The Creative vs. The Marketing Team: Yin And Yang, Oil And Water

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Smashing Editorial: Please notice that the language in some parts of this article may be very informal. If you think you might be offended, please stop reading this article now.

I hate the division represented in this title. It’s the major stumbling block in modern business. Power struggle is never constructive, and it at least doubles workforce effort at a time when streamlined is crucial for a positive ROI. You can spell “team” from the word “marketing,” but I’ve yet to see a sense of it in marketing. What can one spell from “creative”? “Reactive”? I’ve seen plenty of that, and for good reason.

Don’t get me wrong: I love marketing as a practice! Relatively speaking, marketing is a fairly new practice (marketing in the sense of “public”, broad mass marketing, applied to products in the modern age — ed.), and one that has to evolve each day to keep up with consumerism and technology. As a designer, coming up with marketing ideas is orgasmic. Guerilla, sabotage and viral marketing are the work of genius, which is why we don’t see them very often. But you are probably thinking horrid thoughts about marketing practitioners right now, so let’s rethink for a second.

I have known a handful of great marketing people in my career, and they were smart enough to form their own companies. They always managed to do the delicate dance to create something that was effective and not just popular with anyone who might, oddly enough, have an opinion. And then there are the people you see every dreadful day.

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It’s A Diverse Crowd Out There

I have a ton of marketing stories, but my favorite one comes from when I was art directing and designing a major push for a new licensed character across all marketing channels. The staff and I worked like crazy to get the lines done in time for approval. It took months — that’s how many lines there were.

After our submission for approval from the licensor, a member of the marketing staff, lower level, came to me, telling me the changes that were needed. First off, don’t tell someone the changes: write them down so that there’s no misunderstanding. Luckily, I was taking notes. One of the changes called for major surgery on the main character to remove markings on their face. It made no sense to me, and I questioned it, but he stood fast and insisted that that’s what the licensor wanted. I asked to see the email from the licensor.

“No.”

I asked that he email the licensor to ask for clarification.

“No.”

The most infuriating thing was that this over-sized man with a cherubic face, looked like Baby Huey2 from the old Harvey Comics. Sounded a bit like him, too. It was hard to speak with him without laughing. As his new nickname circulated through several departments, a contest started among the staff to try to deal with Baby Huey without laughing.

I knew trouble was brewing, and so, like any smart person who would make file copies or turn off layers, the art staff and I stated cutting the image and placing everything the licensor wanted removed on a hidden layer. We did this to hundreds of pieces. A month later, we submitted the changes, and then (surprise, surprise) the licensor ripped marketing a new one for removing the marking, so essential to the character. An impromptu witch-hunt was held right outside the art department, next to the marketing offices. The president personally led it.

Without wasting any more column space than is needed to state the obvious, Baby Huey was spanked… and I believe the president actually asked him, “What is your major malfunction, Baby Huey!?”

The best part was when I was asked how long it would take to fix it. Explaining to the lay person that I would simply turn on some layers in Photoshop took longer than actually turning them on, but I scored big points with the president, while my “marketing step-brother” was sent to military school.

This doesn’t happen enough. But it does and can happen! At another corporation, marketing was publicly spanked for taking eleven-and-a-half weeks to work on an initiative that had only twelve weeks in total — giving creative, copy and design three or four days to execute lines for hundreds of products. Creative would always get it done, so action to stop it took a while, but the grumbling and angry staff meetings got some relief in the form of at least six weeks.

Are We Or They The Strange Ones?

What do creatives look like to non-creatives? Obviously, everyone thinks they can design an ad or logo in Microsoft Word, so immediately we become snooty, whining snobs. A great marketing person I worked with wrote a recommendation for me and said, “…great designs without a lot of creative baggage!”

“Creative baggage.” What could that mean? For anyone who has wrangled creatives, whether staff or freelance, we can be intolerable freaks. It’s hard to remember the last creative who actually followed my art direction without an argument or apology. We are also weak and lack the social skills to deal with corporate power. We often give up our power in an effort to be seen as “flexible” or “a team player.”

An art director who was firmly a puppet on the hand of the company she worked for gave me this recommendation: “He usually hits strategy, but if some adjustments need to be made, he is very open to suggestion and direction. [Speider] has worked with our team for a long time and understands our process.”

The process was that I went into meeting all smiles, told a few jokes and did exactly what I was told to do. The pay check helped me live with myself.

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In most cases, that means doing what you’re told by anyone bold enough to speak their opinion about the creative process and not be questioned. I have had to pull marketing co-workers aside and remind them that we were both reporting to the same person and that no one ever told me anything about reporting to them. I’m not “being difficult”: I’m taking control of my work for my department so that I don’t have to take the fall for failed initiatives and low sales down the road that result from someone else’s design decisions. I never get angry or aggressive, although people who have worked with me say that my sarcasm could be deadly at times. Baby Huey’s ghost haunts me.

Be Different, But Expect The Same

Just the other day, a client showed me a product catalog that I thought was from 1972. It was their 2010 catalog, and the creative department’s directors asked me to bring one of their paper products into the present (or future) and do “something different.” I love when they say that.

I did some of the finest work of my career… some good work. The creatives were really on board, and revisions were almost non-existent. Imagine basically having free reign to design some fun and impressive paper products and having the full support of your clients? Well, no good effort goes unpunished, and I was informed that the marketing department rejected the work in favor of a catalog that looked like a sequel to the one from 1972.

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What has the fear in business done to our ability to make fast, hard decisions in the marketplace? Safe and take-a-step-back has gotten us into the mess we’re in right now. How do we get out of it? I include this passage from someone who would refer to himself only as a “suit.”

I have to have the confidence that the design solution is meeting the needs of the client and is achieving strategic/tactical goals. Because of that, if there are elements of your design that I’m uncomfortable with, I will call them out and, in some cases, will nix them. Similarly for the client, they have to be comfortable about how their own brand is being presented, how their market will react, even how their own staff will react.

“How their market will react.” That should be the only concern. And how did this “suit” become the tip of the approval funnel? The truth is that people can’t let go without second- and third-guessing what will be successful. It’s not a question of whether, say, a good marketing plan based on researched demographics would improve a creative brief that professional designers and writers could use to create a cohesive package. The reality is more like, “Just design, and I’ll make changes until I see what I like.” That always makes for a great waste of time and resources.

Business is tight for many reasons, but just one wrong move could cost you big time. My question is, if the marketing plan is sound and the sales staff is competent, then why would those simple little changes that are requested to please people truly affect the product?

”You know, Bob, I was about to buy that package of Fluggelbinders that I wanted, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

“Too expensive?”

“No. The color of the package turned me off.”

Happens like that every day, doesn’t it?! I used that exchange in a committee meeting in which the background color of an exclusive product was discussed and sampled for a week. The marketing manager turned to me and said that I had negated marketing’s input. I thought marketing’s responsibility was to figure out the target audience, their habits, income and so on and how to best reach them through media and other advertising venues — not how blue or green the product should be? Silly me! Maybe it’s a marketing secret that can’t be shared with creative. They’re spies for… something.

Do You Want To Get Involved In Office Politics?

What can one say when sitting in a committee meeting and subjective suggestions are flying around, usually contradicting each other, and people are echoing previous requests but adding “More red” or “Bigger logo” or “I’ll know when I see it”? I sit and listen, take notes and then turn to my contact (if it’s a freelance job) and ask what he or she would like me to implement. To be sickeningly submissive, I say, “Some great insights here, but some are counter to the creative brief and some other directions suggested here.”

I turn to the art director, boss, marketing person or whoever hired me and ask them to go over what they think will be needed. Usually, they tell me just to follow what I was told in the committee meeting. This is when I’m thankful for hourly rates, because the Frankenstein created by the committee is usually too monstrous to please anyone. It goes around and around as long as more than one person has a final say on the project. Imagine what would happen if too many cooks worked on a dish. The chefs I know are insane and would stab and de-bone each other.

When freelancing, you are removed from the eternal struggle between creative and marketing. You are only a tool used by creative and a bludgeon used by marketing to wield its power over creative. Just ignore it and let the creative department deal with it.

But what happens when you are the art director or designer on staff? If you are, then prepare for office politics. The struggle between creative and marketing has nothing to do with design or marketing: it is the good old human impulse to assert one’s power over others, to be the alpha dog.

Whatever your position or department, everyone in it is jockeying for some measure of power over others, from the frowning minimum-wage guard at the front desk who tells you to sign in (as you’re doing it) to the mail deliverer who won’t give you your mail away from your desk to the co-worker who tries to convince you that part of their job is now your job or that part of your authority is now theirs.

Humans usually spend a lot of effort blending in with the herd and shying away from confrontation. Confrontational people know this and use it. When the person taking your order asks if you want to super-size it, do you say “Sure” or “No”? You say yes because your brain and protective nature tell you to go the easy route and say yes. Less aggravation. Why do good girls like bad boys? Because we… I mean they go against the herd, they break with convention, and they’re confrontational.

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So, it stands to reason, while you’re in the workplace — where you face the pressure of HR rules, progress reports and the ever-present cliques of workers and executives — that you would feel alone and stay away from confrontational co-workers. But you can bet that they will at least size you up from day one, if not start stealing your authority and setting a standard that will follow you throughout your career at that firm.

You must start a new job with basic knowledge of your rights as an employee. Listen, and be bold, compassionate and assured. Show no fear, and show that being flexible is not the same as being a wimp. Any business book will tell you that the weak die. You have to set your own boundaries when starting a job. If you “wait and see,” then standards will be set for you as you adjust to the learning curve. If you relinquish any territory, you will not be able to get it back. You will open yourself to charges like, “That’s the way it’s always been done, and you said nothing last time.”

(By the way, a comeback to that last line is, “It may have been done that way in the past, but part of my job is to streamline the process to get the best results, faster and more efficiently. I’m sure you’ll love what my system will do for the workflow and product.”)

As with any situation, your gut will tell you what’s right and wrong, as will your job description. To whom do you report? To whom do others report? If a marketing person reports to the same person as you or is lower on the corporate ladder, why would you let them dictate anything if you were not told to follow their lead? Sometimes, someone may be assigned to oversee all aspects of a project. In that case, they are the boss, and that’s that… but that role ends when the project ends.

If a colleague of yours on the same rung of the corporate ladder makes a poor suggestion in a committee meeting, it’s best to nod and just not execute it. Either you’ll never hear a word about it or the colleague will approach you about it — in which case you shouldn’t respond that you don’t have to take their suggestion, which could be labeled as “confrontational” (it’s always the people who defend themselves who are “confrontational”), but rather that their idea, after much consideration, was found to have no merit. Simple and easy. It deflates their ego and could lead to sexual performance problems down the line. How can you argue with that?

“I thought my suggestions were good!”

“Sorry, but I didn’t think so, and no one else echoed your concerns.”

(This cuts the person off from others by setting a line that people would rather not cross. You are showing strength as the alpha dog. The pack will fall on your side.)

A more direct and devastating attack would be to ask, “Why do you think I’m incapable of doing my job?” This is a heart-stopper because it cannot be answered. They may argue that you lack team vision or that they’re protecting the client’s interests. Again, ask why they think you haven’t fulfilled the team’s vision, drawn from the creative briefs, and why they see you as acting against the client’s interests.

It’s like a fistfight. It lasts only a few seconds before the herd breaks it up… Yes, this is confrontation. Even confrontational people are taken aback when confronted, unless they are psychotic — in which case, pray that HR rules keep them from turning violent. And if they do become violent, taking a knuckle sandwich from your lunchbox is a small price to pay to see the aggressor fired and spend a night or two in county jail awaiting a bail hearing, opening the way for you for a civil lawsuit. A win-win situation!

On the other hand, you might encounter a “squeaky wheel,” who runs to the boss demanding “respect” and a title over you. Often, in the interest of a quick resolution, the boss lets the squealer have their way. You’re only hope is to calmly state your case, note your accomplishments without the squealer’s input, and add that it’s a business office and not a therapist’s office for people to work out their personal problems by laying them on others. Firm, direct and sound.

If Squeaky gets their way, then you’re doomed. But then, you don’t really want to work in a place like that anyway. If the boss would so easily knock you down the ladder, then you need a new boss. If you get your way, others will fear confronting you. I think coining the name for Baby Huey may have frightened my colleagues into avoiding my displeasure and gaining a nickname of their own.

The Enemy Within?

Once you establish that you are not a push-over, most people will respect your boundaries, and the natural order will be restored… with an occasional bump as a stray member of the herd probes your weak spots. Those weak spots, as some will discover, are your department colleagues: lowly designers and writers who will surely tremor when someone storms into the office and demands the changes that “I called for in the meeting.” Now you, as that lowly worker, have another problem. You have just given up your power to a stranger and put your creative director in a tough spot. Your actions affect how your supervisor controls the department and your job.

The proper thing to do is to tell the intruder that you are just a designer or writer and that they really need to speak to the creative director so that they can assign the proper revisions and work. Then smile and point to the creative director’s office. If your colleagues are on their toes, one of them will summon the creative director to come into the department and protect his or her minions from intruders. I’ve done it a gazillion times.

Summon your righteous indignation, flair your nostrils and imitate the tiger. When the interloper leaves, send an email gently reminding them that they must come to you for any requests, because only you know everyone’s schedule, and all changes must be signed off by you, as department head. Don’t assume that HR will intercede to stop this; they believe that the process should be flexible enough to keep work flowing. And as long as the bloody wound isn’t squirting arterial red like a fountain, HR likes as few problems as possible.

Points to Remember

  1. You were around. In fact, aside from occasional bathroom breaks and meetings, you’re around 12 hours a day on average.
  2. You are responsible for everything that comes out of your department and will be held accountable for it.
  3. People want their way and will try anything to get it.
  4. Don’t allow people under your authority to sabotage your power or security.
  5. Prepare a response to an objection or make a list of responses for when a ridiculous argument is used to attack you.
  6. HR wants the easiest path to peace and calm. Present all squealers as troublemakers and not team players. Use corporate-speak to your advantage.
  7. Sometimes you will lose the battle. Sometimes you will also lose the war. Form as many strong allies in the company as you can. The higher the executive level, the better!
  8. Does someone want to comment on a design in a conference meeting? Make some well-educated comments yourself. Perhaps you see a hole in the marketing plan, or the project doesn’t have enough creative time, or the sales material is a week past deadline. Bring it up gently and kindly. I believe that’s called passive-aggressive. Use it!
  9. Grab power, and don’t wait for it to be offered. Take on an extra project; start an initiative yourself; or earn a few million dollars for the company. They’ll sit up and take notice.

Power grabs are often made by people too incompetent to do their own work, and public displays of “directing” are thought to mask that incompetence. They often are. But handled correctly, they aren’t, because they won’t get the chance.

Every Relationship Has Good And Bad Times

When I worked at one large corporation, I was closing up my office and the art department at 7:00 pm on a Friday night when a young woman from the marketing department caught me in the hallway and asked to step into my now locked office. She immediately went into an act about how “her” project was so important and how I had to do it by Monday and email it to her because she would be away for the weekend.

I looked at her in silence. I asked who she reported to and learned it was one of my subordinates (if you went by the order on the corporate masthead). I told her I would talk to her boss on Monday to find out why she would have the utter nerve to hope that I would be in the office at 7:00 pm on a Friday night and then expect me to work all weekend on something that was not important enough for such a tight deadline. She stormed off.

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I don’t remember why I was late on Monday, but as I walked down the hall, people were shouting for me to check my email. There was an email from the young lady I spoke with on Friday evening. She must have gone back to her office and written a very angry message, courtesy copying the entire corporate division, about how unwilling I was to work on her project, and how she was cancelling it, and how I was costing the company millions of dollars and immortal souls, and hail Satan, hail Satan, and so on.

In walks her boss, one of those fine marketing people who I mentioned do exist. The young lady had the project for three weeks (grabbing it as her first project and naturally wanting to make a big splash), and as I suspected, it wasn’t time sensitive… Mind you, she sat on it for the previous three weeks, and it did have to be at the printer the very next day. Being of sound minds, the head of marketing and I were able to come up with a solution, work hard together and make the deadline. Creative and marketing did it… together, with no arguments or stepping on each other’s toes or egos, and we both shared in the glow of accomplishment. It can happen. Maybe we just need guns to our heads at the time?

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/stampout.jpg
  2. 2 http://www.classicmedia.tv/harvey/characters/huey.html
  3. 3 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/drinkblood.jpg
  4. 4 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/pi.incharge.jpg
  5. 5 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/pi.cramit.jpg
  6. 6 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/cantfly.jpg

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Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine, “among other professional embarrassments and failures.” He currently writes for local newspapers, blogs and other web content and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. He also continues to speak at art schools across the United States on business and professional practices and telling frightening stories that make students question their career choice (just kidding).

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  1. 1

    Laneth Sffarlenn

    July 20, 2010 3:08 am

    Wow! I am going to need to re-boil my kettle for this one… I’ll be back :P

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  2. 5

    You do realize that this was published 4 days ago on the author’s blog with a couple of words changed?

    http://schneidersweb.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/yin-yang-oil-and-water-creative-and-marketing/

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  3. 9

    The Tall Designer

    July 20, 2010 3:24 am

    This:

    “The struggle between creative and marketing has nothing to do with design or marketing: it is the good old human impulse to assert one’s power over others, to be the alpha dog.”

    Is absolutely key – it happens time and time again in every office I work in ( front end freelance contractor, 11 years in the trade http://www.thetalldesigner.com).

    People will continue to do it until they stop *being* human so I’m not sure I can offer any solutions to deal with it other than honesty – if an idea is stupid, say so, politely, expressively and with justifications, but you can still say it’s stupid.

    If that fails – threaten to do some actual user testing to decide which is best ;)

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  4. 10

    Jeroen Marechal

    July 20, 2010 3:24 am

    Wow, seems a like a great article. Did just only read a few parts, will be reading the rest later tonight.

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  5. 11

    Tweet from Smashing Magazine – “Oh-oh: we are going to publish quite an article in a couple of mins. This could be the loudest article we’ve ever published.”

    Probably the most boring article I’ve read on here.

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    • 12

      You must be in marketing.

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      • 13

        Hey now.. I’m in marketing and I thought it was very interesting… Well. I guess I am from a design background so now I can see both sides. :)

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        • 14

          No harm meant Allie, just a little joking :)
          I’m a creative that works in a marketing department.

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      • 15

        Haha! Good one!

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      • 16

        haha, well said!

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        • 17

          I know many creatives that work as “marketing” people, too. Better when creative and marketing are the same person…so an account manager can then step in with their wonderful ideas.

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          • 18

            ARGHHHHHHH ive had that happen to me once, i had the whole thing ui, colors, everything, in comes the account manager and the clients “designer” friend. Well, my design came out the other way looking like a unicorn puked a rainbow on top of it. Worst thing about it is they loved it and i got a raise.

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          • 19

            Money helps. Dorothy Parker said something about money not buying health or happiness but it did buy a diamond studded wheelchair.

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    • 20

      Wow I disagree. Been in the business now for 10 years and this article still hits the nail on the head as far as what people need to remember. Some of these suggestions might not be the best as far as “making friends” goes… but in theory, you’re not at a job to make friends, you’re at a job to do the job.

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      • 21

        Thanks for getting it (as did many others, but there will always be other opinions). Yes, there are those who want to be “friends” and seen as “cooperative” and “nice.” Those are the people who go home at night and fight anxiety because they are pushed around all day.

        There are people who are very happy just doing what they are told. If that makes for a better workplace and it rolls off your back, then I say enjoy!

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    • 22

      The majority disagrees, but I always welcome opposing opinions. I just have to weigh the validity when they are in the small minority or it would be design-by-committee trying to please everyone. Perhaps the next article will be to your liking.

      You get major points for just reading the whole thing!

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  6. 23

    Fantastic post, every time you give up a piece of ground on a project it’s so much harder to get it back the next time.

    I recently redesigned a corporate newsletter and was met with “lets not re-invent the wheel”, “this has worked in the past” and “there’s not enough time to do a plan” right from the start. Suffice to say the end result was a mishmash, jumble of half-baked thoughts and ideas… won’t be including that one in the portfolio!

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    • 24

      That can be the most frustrating thing, churning out work that you just aren’t proud of. But hey, meeting brand standards!

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      • 25

        olakunle Olayinka

        July 20, 2010 11:37 am

        Hey Dan, i do agree very frustrating indeed but most times after spending long hours on the project, i just frown and give what the marketing guys want while smiling at my paycheck.

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        • 26

          And that’s sometimes what you have to do; smile and cash the paycheck. I, as with most creatives, have many pieces of bad design directions crammed into the back of my closet. One commenter on another article wrote that a “great designer can make a great design with the challenges set out by controlling clients.”

          Well, not when they direct every small thing. Take the money and run…and hope they don’t show it around town (although they will leave your name out). I had a client who, after micromanaging the design, wanted me to affirm what a great design it turned into. He asked when it would be on my web site so he could show people before it was produced. I told him it wouldn’t go on my site and he was crushed…and only paid a third of his bill. I considered putting it on my site with copy claiming it was the worst design in the history of the universe.

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        • 27

          Are you serious? “won’t be including that in the portfolio” or “work that you’re not proud of”? Apparently you are under the impression that you are an “artist” and are creating your personal portfolio on company time instead of being PAID to do a JOB. Stop investing your self-esteem in a newsletter and deliver creative that actually accomplishes its goals, doesn’t just look pretty.

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          • 28

            Firstly…I love your screen name. So, in which marketing department do you work?

            Some people can just present a resumé when searching for a new job but creatives need to show what they have created. It’s visual job. Show a creative director bad design solutions, then have the version you did before the “helpful ideas.” A creative appreciates the original thought and understands the final design-by-committee. Show the work without that starting point and you won’t be hired because it is assumed you were responsible for the design. Show the work to a non-creative and their first thought may be that you play it safe. They won’t hire a safe designer…you just get beaten down into that later after you start the job.

            A good creative sees the message and designs the different elements to sell that message. A hack makes things that are pretty but don’t fulfill the purpose. I am a designer and a professional. Sometimes I am an employee with certain rights to, as HR always repeats from harassment training, “a safe and comfortable workplace.”

            “Stop investing your self-esteem in a newsletter and deliver creative that actually accomplishes its goals, doesn’t just look pretty.” Are you referring to my writing for Smashing?

            Are you suggesting my work does not accomplish its goals? You wouldn’t be that bold to assume you know me that well, so I assume it’s a general slap to creatives.

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          • 29

            I agree with Snowball2!

            -and no, I am not in “Marketing”

            -1
          • 30

            @snowball2 During my time as a designer I have found that sometimes what a client considers to be in their best interests often isn’t.

            Being PAID to do a JOB is one thing, but if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well.

            If someone hired you build a house but then took away the blue prints and said make it out of polystyrene i’m sure you wouldn’t showcase it to future developers!

            Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and go against your principles to design something that you know is terrible but a good designer will also act as an advisor and give the client the benefit of their experience. At the end of the day if the client chooses to pursue a bad idea / design the designer has the right to choose whether or not to let it stain their reputation.

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          • 31

            Oh, Steve, my honorable foil…

            You don’t like my articles but you keep reading them. Could this be love?

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          • 32

            Part of what makes a good designer is the drive to improve and come up with the best visual solution for the problem at hand. This means taking things personally sometimes. I know your casual feedback isn’t actually a referendum on my worth as a human being, but it’s important to invest some of my self-esteem in whatever crappy piece of marketing collateral you want me to put out. If I don’t care whether I make good work or not, I’m not going to make good work.

            I’m the sole in-house creative reporting to a much larger marketing team, and I’ve noticed that my coworkers and I have much different ways of measuring success and my worth to the company. Not to be a delicate flower here, but people are harder on creatives. I’ve never heard anyone say “This marketing initiative was terrible and I hate it” (not “this marketing initiative needed stronger messaging and more time to refine it”- I mean direct, unconstructive criticism), but people have no qualms about saying “I hate the colors.” (and again, not “the colors make this hard to read” or anything that would be useful)

            When whatever creative and marketing make together fails and we all get fired, you’re not going to put that failed marketing initiative on your resume, and I’m not going to put the shitty newsletter I made for it in my portfolio. See? We’re not so different after all.

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          • 33

            @Snowball2: guess you’re a marketing person or just read the article with early onset prejudice then decided to leave a comment . if you’ve experienced the life of a creative, you wouldn’t be so harsh and condescending when you posted your comment.

            i have been in the creative world for only 3 years and have to admit that i am rather young in the game. though young, i have encountered a lot of “know-it-alls-without-actually-knowing-what-they’re-talking-about people” in the industry, at every turn. there are those that actually stay with you and comment on every line, color, shape of a design and they don’t even have background in designing or don’t even know how to work a computer. to them i say: “i am in this job/position because i know what i am doing. and the people that hired me saw that i can and will fulfill every design JOB that they throw at me.”

            it’s comforting to know/read that a lot of creatives feel the same as i do or have the same experiences that i had. this makes the color of the cloud above my head a little brighter..

            at the end of the day, if you’re a designer/artist/creative, it’s not just about the paycheck (though a fat one wouldn’t go unappreciated), it’s about being proud of what you’ve done and having something to show for what youo’ve been slaving over.

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          • 34

            @steve: i guess you’re not a creative as well, and haven’t experienced a day in the world of creatives… because if you are, you’d see that there is truth in the article

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  7. 35

    Amen to the section on recording, somehow, (even if its on a napkin, back of greasy pizza box, or the intern’s arm) of changes that you aren’t sure of from someone who isn’t directly in charge of any project.

    S S, great article and very spiffy.

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    • 36

      Thank you, Veneratio! Oh, the stories of the different people who try to get involved. It is, of course, the point of the article about not being nasty or mean, but to assert your rights as an employee, hired to do a certain job. Why take direction or make changes because someone tells you to do it? In the end, at year-end review time, the creative has to answer why something didn’t work. Saying you did as you were told doesn’t cut it (catch-22).

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  8. 37

    Nice one :)

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  9. 38

    excellent!

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  10. 39

    Rochelle Dancel

    July 20, 2010 3:50 am

    I’ve never worked in a place where Creative and Marketing have been that exclusive from one another (but maybe that’s just something that happens in uber big companies…?). I work in a Marketing team, and I am the Creative – I either design stuff myself or I commission creative. Despite the fact that we also have a Technical team, Marketing has its own developer that sits within the Marketing team to expedite design and development processes across channels. There’s no way we’d be able to do our jobs if all three functions didn’t sit together as we’d effectively be designing, developing and marketing out of context and then praying that all the dots joined up afterwards. That said, we don’t do things by committee either – we’re well aware that there’s a reason that we don’t all do the same job.

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    • 40

      What you described, about hoping the dots join up afterward, is how every large company I’ve worked at has done things. It’s insane.

      0
    • 41

      I’m sending you my resumé! ;)

      If it was all a horror show, we would not continue doing what we love. As Crys point out, it is rampant, mostly in larger firms and mega-corporations…but sometimes that also provides a bigger cushion. At Warner Bros., we went into the conference room, every department gave their report, we all did our things and went back at the end of the week. If you were behind, every department head was there to hear it. There was no design-by-committee because everyone would be open to it with their own reports.

      Sure, people would filter into the art room later to air their change ideas, but those where easy to wave off as, and it’s a big point in this article, why make changes if someone is lower on the corporate ladder and they are not valid points (always listen first and then judge and execute)? To be “nice?”

      Every firm has it’s own dynamics depending on the people above and below you.

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  11. 42

    I could’ve sure used these pointers about…erm..3 years ago :) Very well written article, Speider, and painfully true. The corporate world is definitely a fickle little bitc…..

    0
    • 43

      Thanks, Radu! If you noticed how long this article is, you’ll know it took three years to write.
      ;)

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  12. 44

    Big post. Advance apologies for big reply. Frustratingly expected you to scream: “Marketers are arseholes!!” at any moment. But you didn’t. Um, well done for that.

    I’m not entirely sure whether you were addressing the marketing / creative relationship / conflict or just conflict in the workplace generally. Or, you wanted to address the marketing / creative conflict, but were worried about the possible reaction from marketing types and decided to make it a more generic post towards the end. The irony. Either way, having spent 15 years as a ‘Marketing Professional,’ I can only agree with you and sigh meaningfully at some of your stories of poor behaviour. My own experience of the typical marketer who wants you to make changes – unreasonably – beyond the original brief and is rude to boot, is a complete lack of conviction in their own confidence. A good marketer can sell the first creative treatment to clients, easily. They just need to have confidence in their own ability and in their relationship with the Creative in charge of the treatment.

    Respect is an issue. Marketers (glorified sales people, devil’s little helpers – take your pick) do suffer from the eternal egotistic top-of-the-tree problem. They feel they own the client because they have the relationship with them. This therefore, gives them carte blanche to steam-roller any other business process, creative or otherwise. They suffer from hideous ambition and brashness which nearly always hides deep-seated insecurities of not ‘making it.’ Creatives on the other hand, want to achieve through the process of producing wonderful art and tend not to get the latent marketing ambition. Ironically though, to achieve commercial success, creatives need to understand the market and target audience – at times – better than the marketing dept and this knowledge is frequently abused by marketing.

    I’m happy to say that I’m one of the smart ones who formed my own company, full time copywriting. I couldn’t stand the marketing environment for its rush to get a result at the expense of yep, I’ll say it – humanity. I now work with designers and creative agencies. It’s bliss.

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    • 45

      Yes, there are good and bad — marketing and creative people. It’s not that I shied away from bashing marketing or such, and for a long article, could you imagine the book I could write on the entire dynamics?

      Office politics are a nightmare. In a small firm, everyone knows everything about you. In a big corporation, the rumors and innuendo travel quickly as well. People are people.

      I was hoping to educate people to the fact that as creatives, we are not just the “pretty picture makers” who work for love and not money. I wanted to open eyes to the fact that creatives also have rights and should not help place themselves at the bottom. There are so many trying to do that on a daily basis, why help them by pulling the trigger of the gun they’ve forced to your head?

      Oddly enough, when lines are drawn between humans, as with animals marking their territory, it usually settles into compliance. I like using the wolf/dog pack analogy because it is so close to how humans function (according to sociologists and dog lovers).

      With strong fences, so to speak, we work better as neighbors. A team, rather than individuals out for themselves and spending too much time on office politics and not the office products.

      Thanks for responding. I really enjoy other opinions and insights, as do the readers.

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      • 46

        After spending the majority of my day reading a lot of your posts (“Designers, “Hacks” and Professionalism: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?” being the first of yours I’ve read) – if you wrote a book, I would buy it without a second’s hesitation.

        I love your writing style, and you always have something great to say and fun to read.

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  13. 47

    Absolutely fantastic article.

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  14. 48

    This is what I & I’m now sure many others encounter all the time. I hate they way we are seen as just people who make pretty pictures & thus only need to do as we are told & do it in 5% of the total project time.

    I also hate the way we are told that the Client/Customer(s) wont like it, based on nothing other than a thought in that person’s head of “I know exactly what others are thing all the time. Therefore I know they wont do/read/like/buy this”.

    Shocking!

    Great article.

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    • 49

      Thank you! Unfortunately, if you are a subordinate to the person making the bad decisions, you must do what they want and hope the paycheck is worth the therapy you need down the road. If they make the wrong calls, they will either get the Baby Huey treatment from their boss or the creative department will be held responsible.

      There’s another article in there, about the blame game, I suppose.

      1
    • 50

      Very Corrrect!! I honestly agree with Ash!!

      There are some guys who think they are the best at it & know everything!! But the problem is they can’t do it themselves but feel great amending your designs, destroying the beauty of your work all in the name of the client ( this isn’t professional, this is too heavy, the font is so small, very complicated blah.. blah…)

      My works also suffered a lot due to the marketing guys! But as I was a beginner, I thought they were really doing the right thing & then as time passed by, I soon realized that some of them tell me to “remove/change this or that, the client wants it” without having a talk with the client. They experiment their own fantasies & ideas with my design!!
      I don’t mean I’m perfect but I’m a professional!!
      I do work to earn my bread but when I’m into it, I’m into it ! I love creating things!!

      An eye-opening article for me indeed!!

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  15. 51

    Good to see an article on the realities of Office / Work Politics. You’re right in saying that a lot of these confrontations are down to territorialism and alpha-male showdowns, and not necessarily the design / wireframe / strategy itself.

    Learning how to deal with these situations professionally and competently while standing your ground and getting positive results and happy clients – is what separates the men from the boys.

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    • 52

      Let’s not be sexist! ;) Women from the girls, too (that didn’t sound right).

      Either learn to deal with it or be a victim of it. Office politics are almost everywhere. If it’s not at your workplace, stay forever!

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  16. 53

    The issues I’ve had are based around me being a weird hybrid – doing HTML, web design, web copywriting, social media stuff and SEO, rather than just one thing. Unfortunately I’ve worked in marketing departments where the people who made the decisions were either completely clueless about the internet (and not willing to listen) or thought they knew everything. Either way, some terrible decisions were made (delete a Google Adwords account with 8 yrs of good history? remove the search engine from the ecommerce website? sure, let’s do it! etc etc) which I had no control/influence over. These people are usually great in other areas, but unwilling to listen or accept any advice, or explain any reasoning they have (because there isn’t any), or just saying flat out ‘No’ for no reason, just like in your example above. Mostly I’ve found that these people are out solely for their own gain/convenience rather than thinking about the company.

    It’s incredibly frustrating, because these companies always have separate teams with no one person looking at it from all angles, and no one ever looks at the bigger picture until the project is finished, decisions have been made, etc.

    Thankfully I now have a job where there’s a small team making intelligent decisions and it’s really easy for me to put my ideas across and learn new things, rather than spending my time having to think about how to put my views across politely or wasting time with pointless/damaging activities.

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  17. 54

    As expected a “smashing” post.
    Wish all would read this to get an idea of what they think about creative.

    ” Drink the blood of the creative and you will be able to create bigger logos ”
    I like it ;)

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  18. 55

    These reality make me laugh and cry at the same time.

    Laugh when i got time to and cry when it *ucks up with my personnal work to organize a “you put us in that situation so at least help me/us resolve it by not being so LAZY” meeting

    The million dollar guess is : what side of the fence am I ?

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    • 56

      Sounds like you’re under the fence. Think about it this way; would HR rules encourage someone being belittled in a meeting or called “lazy?” Would the people saying these things say the same thing to a stranger or a family member? Why should you, as an employee be expected to take such abuse?

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  19. 57

    Great article!
    Would love to see more of these.

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  20. 61

    Great article, could have been written from my own experiences.

    As designers, what we do looks easy from the outside; so, everyone thinks they can do it (I’ve stood next to one of our marketing department as she explained to the client that our work looked so good because of the computers we use — nothing to do with years of training and a good eye!)

    Often marketeers – particularly juniors/admin types – stumble into the industry, while designers have spent years studying, paying their dues and yearning to be in that role. Is it any wonder designers explode when told how to do their job by someone who was a waiter three months prior?

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    • 62

      Hey, that’s not fair. Marketing takes study too. (I have the student loans to prove it.) It’s an us vs. them attitude that puts people on the defensive from the get-go. Let’s put our dukes down and try to work together. I’ve worked with great designers who give me options, who ask penetrating questions that go beyond the brief. And I’ve worked with thoughtless designers who do only what is in the brief and nothing more and can’t take any feedback without crying (literally). But I try not to let that color my interactions with every new designer or team I work with. Hopefully we all want the same thing, success.

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      • 63

        Good for you! The less ego involved the better for the team. And yes, there are creatives who are trying on one’s nerves. I’ve had to fire many of them.

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    • 64

      @Gary Aston: that’s one of the things that facilitates a “GRRRR!!!” moment for me, when non-creative people take charge and give/force their insights/ideas on things they have no knowledge of, which in the end belittles the creatives’ skills, talents and experiences.

      @summerbl4ck: no offense meant. i guess gary, myself and many other creative folks are speaking from experience. my thanks to you for being understanding and i guess a good marketing folk to work with. :)

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  21. 65
  22. 67

    Good article, but as a marketing man I have a consideration. The war is not between marketing dpt and creatives, but is between the amateurs and the good-workers. The “Baby Huey” was an assh*le because he was a “lower-level” professional, with low experience in real market business. As said, the departments must work together, one helping another, and so the jobs go on.

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    • 68

      As with my conclusion. Why spend so much time and energy on power plays? Because that’s all some people have. No talent but the ability to create smoke and mirrors.

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    • 69

      agree henrique

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  23. 70

    I’m surprised there is no mention of marketing treating creative like IT just because we’re “good with computers.” I can’t even tell you how many times I had to do minor hardware upgrades and clean off grossly infected harddrives at my last gig, where I was a web dev. Then “hey, why isn’t the site done?”

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    • 71

      That happens to everyone who knows how to turn on a computer. Ever been called by a friend or neighbor whose computer is down and they want you to fix it because you “work with computers?”

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      • 72

        At my first job, as a temp, I had a boss who was still learning how to use Microsoft Word (he’d been using WordPerfect) and would call me in to help him. One day he yelled from the other room “Nicooooole the words as disappearing when I type!”

        I walked in, pressed the Insert key, and said “It’s fixed” as I walked out the door. So satisfying.

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  24. 73

    The subtitle of this article is confusing. Yin and yang each contain the seed of the other; i.e., they’re inseperable. Oil and water do not mix. “Yin and yang” and “oil and water” are different ways to conceptualize the relationship between two entities, but the way they’re presented in the subtitle implies that they’re the same. “Yin And Yang, Or Oil And Water?” would have been a more accurate subtitle, and perhaps would have suggested a different way to write the piece. (Then again, the “vs.” in the title implies oil and water rather than yin and yang, so maybe yin and yang should have been dropped altogether.)

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    • 74

      Yes, perhaps too western of a usage, and I apologize if it caused any offense. I was using it as a metaphor for the constant “struggle” (although Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions as superficial labels, preferring to focus on the idea of balance. The idea that yin and yang has a moral dimension originated in the Confucian school, most notably Dong Zhongshu).

      I had hoped it was the dimensions of yin and yang, including the “seeds” are the metaphor that we, although in different departments are tied together, working towards the same goal. Office politics may be seen as the balance of yin and yang being fought by one side of the equation. Oil and water, as you pointed out, is different and further apart, never to balance. The third, creative and marketing was meant as a progression from balance to a total free-for-all.

      Perhaps not a title by Hemingway, but it’s published and too late to change. I appreciate your post. Educational and I will be avoiding such symbols in the future. Thanks!

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      • 75

        You are a gentleman and a scholar, sir.

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      • 78

        I am going to eat a chicken Wing and abuse my Wang* Then cover both in Oil and Water!

        * Dont look so aghast, Wang is my short Asian intern! (Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s a real prick!)

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  25. 80

    Amen. But be wary, this kind of behavior does not come exclusively from marketing, and does not target creatives alone.

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  26. 82

    Great article! I think the discussion is valid not only to arts and marketing, but all the creative and non-creative teams… like development and sales… sometimes it even looks like they’re different companies.

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  27. 83

    I really enjoyed reading such a candid and opinionated article/rant…nice work! Maybe for your next post you can share some to personal insight into the relationship between the creative and sales teams?

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    • 84

      Just remove the word “marketing” and substitute “sales”…or “account managers” or “janitorial staff.”

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  28. 85

    Hunter S. Thompson warbles on about office politics… interesting, I suppose.

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  29. 87

    Katrina Miller Fallick

    July 20, 2010 5:49 am

    I’ve worked in design, AND marketing for about 13 years and I find this to be…off. Yes when I was fresh out of school I had some of the difficulties described, but I’ve come to see working well with others, both marketing, the client, as the mark of a true professional.

    Sometimes your “brilliant fresh creative” IS off brand. Sometimes (always) what the client wants IS the right thing. True, they may no know how to ask for it, or what it’s called, but it’s our job to explain that making something bold doesn’t equal making it stand out, etc.

    I’m way more frustrated at all the “clever” creative that is off brand, and off target, that I see being pushed onto clients by “designers” who think WAY to highly of them selves.

    That, and the attitudes represented in this piece seem to be much more closer to those of my interns, than of the creative directors I’ve worked with.

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    • 88

      Just as well you see ‘working well with others’ as the ‘mark of a true professional,’ because your writing is dreadful. Tsk. Experienced, mature clients buy good creative because they need to be guided. Not because what they want is always right. Surely. Otherwise they’d be creatives.

      Excuse the rant, but it takes one ex-marketer to stand up to another. You won’t get this from a creative. They’re too nice.

      All the best.

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      • 89

        The client is right because they are paying for it–not because they are “right” in the absolute sense of the word. And that’s a pretty arrogant statement that people come to a designer to be guided. Your client is not a sheep. if you can’t convince them that your clever design is worth trying, then it’s not worth it. Clients often have good financial reasons to be risk-averse. It’s not their job to be your guinea pig for creative experiments.

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        • 90

          It’s a bit too far to say, “creative experiments.” Let me put it this way, do people tell plumbers how to run pipes? They trust that the plumber knows his/her job and will do it right for maximum water flow and/or flushing.

          Do I try to show the client the best solution? Of course! That’s my job. If they want the wrong direction, I will advise them so. If that’s what they want, that’s what they get and I walk away knowing that when it doesn’t perform as well as it could, the client/company will lay the blame at my feet. It’s one thing for a freelance client, knowing they won’t be a repeat client but it’s another thing when you are relegated to the role of “village idiot” by your coworkers.

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          • 91

            By creative experiments I mean, the creative teams I’ve worked with who delivered products without logos and then tried to argue that the negative space looked better or who designed a catalog for our middle-aged+ audience with thumbnails so small that my 20 yo eyes could hardly see them. And then when I push back, I get “if you haven’t tried it, how do you know it won’t work?” I’m all for testing but let’s be reasonable. “Trust” that as a marketer I do know something, or that your radical design just isn’t a creative direction I’m willing to go in–or spend my (these days) minuscule budget on.

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          • 92

            Then clearly you hired a bad plumber, Snowball. That would explain the very poor graphic design choices they made. It may have something to do with the ‘minuscule budget’ aspect. Most graphic designers I know that are worth their salt charge the going rate or more.

            So yes, get someone who knows their stuff in the industry and you SHOULD trust them. Hire amateurs and you get poorly laid pipes!

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          • 93

            Couldn’t have said it any better than Meg did. Now that you have finally identified yourself as a “marketer” and made some telling statements, aside from coming on much too strong in your responses, it sounds as if you would not agree with any of my articles that outline bad clients, broken contracts, low budget and fighting to get paid.

            This article doesn’t really address creative and marketing as opposing magnetic forces; it is meant to show the most common form of office politics and how creatives, usually the target for low person on the totem pole, can protect themselves as employees and not abuse objects.

            Can creatives and marketing work together to create greatness? Of course! It was the last paragraph of the article. I can’t blame you if you didn’t make it that far in a 3,700 word article, but at what point did you stop reading and make this comment? So many people saw the same problem and told anecdotes of their own experiences, SB2 and still you feel an anger and resentment towards creatives.

            As this is an international site and many people are using English as a second language to reply (and you have my heartfelt kudos for writing English better than I), I won’t assume you are American and that the words you have used here are how you communicate a creative brief to your “bad” designers. BUT if you are and that is your level of communication, then you need to work on that communication. Perhaps the designers aren’t getting enough information from you to meet your mind’s expectations? Are they getting the demographic information?

            Just yesterday I had to pry demographic information out of a new client. When I started naming marketing avenues with the same demographics, he had no idea these avenues had the same demographic. See what good communication can bring to the table?

            As I tell creatives, SB2, try listening and try discussing and work as a team and not as the wall protecting vital secret information or the funnel of taste.

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    • 94

      ‘Experienced, mature clients buy good creative because they need to be guided. Not because what they want is always right. Surely. Otherwise they’d be creatives.’

      Not necessarily, many clients hire the ‘good creative’ because they say they don’t have the time to do it themselves. These are often the people that think simply owning a copy of Photoshop Elements means they can create the digital equivalent of the Mona Lisa without effort – they simply ‘haven’t had the time’ to try out the program which is why they haven’t done it.

      It’s rarely the designer who gets the last say. Even when something is literally impossible, the client gets angry and immediately says that they will go to someone else.

      More often than not, the client who has been immersed in the brand/brands, customers, sales etc will know what works and what attracts their particular clientele better than a designer, particularly a freelancer.

      Have you ever seen http://clientsfromhell.net ?

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      • 95

        The clients you’re speaking of Jenni aren’t the same clients Kate was speaking of. Kate was talking about ‘Experienced, mature clients’ and you were talking about ‘clients from hell’ ;)

        So I believe her original point still stands because sadly not every client is ‘Experienced and mature’

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    • 96

      I am a creative and I will stand up to you.

      And I fully agree with Kate:
      “Experienced, mature clients buy good creative because they need to be guided. Not because what they want is always right. Surely. Otherwise they’d be creatives.”

      That is the SOLE reason we (creatives) have 4 YEAR degrees. Otherwise, anyone with Youtube or Lynda.com subscriptions can learn how to use the programs, and then they just become a tool, a pixel pusher.

      Also, I would like to point out that this part of your comment: “‘designers’ who think WAY to highly of them selves.” – speaks VOLUMES about what you really think of creatives, and what is hidden behind your oh-so-nice comment.

      However, I would like to end this reply by saying I am appreciative and happy you work well with fellow creatives in your workplace. At least that is a comfort.

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  30. 97

    Chris Lorensson

    July 20, 2010 5:51 am

    nice to see some heartfelt opinions on the blog-o-tron, keep ’em coming SM!

    (And BTW, we feel your pain dude!)

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  31. 99

    Two words: Creative Strategy. Make sure you have one before you begin any project. Ideally the account and creative people work on this together, have the client review and agree with it BEFORE any creative work begins. This gives you a document to work from and go back to should things go off track when presenting the creative. I create these strategies myself when I don’t have an account person to work with, it just makes life easier.

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  32. 101

    Interesting enough article but the cute little personal crack about the appearance of the person who crossed swords with Mr. Schneider, “The most infuriating thing was that this over-sized man with a cherubic face, looked like Baby Huey from the old Harvey Comics. Sounded a bit like him, too. It was hard to speak with him without laughing. As his new nickname circulated through several departments, a contest started among the staff to try to deal with Baby Huey without laughing.” just sounds petulant and small on his part.

    0
    • 102

      Yes, I suppose but there were so many incidents with BH. You earn a nickname either through some horrid mistake or tease or it’s badge of honor.

      Trust me, the entire company wouldn’t have used the nickname if he didn’t deserve it.

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      • 103

        Perhaps but no need for you to throw this into the story. Made you sound petty, to my mind

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        • 104

          Does the Bob H stand for Bob Huey, and I touched a nerve with a childhood nickname? I just thought it was a humorous way to illustrate my point but I understand your feelings about it. You are a kind soul, I’m sure.

          I have to admit that when I was younger and thrust into one of the biggest corporations in the world (and my mistakes, which were quite a few, are lessons for all of us), I was dumbfounded by the cruelty I witnessed. It was like an elementary school playground. As can happen, I fell into it. I did cruel things to people. I’d like to think they deserved it and although memory doesn’t serve well of those times, I’m confident they did.

          Still, it was a lesson in humility and I can stand here and say I haven’t given anyone a nickname, except my kids, in over a decade. As for Baby Huey and his whereabouts today — he’s not on any of the big business sites and the people I keep in my network from that job haven’t heard from him. Another victim of business Darwinism.

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  33. 105

    Awesome article. Spot on. So relieved to hear our creative department isn’t the only one going through this eternal struggle :)

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  34. 106

    This article was DEAD ON to the very first design job / experience I’ve ever had. I kid you not. Before I was even out of college for design, I took their job with a year left in school, and was murderously beaten over the head with the marketing and sales executives, which in turn made me angry immediately at anyone who even related themselves to marketing in ANY fashion whatsoever.

    They even let me go in the most unprofessional manner known to man because I wouldn’t just be their “tool.”

    Not a good experience for someone who isn’t even finished with their degree and looking to make a fresh entrance into the industry…but LUCKILY, and thankfully, I buried my anxiety issues over their months of torture, and was hired by the most amazing company in the world. Today, I love our marketing people. Hell, I love all of our people. Everyone and everything is so well managed and taken care of…it’s the dream job of a lifetime. And I am thankful to have it.

    In summary, I would like to say I am thankful for your article because until this very moment I was still secretly frightened it was all my fault for trying to protect client interests, for standing up for my work, for being “difficult.” But now i know I’m not the only one out there who was beaten with the “do it until it looks right” stick.

    Thanks again!

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  35. 108

    This sounds a bit bitter, and I have to say, I’m glad not to have worked in any of the places you have. It *is* important to stand up for your expertise, but you also need to do it in a non-confrontational way. Constant chest-butting like a couple of drunks on a Saturday night won’t get you anywhere in the long run. If you treat work like a war, you’ll be shot as often as your ‘enemies’.

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  36. 109

    Who ever came up with the idea to try and separate these two things is a moron. You can’t design if you don’t have strong grasp of marketing, and you can’t market if you don’t have a strong grasp of design, they are on in the same.

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    • 110

      I’m in danger of monopolising this post. Delete me if I’m boring but, Alan, the marketing and design disciplines are technically very different. I spent three years learning about the marketing mix, pricing strategies, research etc etc (snore) which are elements that don’t get covered in such excrutiating depth at design school. They are certainly complimentary, but definitely separate. It just takes enlightened marketers and creatives to accept the similarity in the purpose of their roles, not the function of them (and no, I’m not being virtuous, I left the industry a while ago). I have a grasp of design (and a love of it), but my personal technique never progressed much beyond finger-painting.

      I think the conflict in this post – or another avenue to explore perhaps – is how creatives and marketers behave when working at the behest of very large clients / employers or in the commercial world generally. Because if we were all left to do our jobs in another world where capitalism wasn’t King, or where design and marketing services were always independent, I think we’d all get along just fine. But this really is off brief now.

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      • 111

        Patrick, It’s about the ideal of a team working together as one and not a battle of individuals trying to set themselves above others through intimidation. If someone tries to make me voluntarily lower myself below my hired position, I will be “confrontational.” Some might call it asserting one’s rights.

        Creative and marketing are the mother and father to the product they conceive. Working together raises a wonderful adult. Fighting and struggling only creates a switchblade carrying juvenile delinquent.

        I always welcome opposing opinions because we all learn from other thoughts. Would you mind expanding on your post and tell us what your position is at your firm and with what department?

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        • 112

          I’m freelance now, but in my last job, I was the designer and developer in a small marketing department. I was lucky enough that the marketing people respected my expertise and I respected theirs. I know that’s not always the case. I’ve worked in other (non-design) contexts where I’ve experienced exactly the confrontational people in other roles you refer to.

          I agree entirely with your comment here. I read your original article slightly differently, but I think we are essentially on the same page.

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          • 113

            Great! Thanks for reading. Some really controversial stuff coming up in the future.

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  37. 114

    I’m the sole full-time designer/creative (web and print) in my company’s marketing department. I cannot tell you how much this resounds with me.

    Thank you for writing this, very good post with some very helpful advice.

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    • 115

      @Josh – I feel your pain… why is it that Marketing think/feel it’s their job to Art Direct you??? That you’re the monkey and they are the organ grinder… “Just push the buttons monkey!” “Make red, no green, no lighter green, move it left, a bit more…” Grrrrr.

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  38. 116

    Hey! Stop following me around work! ;)

    I think Alan above is spot on. The biggest problem that divides the two types of department is that to really be effective at either you have to at least have a basic understanding of both… only no one ever explained that to either side while they were learning so unless you happen into it you just don’t figure it out. Nothing is more disheartening than to go into a marketing meeting and explain the viewer reaction to dissonant inconsistencies and brand identity and have everyone stare at you blankly and then ignore you, or to go into a design meeting talking about the primary demographic of the user/viewer and have everyone look at you like you grew a second head.

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  39. 117

    Now this is an article!! Well written!!

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  40. 118

    Wow, this is exactly how it goes in the workplace. I have to say I may have things a little harder… the marketing person is the wife of the person I report to.

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  41. 120

    My ADD kicked in right about when you insulted the “lower-level” marketing guy’s appearance.

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    • 121

      I felt same thing…to me that took away from the entire article.

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      • 122

        Did you come back?

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        • 123

          and you are a sensitive soul, perhaps? I was curious to see what other people thought about the little petulant sidenote. Business is full of travails, etc etc etc on and on..perhaps a little perspective would temper this talk a bit.

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          • 124

            I thought it was indicative of all the whiny ,assholeish behaviour attributed to ‘creatives’ who all look like the sleek slim “Mac Guys” and who talk to no one in particular (as their wrongly held MEphones have dropped their call long ago (not due to antennae issues, but how much bullshit can a finely tuned electronic device take?)

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          • 125

            Steve — is it medication time?

            By the way, you never did mention what your role is in our industry. If you’re getting to be this much of a fan of mine (will anyone with the screen name “Steve” please us a number or initial so I can tell if one Steve is wigging out or there are four Steves), we really should know more about each other.

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          • 126

            the Artist formerly known as “Steve”

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          • 127

            Ah, good; 42 — the answer to everything.

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    • 128

      tell me, honestly, haven’t any of you guys have that BH experience? haven’t you given a nickname or 2 to anyone just to vent out?

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  42. 130

    such an entertaining article to read! Thanks so much!
    doesn’t make me feel as bad now when i have to flex a little muscle in the revision process :)

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  43. 131

    Great article based on experiences—written by a true creative. It’s good to hear the reinforcement that it’s not just that creatives are less understood and more that people are all just fighting to be the alpha dog. Great insight for creatives to better understand and deal with the corporate climate

    I have been told I’m not a yes man and many of the other labels the author mentioned. When was having a brain such a bad thing? I also had someone refer to creative and strategy as the beauty and the brains-they must have gotten that from someone else’s idea of putting people into nice neat little boxes (Mad Men maybe-never watched it I was too busy working).

    Fact is that I am just not good at office politics-I know it’s one of my flaws. But I’d rather spend that 75% of my day creating meaningful solutions that I can be proud to say I had a part or helped inspire in others.

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  44. 132

    This whole article is my everyday! Glad I’m not the only one. I am one of four guys in the creative “department” for the marketing “team” (of which there is no creative director). For me, it’s very very rare if we ever get deadlines on anything we do… until the day before it’s needed. Then it’s magically the designers fault if it’s not ready on time.

    Great article!

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  45. 133

    It reflects my experience. Very nice article.

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  46. 134

    interesting write up. :) thanks

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  47. 135

    As someone who is losing that war, this was an incredibly helpful article to read…knowing that I’m not the only creative out there who struggles with this sort of thing. However, it’s hard to find a way to fight back when one of those squeeky wheels wants you out. Thanks for writing this article. It will help me hold my head up during my remaining time here.

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    • 136

      All is not lost if you have been pushed into a corner. You can take baby steps to regain some sort of control over your own job function. It takes longer than laying down the law right off the bat, but it is possible. Sometimes it’s just easier to move on and take the lessons learned.

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  48. 137

    Oh man! Hit it right on the head. I especially like this

    “I thought marketing’s responsibility was to figure out the target audience, their habits, income and so on and how to best reach them through media and other advertising venues — not how blue or green the product should be? Silly me! Maybe it’s a marketing secret that can’t be shared with creative. They’re spies for… something.”

    We’re still trying to figure out how to get marketing to do some proper research. It seems to be an afterthought of theirs… which is crippling our media and branding efforts. There are a lot of marketing ‘jokers’ out there and few truly great ones. They are very easy to spot, just by their level of insecurity alone. Are they confident and show mutual respect toward peers? Or are they compensating for their lack of competency by disrespecting others?

    Word to all marketing professionals :: It only takes a few minutes for creatives to realize if you are just collecting a paycheck, or if you respect yourself enough to do something with your career.

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    • 138

      “It only takes a few minutes for creatives to realize if you are just collecting a paycheck, or if you respect yourself enough to do something with your career.”

      Well said. Our “marketing” department is run by one of these paycheck collectors and it literally took me less than one day to figure this out. I have no idea how this person keeps their job, and it pains me to see millions of dollars and opportunities lost as this person scampers around the office, making sure everyone knows “that’s exactly what I was thinking.”

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  49. 139

    I can’t believe this is meant to be a serious article, I expected to read the comments with everyone laughing.

    Sure, office politics are a reality, but the pent-up bitterness and ego issues! Overcompensating for feeling like the little guy and seeming to be proud of the tough persona you’ve invented. Surely we designers are better than this.

    Any competent person can deal with the majority of situations without resorting to intimidation or the underhanded tricks the article seems to recommend.

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    • 140

      Thank you Richard, I had the exact same reaction to this article. I’m shocked at the number of people who see this as “spot on”. There’s just too much bitterness here to take it seriously. Yes, I’ve encountered many difficulties working with marketing in my 10 years as a designer, but over time I’ve figured out how best to handle these situations while maintaining civility and creative integrity. Then again I made a decision early on in my career that I wouldn’t work for companies unwilling to respect both me and my time, maybe that’s the difference.

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      • 141

        @Kevin “Then again I made a decision early on in my career that I wouldn’t work for companies unwilling to respect both me and my time, maybe that’s the difference.”

        And you couldn’t have said it any clearer. I do believe the economy is also playing a huge role in the bitterness. Many in this field are overworked and under-appreciated which is causing a rift between all-levels.

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      • 142

        @Richard: if you are one of the many who can relate to this article, then you would see how “serious” this is, even if it was meant to be or not. you can laugh about it and even chuck it up to some “bad experience that you wold forget to ‘fit-in'” or you could choose to BELIEVE in yourself as you call yourself a designer.

        designers are people to and we have the right to feel slighted when we are. who are you to say how another designer or another person should feel about an issue you yourself have not experienced? that is how people feel, that is how designers feel/felt. if they vent through this article, who are you to say that they “Overcompensating for feeling like the little guy and seeming to be proud of the tough persona you’ve invented.”

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    • 143

      “Seems” being the keyword. They are not tricks or underhanded — they are positive approaches to the problem. But, if everyone agreed with me, it would be suspect that the zombie apocalypse had begun.

      You are, fortunately, not in the majority and there was little laughing. I do welcome (and thrive on) opposing opinions. Would you expand on what your experiences are as a creative? How many people are in your office, is there design by committee, office politics or power struggles? If not (and not every office suffers this) then how does your firm operate?

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  50. 144

    Let me sum up the article:

    Marketing people are mean (unless they’re some of ‘lucky few’ that I don’t hate). Your only strategy for dealing with them has nothing to do with learning about customers, customer needs, the target market, your employer’s business or strategy–instead make sure you browbeat anyone who disagrees with you by saying things like, “Why don’t you think I’m competent enough to do my job?!!”

    This will in turn make you the alpha dog. In so doing, you won’t have to talk to mean people. Or little people who aren’t as cool as you.

    Then you can spend all your time deciding what color things should be. Because that’s your goal as a designer, to be as creative as possible with little to no regard to your coworkers, employees or the business you work for.

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    • 145

      I was hoping the moral of the story is that creatives, as with any employee must see the end product and sometimes that means fighting office politics for the betterment not only of the product but to be happy and engaged in the work and the company itself.

      The conclusion I hoped got through was that it is possible for a team comprised of people who should and can work in harmony (Yin and Yang) to come up with a great solution and not step on each other’s toes (oil and water) so it doesn’t become creative vs. marketing. It’s counter productive.

      Would you mind keeping the discussion going by telling us your position at your company and why you believe “spend all your time deciding what color things should be. Because that’s your goal as a designer, to be as creative as possible with little to no regard to your coworkers, employees or the business you work for” is what not only myself, as writer, is trying to bring out in the open, but also the numerous comments acknowledging that it exists and is counterproductive?

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    • 146

      “Then you can spend all your time deciding what color things should be. Because that’s your goal as a designer, to be as creative as possible with little to no regard to your coworkers, employees or the business you work for.”

      Design should be influenced by the goals of the project and the needs of the end user, not by the ego of coworkers and employees. Thats what I got from the article.

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      • 147

        Exactly! Thank you for actually reading the entire thing. I wonder how many people just read for three or four minutes and clicked on another link or got angry and pounded out a reply?

        Thanks for the reply, too!

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