Saturday, September 6, 2008

Finding a place in the world

I recently attended the Semi Permanent conference in Auckland. It was a great event with presentations from twelve creative professionals working around the world in a range of disciplines including graphic design, motion graphics, interaction design etc. Over the two day conference some common themes emerged amongst the speakers. Often their best work and most creative projects were “love jobs”. One designer even said that she forgave her fee for a poster to enable the client to afford a very expensive printing technique. The resulting posters were so beautiful that the client decided to sell them online. They sold out in a couple of days. The designer has beautiful photographs of her work but was paid absolutely nothing for this project.

I understand the thinking behind this and can relate to it myself – when an enjoyable project comes along you are more than happy to put everything into it in the hope that the high quality work may be noted by your peers and potential clients, which will then lead to more work. Creative professionals are doing their best work for free and are charging higher prices to do poorer quality or less creative work. I repeat, creative professionals are doing their best work for free and are charging higher prices to do poorer quality or less creative work. Can you imagine a builder working by this philosophy? Or a surgeon? Or anyone else for that matter?

Another theme that emerged during the conference was the old design vs art debate. Is good design art? One designer insisted that it was, whilst another said art and design will never be the same because “design has to work”. Perhaps professional creative people have a repressed inner artist who is dying to express themselves. This inner artist is so desperate to work on a creative project that when one comes along they do it for free. Maybe this explains why designers are prepared to work on enjoyable projects for free. If this is the case, then surely creative professionals should satisfy themselves creatively outside of work. If they don’t, it’s the same as going grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

The other argument is that if clients appreciated creativity they would pay for it. Surely then it is our responsibility to educate clients on the benefits of creativity in communication. If clients recognise and appreciate better work then they would be prepared to pay for it. There are effectiveness awards that may help in the client education process, but the work is rarely exceptional on a creative level, so these awards would fail to encourage clients to pay more for something they percieve they don’t need. Other award shows judge creativity with no regard for effectiveness of the communication, so these also do not reinforce the worth of creativity. This leads me to my own personal struggle.

I worked as a graphic designer for five years and never understood the general mentality of designers. Designers are employed to produce pieces of communication, however in most cases, they do not care if the work actually communicates. For many their work is a vehicle to deliver selfish fulfillment. For example, a designer will present a logo in the colour orange and post-rationalise the colour choice to the client when truthfully, the colour has no relevance to the brand or the business, it is simply their favourite colour.

This self indulgence never sat well with me so I left design to work in advertising. As an outsider to the advertising industry I liked the lack of pretense. These guys were making ads to sell products and weren’t pretending otherwise. I liked the strategic foundations of advertising. Briefs came from understanding both the brand and the consumers and the resulting work reflected these insights. As a creative person I was inspired by the creative ads I saw and I worked as hard as I could to get a job with the creative director who's work inspired me most. Very quickly I discovered that advertising creatives are obsessed by winning awards.

Like the design industry, advertising work considered to be potentially award winning is done for free. I worked in several agencies where day-to-day work on real client jobs was less important than my ability to win awards. I was expected to pro-actively create work for existing or new clients that could win the agency more awards. Award winning advertising is generally made for industry peers. Everybody is trying to be more creative and innovative than each other. Often in the quest for awards, the client, their product and the effectiveness of the work is irrelevant. I personally do not agree with this approach. Clients give us their marketing budgets in good faith. In my opinion I think that providing solutions with no regard for the cost or the outcome is disrespectful and lacks integrity.

Sometimes I do not know where I fit in the world of creative professionals. I know that I enjoy the creative problem solving process and I like that my work can help people grow their business. I love all forms of creative communication when it is relevant to the brief and when it is executed without ulterior motives. I do believe that there are solutions that are both creative and effective. I hope the work we produce for our clients at The Whisper Shop reflects this.

Angela, Creative Director

1 comment:

cynthia said...
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