Creativity in Business: The Best of Both Worlds

As a designer, you are not just a yellow pencil churning out artwork at the clients’ behest. The days of conventional ‘strictly design’ are fading fast.

Navigating creativity in business can sometimes be a balancing act. From handling client communications, meeting deadlines, the dreaded multi-tasking (read my article “The Myth About Multi-tasking”), generating new business and writing proposals, sleepless nights, looming deadlines, too much coffee and a lack of sleep can lead to life being somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. How can creative professionals find a happy place amidst this organised chaos? Here are a few tips that can help.

Don’t take it personally Client feedback isn’t always what we want it to be. We pour our heart and soul into what we produce, and we are sure that what we send is going to be a winner. And then the reply comes to the email and it is everything you didn’t think it would be. You missed the mark on one or two things and the client’s feedback feels like a knife to the heart. What do you do? At times like this it is important to take a step back and realise that while you are the expert in your industry, your client is the expert in their business and creative output can be disparate to preconceived ideas clients may have, no matter how much research you’ve done. Research and getting to know your client are mandatory, and will alway soften the blow, but inevitably it will come, and when it does, no matter how scathing or harsh the feedback may be, they didn’t kill your cat. They are just giving what should be their honest feedback to help you represent their baby better. Strip the emotion away, take yourself out of the equation and evaluate what is said with unbiased eyes.

Take it personally No, I am not trying to run you in circles chasing your tail. While you don’t take every harsh word said in critique as a permanent stain on your soul, conversely you have to love what you’re doing every day and to do that you have to take it personally. By ‘it’ I mean the work you are doing. Feel it, love it, remember your passion for it and give your hundred percent in every project you do. Even if it means not taking certain projects. Young designers, guilty as charged in my day, tend to take on projects willy-nilly to get their name known, and then, oh, right, make money. Our passion for design itself can sometimes blind us to the projects that may not make the best use of our talents. We are so gung-ho to get the job done that we don’t realise that that particular job is not the right fit for our skill sets. Believe it or not, it is ok to say no. It shows that you have a mastery of your craft that allows you to understand what you are doing and how, and to take on projects that best showcase your style. What that does in time, it allows you to have a rock solid portfolio, and ensures that you give as much of your creative juice as you can to making the client a success. Which in turn speaks volumes for your integrity as a designer.

Go beyond As a designer, you are not just a yellow pencil churning out artwork at the clients’ behest. The days of conventional ‘strictly design’ are fading fast. Develop your knowledge base and design intelligence to become a creative consultant to your clients; being the conduit for their creative expression. Read widely, in marketing and business development, read up on strategy and how design fits in the new world of blended disciplines of technology, architecture, science and energy. Be able to lead your clients in making decisions and make suggestions for the way forward; rather than being a pawn, be able to be a trusted advisor. It will build your credibility and earn you the respect that will speak louder than any amount of advertising.