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

    Mimojito (aka Efren)

    July 20, 2010 11:51 am

    Speechless. Hits the topic straight on the head and keep smashing away until there is nothing left but a pulpy mess. L-O-V-E it!!!!

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  2. 52

    I subscribe to the SM RSS feed and I don’t normally fell the need to respond but this was a great article; so many valid points and unfortunately valid issues within the workplace, a lot to take from this and put into practise.

    Thanks!

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  3. 154

    you have written a piece of pure genius. wholesome, sincere and brutally honest. you brought some negative points to the plate and ended it with a positive polish. I’m inspired not only by your philosophy on modern-day work-ethic, but your writing style as well. many. many. thanks.

    8D

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    • 205

      Thank you but I’ve just accepted an offer for a marketing position (came in several hours after this article went live) and I need you to change all the “Ts’ in your response to “Ws” and end each sentence with the word “penguin.”

      Now get me some coffee while we continue the creative meeting without you.
      (Kidding!)

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      • 256

        Sadly, that’s actually happened to me. The bit about the coffee. “Hey, can you run down to Starbucks while we have this meeting on the user interface you just designed?”

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  4. 307

    This article truly hits home. It seems that breeding from bad gene pools is happening far too much. I’m of the mindset that if you want things done right the first time then you probably should find another planet or species to work with.

    The biggest failure I see is that each rung of the ladder can’t do their own jobs while working towards the same goal. Typically power-hungry, alpha dog executives dictate not by what the market wants but what they themselves want out of it. Then the creative team of designers and/or programmers can’t do what they do best without the interjection of creative-minded, the almighty and wise executive (who I guess will be purchasing or using the product that is produced).

    The pay doesn’t heal the pain anymore.

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  5. 358

    I am dissappoint.

    July 20, 2010 1:37 pm

    [Offtopic: by the way, did you know that Smashing Magazine has one of the most influential and popular Twitter accounts? Join our discussions and get updates about useful tools and resources — follow us on Twitter!]

    Really smashing?

    0
    • 409

      All I know is I awoke this morning to this article being published and it had 509,000 reposts (300,000 more than the RSS feed). Really!

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  6. 460

    <3 this article

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  7. 511

    Great article! Really hits home. I remember the one time I almost got fired over refusing to listen to a still-in-college marketing manager and put a big, flowing ribbon graphic on the cover of a male-targeted publication.

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  8. 562

    So many of scenarios mentioned above are so universal and common. I was a new hire in this ad agency and I played nice until I found others were pushing too much. I organized a little meeting with my art director and the marketing rep, explained my concerns in a calm manner and sent the marketing rep to spank.

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    • 613

      It’s hard to get people to step back so be very proud of yourself. Now, once bitten, twice shy for next time?

      0
  9. 664

    Very interesting discussion. I am a bit of everything: a marketing-guy, sales person, designer and IT as I am responsible for an online shop, where you have to bring all those worlds together. I think that designers/creatives feel the need to invent something, do something different, because the same as before is very boring. Right? Marketing-Guys feel like they have to prevent change, but often have no clue why the style guide is as it is. But they know for sure, that there have to be rules. Sales people don´t care, they know that good design may help a lot, but can´t believe that its that important. The IT department doesn´t care if its #00000000 or #99999999 – it only has to work. Too simple?

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    • 715

      I will be the first to admit that there are creatives that do see the design over the message but I truly love to present an innovative solution and hope it will pass in some intact form or another. To the other end, we can take our cues from advertising and Hollywood; how many remakes will they produce? Is doing what was successful with a different company successful but safe? Are we in a recession because creative thought and innovation has been ignored for so long and evident in the auto manufacturers and other corporations now declaring “creative solutions” (many articles on mainstream media about creative thinking solutions being sought by corporations) are the key to success but still quashed by middle managers set on the status quo and that weekly paycheck.

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      • 766

        “Are we in a recession because creative thought and innovation has been ignored for so long…”

        No.

        We are in a recession because there was no regulatory oversight (the appropriate laws already existed) and laws that WERE in place were repealed.

        three words. CREDIT DEFAULT SWAPS

        All risk has to be insured.
        Logically to laymen like you and me, that means if I borrow 1,000 I have something of VALUE to provide in case I cant fork up the 1,000 (aka Collateral)
        But what if instead of HARD CASH or Physical collateral like a car, I had an INSURANCE POLICY i.e. from Geico that ‘covered’ the 1,000 debt?

        So far so good!

        Now, on this insurance policy, I pay premiums – as with all premiums, they go into a pool, a portion of that pool pays for any loss events.

        But what if, instead of paying into the pool, I fking spent it!!???
        What if our ENTIRE FKING FINANCIAL SYSTEM WAS BUILT ON INSURED RISK *THAT WAS NOT INSURED*??/

        THAT young man, was the seed of our recession, not “subprime mortgages” not NINJA loans ( No INcome Jobs nor Assets) but simple speculative and ultimately excessive over leveraging, a collapse of a house of cards.

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  10. 868

    Sergei Tatarinov

    July 20, 2010 4:41 pm

    Brittany July 20th, 2010 4:43 am
    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?”

    That’s exactly why I decided to leave the office work behind and become a freelancer. Happy ever since.

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    • 919

      This is so true. I’ve even been asked to fix photocopiers because “I know about technical stuff”… (As it happens, I can fix photocopiers sometimes, but only because anyone but a retard can open up the machine and pull out jammed paper.)

      0
    • 970

      @patrick: agree! as with most digital photocopiers used these days in offices, if there is a malfunction, the screen shows you the cause of it and in some cases, how to fix it.

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  11. 1225

    Taylor Van Sickle

    July 20, 2010 6:31 pm

    Stop whining dude.

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    • 1276

      And leave show business?

      0
    • 1327

      @Taylor Van Sickle: if you see it as whining, it would sound like whining. but if you read between the lines and see the anecdote as they are, something that really happened, you’d see the point of this article.

      0
      • 1378

        no, actually if it sounds like whining …it is!

        (listen)

        even if it sounds like I just farted, you really cant tell that…

        oh

        wait.

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  12. 1429

    Great article, thanks.

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  13. 1480

    this is awesome! thanks
    most of the time it feels like i might as well not be at work… it will make no difference. they’ll just change the colors to what suits them & design everything in microsoft WORD. sigh

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    • 1531

      “most of the time it feels like i might as well not be at work… it will make no difference. they’ll just change the colors to what suits them & design everything in microsoft WORD. ”

      I agree.
      Legally, you are not entitled to that salary you now spend.

      To ease your moral dilema (as if “creatives” had morals!) just donate your money to the Steve Jobs Fan Club!

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  14. 1633

    Thanks for this article. Good reading :) and many great tips.

    Creative Ideas that Sell – cruzine.com/2010/07/01/creative-ideas-sell/

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  15. 1684

    Bartosz Oczujda

    July 21, 2010 12:14 am

    The thing is, people should treat one another with respect. I don’t care who you are, a marketer or a designer, treat my work with respect and I’ll do the same.

    Things you are pointing out in this article arise mostly from lack of communication and understanding.

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    • 1735

      And, as you pointed out, respect! Our socialization skills are getting very twisted. But would society go on if the majority of people were rotten? It’s a joy to find work with people you enjoy and grow to love and respect. Actually, despite “Baby Huey,” that place was my favorite place to work.

      0
    • 1786

      respect is what we need.

      i.e. the reactors in this comment thread, instead of antagonizing the article and the writer, respect that it did happen to him (and to many others) and that he has the right to feel as he feels.

      0
  16. 1888

    That was an absolutely fantastic read, great insights too. It’s great to read up about your experiences.

    Even though a lot of it is obvious (and should be obvious) sometimes you need that reminder, or rather to hear it from someone else again for it to sink in.

    Just awesome. Would love to see more articles from you in the future!

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    • 1939

      There will be. If you haven’t seen my other posts, just click on my name link at the top of the story (273 feet above this comment).

      Thanks!

      0
  17. 1990

    This article doesn’t just relate to big companies… The whole article is my company I’m at right now! I now understand what is really going on. Time to reshape my CV me thinks…

    Thanks Speider for such an honest and in-depth article.

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  18. 2041

    PAINFULLY PAINFULLY true. Can relater to this post 100%

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  19. 2092

    Thanks, Rich! Unfortunately, I have worked for several really big corporations. The operating method in place cannot be fought, but it can be a little more comfortable. Within tighter confines, such as a corporation with very heavy rules, some people try to stretch out a bit.

    Small companies, well, there are humans there with wonderful and wacky traits and foibles. It’s just a little closer emotionally and the drama seems bigger.

    Many people point to non-creatives wanting to show their friends or superiors what “they” designed and I’m sure that’s part of it. Designing is fun and that’s why we do it. But the human animal has certain personalities that harbor one or all of the seven deadly sins. Eight if you’ve ever said you love Walmart, out loud.

    When presented with either an opportunity or a need to move on, should we not take a chance? My brother-in-law is a saint. The man has worked for the same company for 30 years and has seen the odd people come and go. Peers and superiors. He put up with a major amount of grief. But slow and steady won the race for him. I haven’t had that patience in my life. So, who is wrong, me or my brother-in-law? Is either of us right?

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  20. 2143

    Nice article! Made me smile on numerous occasions :)

    It’s always a struggle between different departments and standing firm as a designer. Another struggle we can write books about, is the difference between coders and designers :) And in combination with marketing often the way of the lowest costs is chosen, resulting in less-usable applications…But hey, we did it in time and with fewer hours spent! (yeah…the application doesn’t look so pretty as the initial design, it’s hasn’t got all the functionality we wanted, looks a lot like “that other thing the marketing department saw”, is very confusing for users and doesn’t run very smoothly, but we finished it!)

    sigh…..

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  21. 2194

    Great article! Did live many of dose situations, in another type of job, and probably had some bad decisions. Would love to read this article before dose problems appeared, would, without a doubt answered in a different way… well, that’s live.
    Marketing should be next to creativity, and normally is, bat when you have bad professionals working with marketing or the other way around things it the fan. Communication problems, hierarchy problems normally have a bad result, hopefully we have e-mails :).

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  22. 2245

    JohnnyTheMonkey

    July 21, 2010 4:10 am

    Only had time to skim through this article but it’s sounding pretty bitter. still in uni, i hope this isn’t the general outlook of people in the real world design

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    • 2296

      If you can slog through it in one or two readings, I think you’ll find it more of an observation on what is, as attested through so many responses affirming this goes on globally, a bitter situation in the real world.

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  23. 2347

    A good designer also has to knows a lot of marketing. That’s my opinion!

    Have a nice day my friends,

    Stefan

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  24. 2398

    Great post!

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  25. 2449

    Man, that was one looong article but totally worth the read. I’m a freelance developer and I’ve been in the middle of the creative / (marketing or client) battles. Having an interest in UI, I’ve seen some designers come up with some exceptional work only to be browbeaten by the client so that the end result turns out to be less acceptable! Unlike in the scenarios you described, these battles are more to do with ego and ignorance rather than any power plays. But in the end, the end result is that you end up with something that is less than stellar. Thankfully people think coding is magic and tend to leave us nerds alone!

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  26. 2500

    Doing both marketing and creative, I have the following to say:

    1) You will get idiots in any department that you work in.
    2) Whenever your job is execution, there’s going to be all sorts of ridiculous demands made on your output.
    3) Generally marketing and creative are not on the same wavelength and this makes conflict.
    4) There are definitely recurring issues with creatives from marketing’s perspective. I can’t count the times I’ve had beautiful, inspiring creative work done – but it was way off the mark for the target market, the product, or the corporate brand. It’s hard for people to understand “I really love what you’ve done here, but it doesn’t accomplish what we need”.
    5) The creative end is the deliverable product of marketing effort – without marketing research, strategy, and objectives, creative design would be art for art’s sake (which is fine, but not very productive).

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  27. 2551

    Fantastic article. One of the best one’s you guys have ever done. Its going in my reference bookmarks.

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  28. 2602

    Amen!

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  29. 2653

    Q: How many creatives does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?

    Sorry, had to get that in. This post summed up my first three years in the industry, working in-house. After working in a studio for four years I’ll never, ever go back to being an in-house designer, every day was design by committee. I even had to fix a hoover once (I can only assume because it had a wire attached).

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  30. 2704

    I cannot express how tremendously eye opening this article was for me. After having been laid off from a web design company, I was employed as the chief web designer at a magazine. I have been working here for a few months and am constantly being rubbed the wrong way by my boss in regards to design changes. For the longest time I could not understand why I just couldn’t get along with her and after reading your article it has dawned on me. She is marketing and sales, and that is all she cares about. Yet she believes she has the knowledge and experience to dictate design changes that result in a most embarrassing product. I have had difficult clients before but have never dealt with marketing until now. I realized too late that I was not assertive enough and confident enough in my skill in the beginning and now am stuck dealing with the aftermath. Your article has helped me understand what I did wrong and how I should handle it in the future. And now I know that I am not alone in this struggle. Truly, thank you.

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  31. 2755

    Great article! I had an unpleasant conversation with the marketing department just last week, this article reassured me that I did the right thing in standing my ground.

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  32. 2806

    Great article.

    To add, I record EVERYTHING because of what you explained in the article and have for the last few months. The nonsense between marketing, project managers and creatives is tiresome and often makes for unhappy colleagues and stressed out creatives!

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  33. 2857

    wow story of my life. im one of those creatives that don’t do corporate & political speak, and it IS costly on meetings, etc. ive found that the higher the individual on the marketing ladder is, the more ridiculous the request. no, really, i DO NOT want to underline or caps every other word

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  34. 2908

    I read the entire article AND all the comments.
    I believe that it could have benefited from some minor editing (for length) as it seemed to use more time to say simple things that could/should be expressed more succinctly.

    My feeling is however, that this article is the four-legged fish, a step up from primordial ooze amoeba (otherwise known as the “Best Of” List – 20 Chocolate Websites! 40 CSS Templates! – utilizing the internet equivalent of a 4 year college degree, 10 minutes of Google, Screenshots, and cropping with MS Paint.

    no, this was , as I said, a step up.

    The pandering “me too”

    The Dennis Miller like rant in the sinking boat as the creative hands clap and pat backs together, ignoring the bailing bucket (wrong color) or the Oars (we don’t pay for sex, and wouldnt know what to do with it anyway if it were free!), offering the Misery Loves Company “Shared Angst Moment” without any real solutions, directions or clues

    -Kinda like Lifetime ™ Network For Women :)

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    • 2959

      I wish I could tell which Steve is which on these posts.

      I’m not getting the oars and sex analogy but the examples and solutions of holding onto one’s own career power and path seem to be understood by many of those who posted comments. The ever growing number of retweets and reposts on other blogs make me wonder if I should just yell, “no soup for you!”

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      • 3010

        “The Oars and Sex Analogy”

        This caricatures the mincing, limp wristed interior Decorator who sees “Oars” thinks “Whores”

        The ever growing number of retweets and reposts on other blogs make me wonder if I should just yell, “no soup for you!”

        Why have soup, when you can have the Primordial Oooze?
        Indeed, lets dispense with other arbiters of journalistic brilliance, heck – screw the Pulitzer prize, and lets rate all qualitative arguments instead via “page views”, “downloads” and “tweets”

        Hey! I came across this article which I didnt really read, but I understand it shares my worldview AND the fellow has an iPhone too!

        T W E E T!

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  35. 3112

    I read the entire article AND all the comments.
    I believe that it could have benefited from some minor editing (for length) as it seemed to use more time to say simple things that could/should be expressed more succinctly.

    My feeling is however, that this article is the four-legged fish, a step up from primordial ooze amoeba (otherwise known as the “Best Of” List – 20 Chocolate Websites! 40 CSS Templates! – utilizing the internet equivalent of a 4 year college degree, 10 minutes of Google, Screenshots, and cropping with MS Paint.

    no, this was , as I said, a step up.

    The pandering “me too”

    The Dennis Miller like rant in the sinking boat as the creative hands clap and pat backs together, ignoring the bailing bucket (wrong color) or the Oars (we don’t pay for sex, and wouldnt know what to do with it anyway if it were free!), offering the Misery Loves Company “Shared Angst Moment” without any real solutions, directions or clues

    -Kinda like Lifetime ™ Network For Women :) *

    *But instead of women, we have Whiny Bitches*

    *Legal Disclaimer: The two are not the same thing!

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    • 3163

      Glad you had to repost that with the added sentence. That really made for a valid argument.

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  36. 3214

    I wonder if your team member might have shown less animosity towards you if you weren’t mocking him for his physical appearance and calling him names behind his back.

    i.e. “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.”

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    • 3265

      No. He earned the nickname by many, many such incidents although it’s true it was a bash on physical things he couldn’t control. Perhaps he should have been called, “Incompetent Man,” or the like.

      But why are we feeling sorry for him? Does anyone feel sorry that he almost caused thousands of hours of work to be useless because he tried to hide his inability to communicate not only with team members but also the client? If I had followed his instructions to the letter, it would have been the art department picking up the mess with endless hours and overtime (which would come out of MY budget and not marketing’s budget). As it was, the action of cutting and layering took long enough when it didn’t have to be done at all. So I was cruel to him?

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      • 3316

        I take this to mean that the way his voice and physical appearance may not have been the “most” infuriating things about him then? And that his actions and attitude may have been worse? I don’t know him, so I’ll take your word on it that he deserved to be laughed at behind his back and called names. It’s simply my observation that this type of behavior in an office does little to foster a cooperative spirit from anyone. And in an article, while it may be emotionally satisfying to disparage such a person, it often detracts from the more important points you may have wanted to make.

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  37. 3418

    This article is brilliant, i’ve read it twice! It’s great to read an article written by someone that ‘gets’ it! I had dreams of being a graphic designer… but after completing all the courses, gettings the jobs, i’ve become a slave to marketing changes and accountants with opinions… tomorrow is a new day… TIME TO CHANGE!

    Thanks for the inspiration :)

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    • 3469

      Cheers to your success! Borrowing from another article of mine, when my last firm started laying off creatives, I would try to comfort them by saying that with creative talent, there’s so much one can do — almost limitless!

      Personally, I spend most of my time answering these posts and fencing with Steve (above), but after that, I create initiatives for a company. Why wait for them to call? I think of a product line or such and pitch it to them. I just got off the phone with someone I’ve pursued for some time, sending initiatives and I hit it today, along with an offer to write for their regular line. I didn’t do it sitting on my arse, and that’s a big problem for freelancers.

      So find another situation, create that thing you’ve thought about for years or try something new. Above all, be happy with what you do.

      Best of luck!

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  38. 3520

    Wow, that was a very fresh look into the world of a designer. Thanks for the tips

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  39. 3571

    I want all the poster images in hi resolution for printing XD

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  40. 3622

    great article, lots of laughs and sound advice :D

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  41. 3673

    While I appreciate the almost humorous anecdotes, I think it does a disservice.
    If there is a gulf between the two, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to bridge it?

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    • 3724

      Without writing a book, the lessons on protecting your rights as an employee and your position as someone who will must answer for failed initiatives or projects, seem to be seen by almost all responders here.

      Bridge it by asserting your rights, being flexible where you can without compromising your position, job and career and remember the goal of being happy at your work.

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  42. 3775

    Lovely Article !
    Gave me a feeling of “You’re not alone” or “You’re not the only one”.
    I’ve thought about this problem for a while & I think the best solution for me is to increase my communication skills & go on as with the marketing myself!

    I’m glad I’ve a friend who’s a marketing director but respects every views of mine as a designer! I seek that respect & trust on everything & everywhere I work! But, if it had been so, this article wouldn’t be so great!!

    You better act as water to fire Steve (you’re fencing with Steve!! ):>Nice one!)
    He makes the comments panel interesting!! He is either a mastermind or some attention seeker!!

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  43. 3826

    The comments seem to be more interesting than the article .. lolz

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  44. 3877

    Great Article!!
    Experience Speaks wiser than knowledge!! :)
    Makes me realize that I’m not the only one who faces this problem! I’m not alone!
    I’m gonna take my stand & also be flexible to plausible ideas from the sales!!

    what i used to do was either had a fatal combat with the sales team(sometimes with my supervisor as well that nearly got me fired) or a complete surrender! & I was confused!
    I knew I wasn’t perfect but I realized I’m going good with my work!
    I love creating things, beautiful things. Ya I do it for bread but when I start doing it, I’m completely into it! I don’t think about how much am I gonna be paid for the work but how the works gonna be?
    It is really hard when one of your hard work is considered a mess and a mess a you just did excellent!! (that happened to me!)

    But this article truly enlightens me!
    Thanks

    P.S. Best of luck with your fencing with Steve. I really like that man! He adds a spice to the comments ! Either he’s extraordinary or some guy with complex that seeks attention!

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  45. 3979

    So I’m not the only one dealing with this? Group therapy anyone?

    In my web dev/marketing struggles, I’ve done much pondering and stumbled upon the following.

    * Since I know and understand the basic tenets of art and it seems so obvious to me, it took me a while to realize not many people know this seeming obvious stuff – things like symmetry vs. asymmetry, negative space, etc. Thus why I get a lot of requests for centered text and filling up webpages with loads o’ crap. And these people can see and have opinions, so their opinion is equal to mine. Right? (right…)
    * A lot of people mistakenly believe that more communication is better communication.
    * In my experience, a little knowledge is very dangerous. They’ve read a Smashing Mag article, I’ve read the same article and have 10 years experience – so, yeah, that’s about equal footing. (SM is good, but not that good).
    * Marketing lives on data, and I’d argue many times shield themselves from having to make hard decisions or assume risk by relying on it. Don’t get me wrong – data is good. Data-informed decisions are better. Decisions based on data alone is bad.
    * In the case of web design, it’s much more accessible than other artistic productions. I saw a comment on a blog once that summarizes the issue well (paraphrasing here): “People watch TV and no one thinks they can go direct the show. But for some reason, people use websites, and they suddenly think they’re UX designers.”

    I could go on and on.

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  46. 4030

    Excellent article Speider!!! I have been designing for over 17 years. From the second I read the title I knew it was going to poke some people the wrong way. At the end of the day these “TWO GREAT MINDS” need to work together for the benefit of the client, not for self gratification.

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    • 4081

      what makes you think that between the two of them, a mind exists and even if found, that it would be great?*

      *Especially if one or 1/2 of them is yours?? :)

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    • 4183

      ^ What’s wrong with “self gratification” – Is’nt that what all designers do anyway?

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  47. 4234

    Raphael Pudlowski

    July 22, 2010 7:24 am

    Speider, another excellent article ;) love to read your stuff!

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  48. 4285

    This article was dead on! Please, please, please keep writing this sort of thing.

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  49. 4540

    I have the pleasure of being the only creative among a marketing team for a large company. Being a vendor from another company I am here alone with no real support system so I’ve had to learn to pick my battles. There is often a lot of designing happening over my shoulder which at first was tolerable and has mutated into infuriating. So needless to say this article really hit home with me. Thanks.

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  50. 4591

    Speider, this is a very insightful article.
    As a marketing girl, I can’t count how many times sales mix what I do with what creatives do (“It shouldn’t be that hard for you to make a brochure right?”) Until now I work with a design intern do I realize even creatives & marketers think & approach things differently. Would love to know more about how these two can work together more effectively. Any thoughts & suggestions?

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    • 4642

      Forbid BOTH of them from reading articles like this, and forbid your “creative” (I dont know when the f*k an adjective morphed into a friggin noun) from reading articles altogether!

      Instead, have him, her, or transgender concentrate on not being an annoying prick when asked to do something and resist submitting their “judgment” for that of the esteemed marketing and development staff.

      Hark! Do I hear, “Win Win” ?

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    • 4795

      @evelyn: “Would love to know more about how these two can work together more effectively.” ~ what a positive outlook!

      @steve: u could stand to learn something if you stop negating each and every comment that agrees with Speider’s article.

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