What does a designer need to survive in an agency? We really don’t need much, really — maybe some snacks, a non-regimented workspace. But we do need direction.
No, not the north-south type of direction, although, OK, at times we need that as well.
But I’ve been asked many times to create billboards. Industry code words such as “poster” or “bulletin” fall into my lap and sit there, peering up at me like those kids from a Margaret Keane painting, begging me to begin.
I’m asked to create logos. All the time. I in turn ask such questions as “What colors are preferred?” or “Are there preconceived notions of what’s desired?”
I then get those big eyes again. They’ll say things like “Make it look luxurious” or “Make it look friendly” or I’ll hear “We’ll know it when we see it.” My personal favorite, though, is to “Make it hip; you know, jazz it up a little!” If I were to direct someone doing house construction to “jazz it up a little,” I’d expect the same blank stare I give to an Account Executive.
I’ve been asked to create brochures or magazines. I’ll ask, “Do we have all of the copy and photos to complete this task?” The response is usually to “just mock something up and we’ll get you copy later.” I’m told to “put some placeholder text in.” Nine times out of 10 when I do this, the copy I expect to be a paragraph or two comes back 10,000 words over.
I like to look at designers as chefs. The account executive, on the other hand, is the waiter, the most important member of any restaurant. They talk to the client, ask what they want, get a feel for their every desire. So, when a waiter comes back, he or she can’t simply say, “The client is so hungry!” The Account Executive needs to tell the designer/chef exactly what they the client would like to eat. You don’t want the chef to “just fix something, put some stuff together.”
So work closely with the Account Executive. Put time and thought into your strategy – so the Account Executive can place a specific order.
See, designers are simple to understand. And designing is simple for us when pointed in the right direction. So forget asking us to make something nice. Ask for that steak – medium rare – with the side of scalloped potatoes.
I promise it’ll be delicious.