surely it can’t be that complicated for me to be able to see what you’ve got on your Mac?”

And then along came PDFs, and everything changed. Of course, PDFs were only the first in a range of technologies to allow visuals to be shared instantly online, but they broke the mould – and at first, we creatives were delighted. Gone were the days of printing / trimming / mounting / delivering our visuals…now our projects could progress so much quicker.


In the process, creativity got thrown out the window. How so? Because in the pre-PDF days, if a client wanted (for example) a new logo, the agency would be carefully briefed and would go away and set their best creative minds to the task – reporting back a week or two later, in person, with a range of shortlisted options…carefully explaining the thinking behind each design. And the client would then pass those options around the office (maybe road test them with some focus groups), debate their relative merits, and live with them for a while before coming back to the agency with their preferences, tweaks and amends. And so on through to approval.


Whilst the occasional enlightened client may go through a process similar to that described above, the desire for instant gratification and minimal cost means that, in the majority of cases, it’s far more likely that they’ll tell their agency something along the lines of “I’ve got a meeting tomorrow and need to present some logo options. Can you whack me some PDFs over in the morning?” And then they’ll have a quick look at them on a lap-top screen, choose their favourite, bounce back a request for an urgent amend and present this to their colleagues. All those other ideas – and the rationale behind them – won’t even see the light of day.

Thinking time? Out the window. Research and concept development? Exploring different ideas? You’ve got to be kidding. And this applies to most things creative; we’ve succumbed to a “need-it-quick-that’ll-do” mentality, which is a pity not just because it’s led to a sea of mediocrity, but also because key skills are being lost. And because the creative process, the real creative process, is a lot of fun and ultimately very rewarding all round.

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