5 Things I Won’t Be Doing in 2017
Saying yes to meaningless work
I’m not talking about projects that don’t better mankind in some meaningful way or help to repair our dying planet. I’m talking about those truly pointless projects. You know the ones — like helping a giant multinational conglomerate redesign a one-page microsite in the hopes of increasing conversions by .02%. Those projects where you attend three different video conferences about the size of a single sign-up button and both your team and their team are obviously reading emails from more interesting projects while nodding along to the one poor soul presenting the god-awful thing. These sort of projects pay well, so they’re understandably tempting, but I’ll be tempted no longer. If I’m not excited by the project and the client is not excited about the project, why are we doing it?
Assuming I ‘get it’
If I had to collect all the projects my studio tackled that didn’t turn out as expected and blame it on one key mistake, I would say that mistake was not writing a clear, defined brief for every fucking project regardless of scale. The temptation to skip the brief is strongest when it’s a project you’re working on with a previous client you know fairly well or a smaller project that just doesn’t seem to ‘need’ one. In every case, these projects spiraled into multiple revision cycles and meetings to define and redefine what exactly we’re trying to make. And in some cases the answer to “what are we making?” was something we’d rather not be connected to at all. This year every project gets a brief. The brief is a collaboration between us and the client, and if drafting the brief reveals that some other agency is a better fit for the project, that’s ok. What matters is that we’re all on the same page. We know what the goals are, and the client knows what they’re getting.
Assuming they ‘get it’
We took on 20 projects last year. Most of those projects were for mid-sized businesses spending a respectable amount of money on a brand or a website. Of those 20 projects, I would say two of them were acquired by clients seeing our work, liking our work and then hiring us. The other 18 hired us without ever even looking at our work. This is a nice compliment in a way — it means they were acquired through a recommendation — but it also means they have no idea what our aesthetic is. One of my major goals this year is to refine and tighten our portfolio and to walk each prospective client through some recent, relevant work so they have a good idea of what we’re about. Hopefully this lessens the number of clients that ask us to draw a skeleton singing into an Elvis microphone to use as their logo — no shit, that actually happened.
I like money. Money is important. It keeps the lights on, allows us room to experiment and occasionally gives us the chance to take some time away. But it’s not the most important thing. The work is. If I have to decide between good money for bad work or not-so-good-money for creative freedom, I’m choosing freedom.
Under-valuing my POV
The 2017 I’m going to be a louder, more focused beast. I’ll do what I’m good at and not what I’m not. I’ll do it my way, not some other way. I’ll make it clear by sharing my work more often. I’ll write more. I’ll read more. Most importantly, I’ll assume you came here to hear what I have to say, to commission work that looks and feels like the kind of work I make. I don’t have time to copy trends or create the current version of acceptable. This is who I am. This is my work.