After thirty years of delivering all manner of design services, I know my primary role in any engagement, large or small, is that of an educator.
I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, it’s a simple fact of a creative’s life: facing that withered smirk of scepticism from everyone outside of marketing.
Without doubt knowledge and understanding of the value that our profession can deliver to business, government and society as a whole is growing. But, the pace is painfully slow and the gulf between the enlightened minority and the ‘join the dots’ design perception of the majority is vast. And that’s where we come in.
At Good, we don’t always work with the sexiest brands on the planet. We’re Scottish, we’re pragmatic, we’re honest. We want to offer best value for every pound spent and that’s just not sexy in design speak. We started small and in our backyard, hard yardage, getting an impact and delivering on every brief we worked on. For sausage manufacturers, car dealers, thermostat specialists and power tool distributors. These people aren’t interested in ‘shiney shiney.’ They’re engineers, commercial managers, FD’s, MD’s, Sales managers and product demonstrators. Hard nosed haters of the unjustifiable cost of design frippery – or so they think.
Our job has always been to grow the religion of design, to educate and convert one more sceptic into an advocate. It’s missionary work, hard, thankless at times, but often rewarding and fired by the bigger vision of our profession: being truly recognised and respected by all as a true catalyst for change for the better.
The most powerful tool in our armoury has always been the word ‘NO’. It’s not for us. We can’t achieve your goals for that budget. Without a brief we can’t help you. We don’t pitch. No, we don’t do multiple ideas for free. We’re not in the proposal writing business. It sets a tone. A benchmark for our professionalism and the value we put on our expertise.
We always insist that understanding, foundations and clear goals need to be agreed before any design work can commence. Every facet of our design solutions need to be robustly justifiable through the filter of what we’ve collectively agreed. That’s why we only ever present one solution. This mitigates the ‘my wife likes pink’ scenario of the uninitiated, or the death by committee approach that results in a sanitised emptiness satisfying no one and achieving nothing.
We put our money, where our mouth is. We’ve started ‘Good for Nothing’. £50,000 worth of design services every year to a recipient who can’t afford our expertise but needs it to help the common good. This is the sharp end. Helping others by design. Taking time that might have been spent trying to win a gong and massage our collective ego and using it to underpin our positioning and values. This commitment to our cause, our ‘Why,’ resonates with our target audience, validating our approach and cementing our credentials.
Ultimately though, people buy people. Be honest, don’t oversell yourself. Tell it straight. Keep it simple. It’s not rocket science, so let’s not over complicate it. We are after all a professional services provider. Act like one and deliver results like one. More than anything else, this down to earth approach to delivering on our promises has stood us in good stead. Building an understanding of the importance of our profession and simply making things better, one client partner at a time.
As the world changes and more people and services are replaced by machines and technology, creativity will be one of the few bastions of human dominance that cannot be replicated. Focused creativity that simply makes products and services better for the common man will be a hugely valuable commodity. The advocates we create today, no matter how difficult the conversion, will be vital to fulfilling that vision.