The Barber’s Mirror



“You’re up.”

I walk over to the chair and sit down. The barber swings the large plastic cape around my body and fastens it snugly around my neck. Now protected from the enevitable attack of hair trimmings he asks,

“So, what are we doing today?”

“Just a trim, shorter along the sides and back. Nothing too crazy.”


Then what does he do? He spins the chair around so that I am facing away from the mirror. Why? People freak out. They don’t have the foresight to be able to visualize the end product. All they see are uneven bangs and early stages of a mullet. It’s far easier for both the barber and the client to just keep things under wraps until everything is finished. Until the great reveal when you get spun back around and get to look at yourself in the mirror.

Holding a smaller mirror behind my head so that I can get a look at the backside, he asks, “Whadya think?”

By going directly from shaggy to clean cut I avoid all the anxiety that would arise from seeing all the messy in-between steps. I don’t have to worry that the entire left side of my head hasn’t been touched yet or that it looks like he cut a bald spot above my ear. It all makes sense to the barber, of course. He knows his craft. Sure, there are plenty of barbers and stylists out there who have no problem letting their clients watch them in the mirror. These are most likely clients that already trust the person cutting their hair – a trust that has been slowly built over the years.

Not all of us designers have the luxury of having clients that completely trust us. We are usually having to constantly reassure the client that things are going as planned and that there is no need to worry.

“Yes, we’ll get to typefaces and colors eventually, but for now we have to think about what exactly the content is going to be.”

“No, these are just placeholder images. We will get actual imagery down the road.”

“No, you can’t actually click on any links yet. These are just image mockups.”

Now, I am all for including the client as much as possible. It’s the right thing to do, but there is definitely a line you have to draw. A line the separates what they are involved in and what is behind doors. Where do you draw that line? How do you handle situations where the client thinks you’re halfway to shaving a mullet into the back of their head?