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July 17, 2006

Here's the Problem, Seth... Too Many Designers Aren't Great

Seth Godin put up a post today titled, "How to live happily with a great designer," that by now is probably on the desktop of every graphic designer with internet access.

Problem is, Seth's post only applies to a small percentage of them - the ones who are actually GREAT designers.

This attitude of, "we know better than you," that permeates far too many not-great ad agencies and not-great designers is problematic.  If you want my respect, then be the business partner I'm paying you to be.  Listen when I give you the strategy and not come back to me with some leftover idea that Client 1058 didn't sign off on.

Trust me, I can smell it in your smugness.

My employers and clients have won awards on projects where I've done client-side creative direction.  But it's doubtful those projects would've received notice had I let the agency have its way.

Btw, those awards are in a drawer.  It wasn't the awards that mattered.  Never is.  It was that the campaigns worked. 

So if you're talking to me, I don't give a damn about awards.  Yes, many clients say that.  I mean it.  Show me the designs and campaigns that made millions in profits or launched an unassailable brand. 

And tell me why what you did worked when someone else could've done a faster and cheaper campaign with supporting facts.  If you're honest, I might believe.  And hire you.

06:16 PM in Trade Show Marketing | Permalink


I wouldn't assume it mattered, but if you like what you see and you get good references, I suppose it's a plus for them. If you had doubts about the company, I would try to find out whether the awards were influenced by booth size or other factors. In 20+ years of working shows, I've seen a lot of exhibit "awards" handed out for reasons other than the design or its attendee-friendliness. Politics can often play a role.

Posted by: RichW | Aug 17, 2006 11:19:13 PM

Do you think that awards are a good indication of results when evaluating a custom tradeshow exhibit design company? For example, http://www.res-exhibits.com has won design awards, would you consider them more likely to perform well compared to companies which have not won design awards?

Posted by: stopping | Aug 17, 2006 1:00:08 PM

There are also a lot who are concerned with solving the client’s problems on a day-to-day basis and not worried primarily about awards.

If it's said agencies get the clients they deserve, the inverse is also true.

Posted by: makethelogobigger | Jul 28, 2006 10:16:05 AM

Case in point...

Adrian makes a good point about awards. I didn't explain why I mentioned them initially.

It's because that's one of the first things every single agency I've ever talked to brings up. How many awards they've won.

Let me repeat. Seth said "GREAT DESIGN". I said Seth's post was probably printed out and on the desk of a lot of graphic designers who don't deserve the association with that post.

I'll stick by my original comments.

I HAVE worked with some INCREDIBLY TALENTED freelance designers, print and web. But I've never worked with a AAAA agency who got it right.

Maybe if I could've gone around the AEs... that could be a big part of the problem.

Unfortunately, Adrian didn't quite understand the rest of the post. I said the campaigns I got personally involved in worked. And they did. Results do matter.

Btw, I didn't mention that I was also creative director for a promotional piece that won a juried design award where the voters were all graphics pros. I did not sumbit it with my name because if the response rate for that promotion was any lower it would have been negative.

But the judges ooh'd and aaah'd.

Go figure.

Posted by: RichW | Jul 17, 2006 7:30:14 PM

This is my first time visiting your blog, so I don't know where you are coming from, but your attitude stinks. First you point to the awards you won after micromanaging the design. Then you say awards don't matter. Seth didn't say anything about awards, so I would be curious to know why you came to the conclusion that awards = good design. I agree that awards mean very little, so why are you pointing at them to prove that you have created good design? Even a blind dog finds a bone sometimes.

The point is that good design comes from experts who DO KNOW MORE ABOUT DESIGN THAN YOU. If you can do it yourself, go for it. The vast majority of companies NEED HELP. If you want great design, there is going to have to be some good collaboration between client and designer (not necessarily even a good designer). A lack of "great designers" has absolutely nothing to do with it. Your unwillingness to collaborate with designers is what will prevent you from reaching the "great" level. Instead you will continue to fool yourself and believe that your micromanagement is producing something remarkable.

Posted by: Adrian | Jul 17, 2006 7:03:13 PM

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