You remember the scene in The Matrix, where Neo is offered the choice between the red and blue pills?
When I worked in advertising and design agencies for 16 years, it was very much a comfortable ‘blue pill’ environment, where we designers were shielded somewhat from the realities… budgets, invoices, cash flow… and only rarely did we get to meet the clients. This was the role of ‘the suits’ – account handlers – who were the salesmen and women that prevented us designers from voicing something as dangerous as an opinion.
They took our ideas and presented them to the clients without any actual thought for the work itself. In my experience this all too often resulted in ‘Chinese whispers’ of misinformation and mis-interpreted briefs that only served to hamper things.
[ I wistfully enjoy watching Mad Men about advertising agency life in the 60s and remember the 90s heyday I was part of. ]
The red pill
When I quit agency life in 1997 to set up on my own, my main reason was wanting to work direct and in person with clients. Then, as if by magic, things began to happen… I presented design work properly, guiding clients through my thinking and reasoning. And clients were happier too because they weren’t paying agency prices for it.
But of course, by leaving and doing my own thing, I had taken the red pill.
Now, I was in the real world. A world where I create graphic design work for my clients while being ever-mindful of their budget and how to gain the maximum ‘bang-for-their-bucks’. A world where budgets are smaller and creativity has to be done carefully.
Everything I do has to work hard for my client and their business. This includes not just design, but consultation and advice on the best way to present their services or products. I advise on diverse topics such as website development or getting the best print prices (from the right printers). My experience in all areas of advertising and design agency work stands me in good stead.
I’ve found the key is working with clients and not just for them. To help guide them to what will work for them and their business.
In the real world.