Good artists are driven by talent, determination, and well, ego.
Ego is not a bad thing; a certain level of confidence is necessary for artists to actually share what they do with the world. So artists must believe they are good at what they do, and sometimes believe they are better at what they do than the next guy. How could we have a Jimi Hendrix or an Eddie Van Halen if they hadn’t realized that they are really good at what they do?
Individuals working in the field of branding and advertising are most definitely artists; they are illustrators, writers, and multimedia creators. The struggle with branding and advertising is that more often than not a single individual isn’t responsible for the complete vision. The brand creative must work within a team and with a client. It is extremely difficult for a creative to have their vision compromised by others when they know they are right! They weren’t just called Mad Men because they were crazy back in the early days of the ad game. They also simply got MAD!
Good collaboration doesn’t muddy the waters; it actually helps assure the final product isn’t built on tunnel vision. By the way, muddy water’s not good for drinking, but Muddy Waters was a great blues music innovator. Getting passionate about the work can blur a creative’s vision when it comes to seeing the work from every angle. Having others invested in the work assures that every perspective will be considered. When it comes to a brand every angle, every perspective must be thoroughly considered. Sure the work is art, but at the end of the day that art must help a brand grow, and sell a product or service.
The biggest enemy of successful creative collaboration is the “thumbprint”. When an artist is determined to apply his ideas, his style, or something uniquely him to a project that is referred to as a thumbprint. At a creative agency the most important part of every project is that a client’s brand is properly represented, not who did the work or who came up with the idea. The second most important thing is caffeine, lots of it. In some instances a part of the team at a creative agency may have no impact at all on a particular project and that should be ok as long the final product represents the client’s wishes.
In a true collaborative environment every project has input from many team members, even if it isn’t always visually represented in the final product. An important form of input is advice often given to a copywriter or graphic designer. Another valid and essential form of input is participation in brainstorming. In an office built around creators focused on their portfolios these types of participation in projects are not satisfying. So many projects end up being subpar, from websites to logos and taglines, because a partner agency or a team member insists on changing something just to have input in the final product, to apply a thumbprint. A competent collaborator looks realistically at the work that has been done and makes an honest determination about the quality of the work done so far. This kind of “honest” determination is difficult for the creative that thinks they are just a little better than the other guys. If the creative adds something or makes a change, is the addition truly an improvement or just an excuse to have an impact on the final product? The client is the key, that’s the focus, not who came up with the swoosh and who drew it.
At Powell Creative we have a unique office environment. The copywriters, graphic designers, and account executives are most satisfied when we all have the opportunity to collaborate on a project. We get excited when the Powell Creative brand is attached to a successful project, not any of our individual names. We invest in each other, and in turn invest in our clients together. This sort of creative environment is not common in the world of branding and advertising. Should this type of working environment be more common? Absolutely it should because without a doubt it’s better for the client.