Two people getting into a cage and trying to knock each other out might not obviously translate into a studio setting, but the fifteen minutes in the Octagon is just the final presentation. The real work happens in the run up.

Presentation design, just like MMA, is a team sport

Mixed Martial Arts is just that — it’s mixed. The athletes who compete in the UFC need to be at the top of not just one game, but all of them. In order to contend, they need to work on their knock-out power, their ground game, their submission techniques, speed, stamina, strength and conditioning, and the list goes on. The best way to do this is to surround themselves with people who are better than them in each of those aspects. They painstakingly choose the team that can mould them into champions — and so do we.

Each one of your team needs to bring their own unique skills to the company and enhance the collaborative talents of the team. And skill sharing is something that you need to do really well so that every one of your team is constantly improving.

It may sometimes feel, to designers especially, like it’s just you in the cage against the client, but your team are all in your corner, cheering you on.

Sometimes you have to take a fight last minute

Most of the time, the athletes know about a fight months in advance, giving their coaches time to plan out the best strategy for this specific opponent over a twelve — or eight — week training camp. However, sometimes fighters drop out of an event with just days to go and the UFC would lose millions if they didn’t replace them. In this case, a little pressure is often applied to the fighters they single out. It may seem crazy to take a fight that you haven’t been training for, against someone who has completed their entire camp, but this sort of fight can be an incredible boost to a fighter’s profile.

Chris Weidman, former Middleweight Champion, made his name in the organisation with a debut fight taken with less than two week’s notice against Alessio Sakara in 2011, which won by unanimous decision. He did the same again later in his career against the extremely established Demian Maia — same time frame, same result. Weidman said that the key is to always be ready, don’t let yourself get sloppy between camps, meaning you can skip over the first few weeks that look to re-establish your overall fitness.

We can apply the same to our ever-growing knowledge base as design agencies. We are all so passionate about what we do, so we stay sharp, we stay on top of the game and we’re always ready for anything that is thrown at us.

The judges aren’t always right…but they do get the final say

We may not always agree with a client’s decision but, ultimately, it is their decision to make. We can advise them on what we believe to be the best direction, but if they override our pleas and demand clip art, then clip art they shall get. Unfortunately for us, MMA is a lot easier to quantify. In UFC, judges score each round out of 10, with the athlete with the most effective striking and grappling receiving ten and the other guy getting 9 or fewer. Scores of 10–8 are given for dominant performances. In design, we always give a dominant performance, naturally, but judging is far more subjective with no clear marking system in place. Even if you consider a design to be the work of your life, the client may just simply not like it.

At this point, it can be hard not to take this to heart, but even Stipe Miocic, the former heavyweight champion of the world, lost to Junior dos Santos on his way to the top. The best fighters learn from the losses and listen to the criticism, without letting it affect their overall belief in themselves. We just need to listen to clients, without letting pride get in the way.

Often, the fight is won before you step in the cage

Conor McGregor said, after his 13 second knockout of Jose Aldo, that he knew he’d got into the veteran’s head and had seen the defeat in his eyes before any punches were thrown. Although UFC is becoming a little “Eastenders” these days, the trash talk that takes place before a fight can play a major part in whether you win or lose. It’s all down to mindset and how the loser lets the other guy into their head. But you, as design experts, can also do a lot of damage from the inside.

We come up against this when a client has a tight deadline or is moving goalposts. It’s easy to feel defeat from the outset, but challenges are what keep our brain cells ticking over so a shift in mindset, along with a little time and help from your team, can make all the difference in delivering a successful project when the odds are against you. We just need to approach every project with enthusiasm, and we’ll win every time.

Ultimately, your team are the stars. It’s their talent and hard work that builds your fanbase and gets them asking for the rematch. As a team, we should be here to support them in defending the title.

It’s stories that bring me here. Stories behind images. Stories behind stories. Stories behind an abstract extract of conversation you once heard on a bus.

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