05 Oct 2012

Struggling with creative

During the course of running a marketing and  advertising agency, I have worked on the design and layout of hundreds, if not thousands, of creative projects including print, direct mail, corporate identity, website & online and public relations. It is hard not to have a personal investment in the artwork that we produce here at Encite. An idea or concept tends to make you be quite possessive over it. So when you present these concepts to a client and they don’t like it, it can elicit an emotional response.

To keep from going crazy, we, along with other creative professionals, I assume, must be objective about the creative work we produce. Our process entails, not just pictures, illustrations and copy, but a strategic approach to make sure we are communicating the correct message for our clients, their brand and reputation. So when looking at creative design, we somewhat have to remove our personal feelings from the project and look at it objectively. Does it accomplish what we want it to accomplish.

I spoke with a colleague of mine, Jeff Peterson, who has been working in branding and design for thirty years. Below is what he said about the challenges of keeping his personal opinion separate from the strategy.

“Clients not liking what we do is just part of our industry. The answer is developing solutions to problems. The first task we have to do is clearly identify the problems our clients are facing and have them approve them, which becomes our strategy. If we deliver on strategy, we will have a design solution that is supported by that strategy. After that, if a client doesn’t like our creative, we ask them to return to the strategy and define, or refine, what the strategy is before we move forward.

Sure we are going to be passionate about what we do but we have to realize that if it’s a design solution on strategy, that’s what we bring back to the client. We, as designers and creative professionals, need to sell the strategy as much as the designs themselves. When a client responds to a design with, “I don’t like it”, we as professionals need to reiterate that the design system was produced to communicate to the target market, not to the clients’ likes and dislikes.

Subjectivity, enculturation and years of developing personal likes and dislikes become a subconscious relationship to how anyone’s going to make a decision. That is what you have to ask your client, and yourself, to do is to separate personal from professional and that’s not an easy thing to do. The practice comes with time. In this industry, you have to have thick skin and a big heart. It always comes back to strategy and delivering on strategy with strong and sophisticated design solutions.”

I think Jeff hit the nail on the head with his insight. It is not easy to take criticism sometimes, especially when you are passionate and believe in your ideas, concepts and artwork.

Adam OLeary, President



Adam is a graduate of Colorado State University (bachelor’s degree in marketing), and he has experience on both the client and agency side of the marketing world. These experiences led him to come up with a unique, more efficient business model, which he’s incorporated into Encite Marketing. Adam sets the strategic direction for all Encite projects, developing integrated marketing campaigns that bring results. He takes a consultative approach with clients, educating them about how the process works, and keeping them in the loop about end goals, steps, and tasks.