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

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.

Instead consider the following Smashing Magazine articles:

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.


It’s A Diverse Crowd Out There Link

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.


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


The most infuriating thing was that this over-sized man with a cherubic face, looked like Baby Huey6 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? Link

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.


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 Link

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.


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? Link

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.


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? Link

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 Link

  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 Link

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.


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?


Footnotes Link

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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).

  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

  2. 5

    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.

    • 6

      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).

  3. 7

    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.

    • 8

      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.

    • 9

      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.

  4. 10

    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.

    • 11

      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.

      • 12

        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.

  5. 13

    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.

  6. 14

    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?

    • 15


      July 20, 2010 6:29 pm

      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.

      • 16

        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.

    • 17

      @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. :)

  7. 18

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

  8. 20

    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.

    • 21

      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.

      • 22

        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.

        • 23

          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.

          • 24

            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.

          • 25

            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!

          • 26

            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.

    • 27

      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 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.

    • 28

      ‘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 ?

      • 29

        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’

  9. 30

    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.

    • 31

      @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.

  10. 32

    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!

  11. 33

    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.

    • 34

      “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.”

  12. 35

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

  13. 39

    The Tall Designer

    July 20, 2010 3:24 am


    “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

    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 ;)

  14. 40

    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.

  15. 41

    Kris Handley

    July 20, 2010 3:29 am

    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.

    • 42

      You must be in marketing.

      • 43

        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. :)

        • 44

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

      • 45

        Haha! Good one!

      • 46

        haha, well said!

        • 47

          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.

          • 48

            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.

          • 49

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

    • 50

      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.

      • 51

        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!

    • 52

      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!

  16. 53

    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!

    • 54

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

      • 55

        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.

        • 56

          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.

        • 57

          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.

          • 58

            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.

          • 59

            I agree with Snowball2!

            -and no, I am not in “Marketing”

          • 60

            @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.

          • 61

            Oh, Steve, my honorable foil…

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

          • 62

            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.

          • 63

            @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.

          • 64

            @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

  17. 65

    Nice one :)

  18. 66


  19. 67

    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…..

    • 68

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

  20. 69

    Absolutely fantastic article.

  21. 70

    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”.


    Great article.

    • 71

      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.

    • 72

      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!!

  22. 73

    Jamie Stanton

    July 20, 2010 4:06 am

    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.

    • 74

      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!

  23. 75

    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 ;)

  24. 76

    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 ?

    • 77

      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?

  25. 78

    Great article!
    Would love to see more of these.

  26. 82
  27. 84

    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.

    • 85

      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.

    • 86

      agree henrique

  28. 87

    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?”

    • 88

      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?”

      • 89

        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.

  29. 90

    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.)

    • 91

      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!

      • 92

        You are a gentleman and a scholar, sir.

      • 95

        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!)

        • 96

          There are times I like you, Steve. I haven’t decided if this is one of them.

  30. 97

    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.

  31. 98

    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?

    • 99

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

  32. 100

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

  33. 102

    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!)

  34. 104

    Deborah Wood

    July 20, 2010 5:55 am

    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.

  35. 106

    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.

    • 107

      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.

      • 108

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

        • 109

          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.

  36. 110

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

  37. 111

    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!

  38. 113

    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’.

  39. 114

    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.

    • 115

      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.

      • 116

        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?

        • 117

          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.

          • 118

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

  40. 119

    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.

  41. 120

    Jay Dalisay

    July 20, 2010 7:28 am

    Now this is an article!! Well written!!

  42. 121

    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.

  43. 123

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

    • 124

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

      • 125

        Did you come back?

        • 126

          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.

          • 127

            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?)

          • 128

            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.

          • 129

            the Artist formerly known as “Steve”

          • 130

            Ah, good; 42 — the answer to everything.

    • 131

      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?

      • 132

        You should have heard the complaining when Steve42 got her nickname!

  44. 133

    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 :)

  45. 134

    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.

  46. 135

    It reflects my experience. Very nice article.

  47. 136

    interesting write up. :) thanks

  48. 137

    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.

    • 138

      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.

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.”

    • 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?

  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.

    • 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?

    • 146

      Joe Stevens

      July 21, 2010 5:37 am

      “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.

      • 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!

  51. 148

    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!!!!

  52. 149

    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.


  53. 151

    Joe Barstow

    July 20, 2010 1:02 pm

    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.


    • 152

      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.

      • 153

        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?”

  54. 154

    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.

  55. 155

    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?

    • 156

      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!

  56. 157

    <3 this article

  57. 158

    Matt Beischel

    July 20, 2010 2:03 pm

    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.

  58. 159

    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.

    • 160

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

  59. 161

    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?

    • 162

      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.

      • 163

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


        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!!???

        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.

  60. 165

    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.

    • 166

      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.)

    • 167

      @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.

  61. 172

    Taylor Van Sickle

    July 20, 2010 6:31 pm

    Stop whining dude.

    • 173

      And leave show business?

    • 174

      @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.

      • 175

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


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



  62. 176

    Great article, thanks.

  63. 177

    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

    • 178

      “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!

  64. 180

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

    Creative Ideas that Sell –

  65. 181

    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.

    • 182

      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.

    • 183

      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.

  66. 185

    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!

    • 186

      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).


  67. 187

    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.

  68. 188

    PAINFULLY PAINFULLY true. Can relater to this post 100%

  69. 189

    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?

  70. 190

    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!)


  71. 191

    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 :)

    • 192

      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!”

      • 193

        “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!

  72. 195

    Ricardo Rocha

    July 21, 2010 3:30 am

    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 :).

  73. 196


    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

    • 197

      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.

  74. 198


    July 21, 2010 4:15 am

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

    Have a nice day my friends,


  75. 199

    Great post!

  76. 200

    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!

  77. 201

    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).

  78. 202

    Joe Stevens

    July 21, 2010 5:29 am

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

  79. 203

    Mike Render

    July 21, 2010 5:55 am


  80. 204

    Pete Morley

    July 21, 2010 6:24 am

    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).

  81. 205

    Kim Louis-Jean

    July 21, 2010 6:32 am

    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.

  82. 206

    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.

  83. 207

    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!

  84. 208

    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

  85. 209

    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!

    • 210

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

  86. 211

    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.”

    • 212

      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?

      • 213

        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.

  87. 215

    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 :)

    • 216

      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!

  88. 217

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

  89. 218

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

  90. 219

    great article, lots of laughs and sound advice :D

  91. 220

    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?

    • 221

      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.

  92. 222

    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!!

  93. 223

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

  94. 224

    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!

    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!

    • 225

      I’m beginning to think he’s an extraordinary complex.

  95. 226

    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.

  96. 227

    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.

    • 228

      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?? :)

      • 229

        Bad day, Steve? Perhaps you are spending too much of it insulting others?

    • 230

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

  97. 231

    Raphael Pudlowski

    July 22, 2010 7:24 am

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

  98. 232

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

  99. 237

    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.

  100. 238

    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?

    • 239

      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” ?

    • 242

      @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.

  101. 243

    Sounds like your company is a free-for-all with no direction from the top. Naturally, my first reaction is to ask the wrongly-requesting party to sit down and discuss their needs and then explain your job function and how it can be solved by creating a team of the right people or just sending him/her to the right person.

    If your design person is an intern, well, what you pay is what you get. With that said, the team you create to make a successful project will depend on the strengths and weaknesses of those involved and how it all comes together. While I would suggest only hiring the strongest candidates and trusting their expertise for all companies, it is sadly not that way anymore. Hiring cheap means there is also an anticipation of less-than-experienced efforts, so others step in to “help.”

    “Professional” means just that. When one member of the team isn’t, then that’s the weak link in the chain. If you don’t know what that does to a project, then it doesn’t really matter and, as with so many businesses, profit goes down until there’s nothing left.

    Hope that helped.

  102. 244

    I enjoyed this article and think it is definitely relevant to the “relationship” that exists between designers and marketers, or the cleint/boss. Having been on the creative side for 25 years now, I’d like to say I’ve seen it all, but having those years of experience, I know there’s always more to see. One president of a company I worked for once commented on an editorial layout, “I really like it, but don’t you think the whole thing needs kerning?”
    I asked if there was anything specifically that caught his eye (pretending to value their input can go a long way at times), his reponse was “all of it, headline, pictures, everything.”
    Some people hear a term, latch on to it and think they’re “knowledgeable”.
    Good article.

    • 245

      Ha! Thanks, Colin. Like you, I’ve been in this business a long time and have just seen some incredible things. An “art director” who liked to use the word, “rectilinear” for everything. Guess what her nickname became?

      My all time favorite was a president of a comic book company that wanted a “sophisticated” letterhead. It took 11 tries with her always saying, “no, no, I want sophisticated!”

      I finally asked her to point out something she liked and she shows me a letterhead in which the name was surrounded by cartoon characters. “Oh!” I said. “You wanted whimsical.”

      She didn’t like being corrected.

      • 246

        >>”I finally asked her to point out something she liked and she shows me a letterhead in which the name was surrounded by cartoon characters. “Oh!” I said. “You wanted whimsical.”

        See, that is , being abusive and patronizing.

        It’s like the kid that came home from school and said to mom,
        “Hey Mom! Do you know the difference between an equilateral triangle and an Isosceles triangle?”

        “Dont be a smartass” go to your room!

        But the kid WAS being a smart ass.

        The appropriate behavior would have been:

        “Hey Mom! – I learned something really cool about triangles today!”

        :) “Tell me all about it dear while I bake some cookies!”

        Lesson(s) learned.
        Dont be a smart ass and flaunt your superiority knowing shit real people care nothing about, like the difference between EMs and Pixels and the context for each.
        The FIRST approach would be to NEVER ASSUME that they know what the f**k they are talking about, even if they use words that seem very standard, like “big” , “up”, “down” or “red” – let alone highly contextual words like “sophisticated”

        I dare say, to many a citizen of Georgia, Paris Hilton with her handbag Chihuahua and expenises* livestyle may seem “sophisticated” but we often know better!
        That is why Police use mug shots and sketch artists!

        Always ask for examples of what they mean, or even better, give them a menu to choose from!
        Asking for an example of “sophisticated” should have been your FIRST STEP, not your LAST, and of course POINTING OUT HER STUPIDITY is a big NO NO

        (wags finger sternly at Spieder)

        *pun intended :)

        • 247

          This was one of my lessons from my early days, so I suppose had I known she was a lunatic (await my book on my corporate experiences to hear more of this lady), I would have known to pry out more information. “We need a new letterhead and I really want something sophisticated!”

          Certainly sounded simple. A good lesson for any creative — assume your contact is a moron but don’t let on he/she actually is.

          As for pointing out her stupidity, I guess blurting that out was in bad form, but she started using the word whimsical a lot after that. We played with the idea of making up a word to use in a meeting to see if she started using that.

        • 248

          Barbara Saunders

          February 14, 2013 7:20 pm

          I disagree with you both. The boss’ request was gibberish in the first place. She needed to describe what she wants, not attempt to be “creative” by throwing “concept-y” words around. But yes, the designer needed to do the same, get actual description and keep the words at the level of description.

  103. 249

    good one, “oh recta…..”
    or another, “i don’t know exactly what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

  104. 253

    As they only artist in the marketing dept of family owned, but very successful company (just shy of being “household name”) I am:
    • printing this out
    • using the signs to decorate my work area
    • copying and distributing the article to my co-workers as a great passive/aggresive way to say “this is why I am constantly pissed off, but you can help change that”


  105. 256

    After 26 years in advertising in Asia, I cannot believe that the article describes almost everyday at work in a milder or more severe form. It’s time that anyone and everyone has to understand that a design is based on the ‘Brief’ (what a strange word to describe a document that is suppose to be filled with answers) provided. A creative person is marketing/creative’project management all rolled into one. The suits know this and this knowledge allows them to dispense of any intelligent thoughts or responsibility. Bosses are basically suits and this adds to the disproportionate equation of things. A good design/concept involves what the consumer and not the client wants to see. Clients won’t buy their own damn products would they. Marketing people have perfected the art of saying ‘Yes’ to everything without any thought as it simplifies their jobs. Don’t ask questions as marketing people from the client’s side probably won’t know their products or jobs like them either, so let’s not embarrass them. Let’s make them look smart. I guess creatives just want them to sell their products. That’s when you get instructions like ‘they like a black background but don’t make it so dark’ or worse when they decide they are sudden copymeisters and write headlines that actually describe the image used. They will never understand or see the point a creative tries to make because it’s about the money. Clients sign, pay for it… who cares if it doesn’t make sense. The only balance involved here regard books held by the finance department. If all goes wrong later, it’s the creatives fault for not mentioning it earlier. Of course there won’t be a thread of evidence of what transpired between the AE and the junior designers doing the artwork. That’s the final attack plan. In Asia we have more problems to face up to but that’s another story. There are great suits and I have worked with a few who are not dependent on replicating their favourite powerpoint storyline. An important point to note is that I can count the number of good suits i’ve worked with in one hand but the number of good creative people way too many to even make a list. Good copywriters, illustrators, FA artist… We know what we are and realise it at an early stage. Suits on the other hand tend to think that they know everything. Even the fresh ones. Creation is a calling of sorts and we want to do the best almost religiously. The truth is out there. And only the creative know where to look.

  106. 258

    didn’t help bro! Neither did drinks or cigs. You can drown your sorrows easily but fools float.

  107. 261

    Chris Barrass

    July 23, 2010 5:13 am

    My comedy Youtube video on “designer vs marketing”

  108. 262

    My company has the issue of requesting work last-minute – but this kind of style comes from the top (CEO) down. We get awkwardly formed copy that has grammatical errors… and to add insult to injury, it’s also “Just design, and I’ll make changes until I see what I like.” Any advice to creatives who feel like they’re chipping away at daily projects but never able to really step back and improve the big picture?

    • 263

      Depends how many layers there are between you and the CEO. I love it when there’s not actually a board of directors or it’s a husband – wife team and one is the CEO and the other is the COO. A better set of initials for what they are is BS!

      So, is it some owner/CEO/President/World of Warcraft “Emperor?” or someone who actually heads up a board?

      Let’s assume it’s the first case. Can anyone talk to him? Does he come into the department to chat? Can he/she be educated as to the time needed and the process or is he/she locked in an ivory tower and feels above the “little people?” If so, time to move on, pk.

      There are places that survive due to the momentum of the workers and, as you said, “chipping away at daily projects but never able to really step back and improve the big picture.” Eventually, the revolving door of employees and continual bad decisions kill the beast. The destructive momentum strangles employee engagement and then the forward motion just stagnates and that is just decay and death. I’ve seen it happen much too often. Fills mainstream media, these days.

    • 264

      July 23rd, 2010 11:11 am

      My company has the issue of requesting work last-minute – but this kind of style comes from the top (CEO) down. We get awkwardly formed copy that has grammatical errors… and to add insult to injury, it’s also “Just design, and I’ll make changes until I see what I like.” Any advice to creatives who feel like they’re chipping away at daily projects but never able to really step back and improve the big picture?”

      ^ Ok, I’ll be blunt.

      Every fking designer likes to feel he is Michelangelo painting the Sistene Chapel.

      News Flash:
      You are a cab driver!

      I get in the cab, YOU start the meter running, and I tell you where to go! I give a destination, or sometimes I say, just head west, if I see something/somewhere I like, I’ll stop. I may even say, make a u-turn, or drive back to this spot again!
      I may end up at this place that looks so nice -lets stop here! I like it the best! (Dont tell me we are back behind the hotel i started from!)

      Now comes the “good Cop” to the above bad cop. :)

      Best advice for the “creative feeling they are chipping away but not affecting the big picture?”
      1) get your fulfillment ELSEWHERE. Get your money from this perineum of a job, and design a mural for a non-profit or a website for “good cause” where you can do something worthy of your skills and deserving of a slot in your portfolio.
      Your Resume is where you WORK/ED… your Portfolio is who you ARE. Dont mix them up.

      2) Second advice: Ask, why does it matter?
      So WHAT if they toss, poorly worded , misspelled copy – are you honestly sugesting that these executives who came up with the general text during a power lunch or some such – should massage and rub their prose until it is worthy for submission to your eyes?

      “Just design, and I’ll make changes until I see what I like”

      And what pray, is wrong with that? or are you also suggesting that they must first iteratively (on their own) formulate the full skeleton then nucleus of the design then hand you a psd with numbers so that all you have to do is color it in?

      Can you not REJOICE but realizing that you now have an ability, no matter how slight, to inject a little bit of YOU into the final product??
      A product mind you, that belongs to THEM, not YOU?

      short version: No matter how much they fuck you (and even if you like it) ITS NOT YOUR “BABY” ! You are the surrogate mom, just be healthy and not smoke or do any more crack, and when people walk by and look up at the ad campaign on the big billboard, just say

      “some of that was once inside of me!”

      -then exit left, to the negative space with a wistful smile.

      • 265

        While I don’t always agree with Steve42, I have to say I see his point and have, I can’t believe I’m saying this, looked at it in the same way. If the meter’s running, I’ll be happy to drive the project all over. When it goes into overtime, so does my fee (that always slowed down projects when I brought up overtime). It’s when it is messed around until 24 hours before the deadline and guess what department gets to stay all night to finish it, well, that’s another story.

        A steady paycheck can make up for many bad things. If it isn’t enough to have a good standard of living, then walk away and find another struggle level salaried job. Still, if you are unhappy, look for work elsewhere. It may be the happiest job you have in your career…or even worse.

      • 266


        I’m not implying that I need to quit my job or get another hobby to find fulfillment; I actually really like it. I do expect for the Creative Director to be creative and show some direction – thus, the job title. I also expect for Marketing to have a clear idea of their audience and how to write a catchy phrase for a poster without making glaring spelling or grammatical mistakes.

        This being said, no job is perfect and I’ve been in this industry long enough to realize others’ limitations (as well as my own) — and how to deal with them.

        And I am usually the one in the office saying annoying things like “that’s why they pay us – just get it done.” So I know I’m a corporate slave to some degree and I accept it. I’d just like to avoid apathy as much as possible and was asking advice. But thanks anyways!

        • 267

          Don’t take Steve too seriously. He’s being funny…in a freaky stalking way.

          It’s our passion as creatives that makes us love our work and love our creations. Unfortunately, there are those who see creative as a service and therefore it’s while you are paid, you do what I want, over and over again.

          While at one firm, I hired a friend as a temp to help out on a project. He was a freelance illustrator by trade and familiar with Adobe software but when something got changed, he asked what I was going to do. I said it didn’t matter because I was paid no matter how many changes were made. He was astonished as in the illustration field, it’s one rate and as many changes as they demand.

          So, the grass may seem greener elsewhere.

        • 268

          “I’m not implying that I need to quit my job or get another hobby to find fulfillment; I actually really like it. I do expect for the Creative Director to be creative and show some direction – thus, the job title.”

          Well, YOU werent implying that…I was! lol..

          seriously, no need to quit, and if you get enough fulfillment from your day job, then why take on a hobby or a side project that has its own annoying commitment issues?
          (church project: “I dont think Jesus actually smiled too much, also – he looks a wee bit to Palestinian, could you just make him (Him) a bit more generic?.. Inartfully worded, but perhaps valid comment?)
          But we dont expect one food to supply all our needs, why do we continue to demand it from our jobs?

          Sometimes we can be a lot happier in many things by MANAGING EXPECTATIONS for ourselves and for our clients and users.

          “Creative Director” does NOT mean, necessarily a creative person who (whom?) is a director, it simply may mean he/she manages creatives! And the key, non-Peter principled skill required is NOT being “creative” but perhaps, being an asshole, a juggler, a con artist and a kiss up/ass kicker split personality guy who can use multiple approaches to get a group of disparate personalities working together creating a product that immediate management approves and yet, after passing that anti-Darwinian filter, still be pleasing to the public/audience/client!

          “I also expect for Marketing to have a clear idea of their audience and how to write a catchy phrase for a poster without making glaring spelling or grammatical mistakes”


          Stop expecting that. Also, stop expecting Sarah Palin to say something intelligent, Obama to grow a pair and actually LEAD the fking country instead of trying to be “not too black to scare off Whitey” (I swear, I think we got more Bush than Bush, even though this one can spell)

          NOBODY spells correctly anymore, as we devolve into some wired and weird textmsgspk/icon hieroglyphic language of the future! Just expect their scribbled, semi-illegible copy does not come with cat droppings and you will be right at least 7 out of 10 times!*

          *Yes, I actually had copy that was contaminated with cat droppings. She had 20 cats, I went to her house to pick up a diskette (you got the date now, I bet) and they were all over the place! I am sure you can see the dirty pun coming with this, so I’ll quit early!

    • 270

      @pk & speider: from my posts, i shared some experiences with my current manager. we had a meeting with our AVP regarding her and her management style. what the AVP suggested is tell the manager what she’s doing wrong or how what she does affects the output or the deadlines of projects. maybe we should just tell them, in pk’s case, let it slip or say t directly that though it has worked in the past, work output and time management in the office would be better if not everything is rushed.

      i guess some of the fault lies with us, as “young” designers or designers starting out in a certain comapany, we tend to say yes to rush jibs because the boss says so.. and in turn, since it was done in time, though haphazardly or not as refined, non-creative people that do not know the process or the hard work that goes with coming up with designs tend to think that it could be done because we do not correct them.

      so i guess what i’m saying is that we should speak up. :D

  109. 271

    Wow, Speider, you are dead on. And not only that, you nailed it, we ARE the mainstream media (a tv station). Although I don’t necessarily see the the whole company – thousands of employees – going under, it does make the day-to-day very frustrating. And yes, we have an extremely high turnover in our department. The only person who has some contact with the CEO is the Creative Director, and unfortunately yes-men don’t like to rock the boat. However, with the high turnover, comes great room for quick advancement within the company — and maybe even access to that Ivory Tower. In which case, maybe there’s hope for change? Just have to stick it out? Is it worth it? Rhetorical.

    • 272

      Maybe it is worth it. You have to ask yourself “how much can I take?” I say stick it out but keep looking for a new situation. It’s easier to find a job while you have one.

      So, what happens if you become the CD? Do you become a yes man? Perhaps that’s all the CEO wants? If the pay is good enough, we all tend to let many things slide.

      Best of luck!

  110. 273

    This is a too-long and ranty piece. You should have revised it and shortened it before posting. TL;DR.

    also, good girls like bad guys because their daddy’s left/abused them, not because they actually ‘want’ something different from the norm.

    • 274

      I agree it could have been edited for length, and furthermore, used less big words, and placed more emphasis on the number green!

      You know, I like your style Jacob!

      I have a position in marketing that may be right up your alley or at least up something of yours!

  111. 277

    Too late for an edit or retraction now. Not that I would. 90% + of these replies are positive.

    As for father’s abusing their daughters, I think it’s too general and misandrist of a statement for my tastes or acceptance.

  112. 278

    Honestly one of the best articles ever written on here. Been doing this for nearly 10 years and worked with many companies (contract, freelance and full time) and this article pretty much sums up all of them. Well written! Kudos to you for doing something about it versus being a “victim” of stupidity :)

    Thanks for the article!

  113. 279

    kaila jamieson

    July 27, 2010 3:56 pm

    i dont understandwhatwe are commenting about hahahaha : )

    • 280

      kaila jamiesonJuly 27th, 2010 3:56 pm
      i dont understandwhatwe are commenting about hahahaha : )

      ^ You voted for ….. who now?

    • 281

      Kaila, ether stop drinking or start.

  114. 282

    George Egonut

    July 27, 2010 4:36 pm

    Awesome article, and timely for me personally. As a freelance web designer, I’ve been thinking about how to impress upon my clients that they hire me as an additional weapon in their marketing arsenal, not to have another set of hands in front of Photoshop. I feel that my responsibility is to combine marketing expertise with UX and graphic communication, not fire up FrontPage on my client’s twelve-year-old nephew’s design because he got grounded. (Wow! That sounded much more bitter than I actually feel about it.)

    I’ve been trying to remove as many references to “web design” as I can in my portfolio copy, and instead focus on marketing strategies and deliverables. I figure if I can get my clients to think of what they want out of a marketing initiative rather than focusing squarely on what they like in a website (lots of web 2.0!) then I’ll get less of those suggestions. Any advice?

    • 283

      I always start by asking a client what they want from the project. Then I make suggestions for how to achieve it. At that point they either tell me what THEY think should be done and I take it into consideration and discuss the avenues and where they might lead. If they listen to what I suggest, then we move forward. If they are insistent that what they see is the solution, then I have to consider the financial end. If it’s enough that my bills will be paid for the month, then I’m your creative prostitute. If it’s more trouble than the money is worth, then I politely tell them they would do better with someone else (which leads to them asking for a referral to another designer — which I don’t do because I won’t saddle another designer I know with trouble).

      Oddly enough, when I do creative consulting to a company (advice to update product lines or install systems for brainstorming innovation) they have no problems with the fees and I have never heard any arguments. But walk in as an expert creative to do an actual design project and everyone tells you how to do your work and wants to nickel and dime you to death. I am just as confused as anyone as to why the views of the two services bring such different attitudes.

      Generally, I think people see examples they like and believe it will lend itself to what they want. They have a visual in their head and focus on that. With consulting, they are admitting to not knowing what to do and that is why it runs so smoothly. It’s a strange business, dealing with intellectual properties rather than hard goods, there is too much left to the imagination and people get anxious about what they will see in the end. It’s hard for people to let go and as many people say of the project, the client is spending money they feel they can’t gamble upon, so safe is better. If you haven’t noticed, it’s what Hollyweird and advertising do. If they liked it once, they’ll like it again. Could explain why movies like “The Parent Trap” and “Freaky Friday” have been remade 3 times each.

      When something creative breaks through and is successful, you can bet it will be copied to death.

  115. 284

    @Speider: thank you for the article.. very well written and very relatable.

    i’ve had a recent experience with a new manager that relates to the anecdote for the Every Relationship Has Good And Bad Times part of the article. the manager wants to have a newspaper ad published for the sunday edition of a broadsheet paper, she gives me the content (that i assumed was foolproof because it came from a manager, but i guess it wasn’t) on a tuesday. i submitted the layout on wednesday afternoon. then comes an email from the manager on thursday at 8:01, 1 minute after my 8:00 end of shift, and in the email she says she hopes to have the design given to the printers morning of friday I get in at 11am by the way, which she well knows.

    i guess what i want to say in this ranting anecdote is that non-creative people do not understand the extent to which the designing phase go through and how long this designing would take (vv for creatives to non-creatives). this goes to show that no one should assume what and how another’s job/duties go, if you don’t have 1st hand knowledge of it.

    • 285

      “…..(that i assumed was foolproof because it came from a manager, but i guess it wasn’t) on a tuesday. i submitted the layout on wednesday afternoon. then comes an email from the manager on thursday at 8:01, 1 minute after my 8:00 end of shift, and in the email she says she hopes to have the design given to the printers morning of friday I get in at 11am by the way, which she well knows.”‘

      You whiny, lazy, soon to be unemployed Ne’er-do-well : You should not even have a Job!

      • 286

        Steve is being sarcastic, May. It’s why we love him! Well, love is a strong word. Pity? Avoid? Fear?

        • 287

          @speider: steve, pity mostly

          • 288

            It would be FEAR if I were ever YOUR employer!

            (Doubtful tho, since I never managed a McDonald’s franchise or a Burger King!)
            “1 minute past the end of my shift”…. WTF!

            Your whiny rant is without merit

            “and in the email she says she hopes to have the design given to the printers morning of friday I get in at 11am by the way”

            If you ever took time to look at a CLOCK (hopefully w/o losing the ‘L’) you would realize that 11am IS STILL “MORNING!” (Of course, you would have to move with some alacrity, skipping your mid-day Danish, coffee, chat, Facebook, IM messages, SmashingMagazine browsing,etc

            In my IT career, I have NEVER punched a time-clock, or thought in terms of a “shift” let alone measuring my time (overtime?) done to the ONE MINUTE RESOLUTION!

            STBUSM*: oooohh sorry! Me cantz help! its 8:00:02 and me shift endz at 8:00:00:00!

            *Soon To Be Unemployed Staff Member

          • 289

            Because companies now are so against overtime costs that once your shift ends, you MUST stop work. It’s not like a full time job where the hours are stretched substituted or “suggested” in an unofficial manner.

            As for the rest of it Steve, we’ve had some fun here but learn to dial it back a little with other posters, please.

      • 290

        well steve42, you did it again! why do you feel the need to keep on proving that you don’t know what you’re talking about?

  116. 291

    to all the comment-ers that are giving negative feedbacks on this article, how can so many people with the same experiences (if you bother to read the comments thread) be all wrong? how can these people (me included) that say “SPOT ON! I experienced the same thing!” be wrong and you (yeah, you know who you are) be right? do we not have the right to feel bad when slighted?

    • 292

      Thanks, May! There will always be other opinions. Some are valid and some, well…do you think non-creatives (perhaps marketing or other functions) would agree with this subject? The last thing they want is a “flaky artsy-type” telling THEM what is the right design for THEIR client (I love when they set creatives apart as the “should-just-be-locked-in-the-basement child”).

      Wherever people work together, there will be oddities in interaction. Whenever people read an article, there will be those who disagree. What speaks volumes is how they verbally disagree. Is it calm and rational or does it attack? At the same time, someone may see his/her attack as rational and calm.

      Thanks for the support!

    • 293

      how can so many people with the same experiences (if you bother to read the comments thread) be all wrong?

      Famous last word from LEMMINGS?

  117. 295

    This article is a classic, I can relate to so much of it from various jobs I have had. In particular a marketing manager who decided on the evening before weeks of work was about to go live that it all had to be completely different. I also recently had to educate someone politely that a designer generally knows more about colour theory than a project manager, I felt bad she’s a really nice person but is new and just stepped a little over the line.

    • 296

      And by speaking with her on a professional level, setting YOUR parameters, now she knows not to overstep that boundary. It works most of the time unless the other person is just set on subduing you to a place under them.

      A handy red flag is that the people who are the loudest and most persistent about convincing others to follow them without question are the ones who have no right to do so. You can give in but they will not let up in the future, having gained uncontested power with your approval.


  118. 297

    ***Next article of mine, up this week I believe, is entitled, “Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?” It explores how we as creatives often feed the very problems we detest in our field.

    Sure to be a fun, informative and enraging read!

    • 298

      “***Next article of mine, up this week I believe, is entitled, “Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?”

      ….you need an “Article” to say.. “YES” ? /lol

      ” It explores how we as creatives often feed the very problems we detest in our field.”
      Bringing new meaning to the word “explore”

      “Sure to be a fun, informative and enraging read!” <=== Or at least ONE of the things in this sentence!*

      * My money is on the comma :)

      • 299

        My first guess is that Steve is an insecure 300lb. ass and plays WOW in his mom’s basement.

        My second guess is that Steve is an insecure 300lb. bitter old ass that thinks his “stopped clock is right twice a day” observations make him experienced and clever.

        Either way, my money is on the “ass” : )

      • 301

        Read first, complain later! ;)

    • 302

      Then you’ll really love the part 2 of this article, appearing soon on Smashing Magazine. We asked human resource professionals to comment on this article and the facts and figures are staggering!

  119. 303

    Thanks for this article. I finally had time to finished reading it. I find it applies not just to marketing and creatives, especially the power struggle. Gives me a few ideas to use in the future.

  120. 304

    As a designer in a corporate environment I found this article to be very interesting although a bit on the glass half empty side of things.

  121. 306

    Reading articles like this helps me keep going. I’m not going to lie, I’ve quit quite a few jobs because I couldn’t take the corporate bs and every time I settled into the new gig with super energy and hope, I’ve been beaten back down to just a ‘production’ level lemming. What’s sad is that job descriptions and posts promise things… they say they need someone who’s super creative, who can take on any project and take ownership of it… they say they need an evangelist, blah blah… its just a lure. I am currently at an amazing company… one of the biggest gaming companies (big 3). I have nothing to complain about here and I get paid very well. I work normal hours, and people are great but somehow, I feel very empty. People will come to me and ask, “why do you get upset? Why are you taking it personal? Its just a job.” I’ll admit it… I battle myself and say, “dude, just sit back, relax, do what your told and collect your pay.” It doesn’t help… There is something drastically wrong here and the corporate industry as a whole. I believe that the only way I’ll be satisfied is to go off on my own and open up shop… but if we all do that, corporate will never change and just lure another poor talented designer. We should all go on strike and see if these “marketing people or the likes” can do what they think they can do.

  122. 307

    Marketing Ninja Cat

    August 14, 2010 3:46 am

    Never had I seen a designer stand up and say “Based on my professional experience and *input some research data, survey or Big Name* the direction/change/feature you are suggesting will not get you closer to the business goals”. As your articles suggest, this is mostly a problem of ego and power struggle – unfortunately, it’s equally present on the designers side, as they deny to familiarize themselves with brand guidelines and business goals, and put up the whole “whiny little tormented designer” act, whenever their design turns out absolutely irrelevant to the brand, product or campaign.

    I always tell my designers, the creative part is their job, and me dictating them what do do, would equal a patient going to the doctor and telling him what surgical procedure to do, and how to do it. So I guessed that’s what they want and need to come up with great designs. Quite the contrary – because that would mean having to take ownership and responsibility for their work, which makes playing the blame game really hard in the end. And that’s what designers are REALLY good at – pointing fingers and blaming the whole world for not letting them make awesome designs.

    • 308

      Having wrangled plenty of creatives, I hear you! Too many service providers and staff people don’t listen. On the other hand, if you are too efficient, people despise and fear you.

      Are brand guidelines always clearly communicated to designers? Often it has no more communication than, “it’s a new laxative…design the package!” After it’s designed, that’s when the committee designing starts based on demographics that were never supplied. If they are and grandma is getting distressed type and 6 pt swash type instructions, then fire that designer and find a great one that might cost a bit more…GASP!…money. You get what you pay for!

  123. 309

    While reading this article and after pondering the implications it was increasingly clear to me that the author must have several cameras planted all throughout the company that I work for now and several that I have worked for in the past (I have worked for one of the biggest marketing companies in the world – it was my first introduction to marketing office politics and I’ll never forget it). Based on the comments listed obviously there are quite a few people who still harbor ill feelings toward each other (whether creative or marketeer they be). Which means they probably just didn’t read the article enough times to get the point.

    I appreciate the straightforwardness and honestly of the article and I wish that it was a bible or handbook that could be given as a handout in both Marketing and Creative degree programs or at Marketing agencies – lord knows we all need it.

    I would just like to say thank you for writing this and please keep it coming!

  124. 311

    Great read. Sent it to a few buddies of mine.

    This covers one of the issues of which lead me to leave my previous job. But unfortunately, my current issue isn’t necessarily with the Marketing guy/s. It’s the actual owner of the company. I was hired on as a UI Designer…or Front-End Developer? Not sure, but I know they want a Creative Director, or someone in charge to run the creative department. Someone to be in charge of site styles, ensure code is valid and QA it, and redesign the site…bunch of other tasks.

    Biggest problem I’m running into, is the owner telling me my designs are so “1990” and that I like too much stuff. (I think he meant the text I included on the mockups.)

    I’ve worked with large corporations that pull in over 1Million viewers a day for over 5 years, and I’ve come to a small business that’s growing figuring I’d have a great break at being a director, but it seems the owner still wants to be in charge of how the designs look, yet he’s complaining about finding a Creative Director or putting someone in charge of creating amazing designs.

    Him and I had a discussion, I mentioned to him my experience and where I get my inspiration from. He told me he’s been working over 10 years in the business and knows his clients and what they want. Good grief! What to do…what to do…

    • 312

      I cannot tell you how many times I hear the exact same story. You are not alone. It’s almost an odd operating method so many follow, I have to wonder if there’s a guidebook for this kind of behavior.

      If you have the pay, then expect to play. The boss makes the decisions. But don’t worry…when they go wrong it’ll be YOUR idea. ;)

      • 313

        “He told me he’s been working over 10 years in the business and knows his clients and what they want”

        This is ALWAYS the fallback i hear (well, that and “you need to listen to the business”)when a non-creative wants to control the creative direction. Though there is a difference between someone actually knowing and thinking they know.

        I beleive that some degree of market research is required for any creative professional who wants to survive the corporate world. Hard facts can be the arrow to your bow or a spare quiver in reserve when moments like this arise. You may say that continuously being armed for a fight is unhealthy, but facts are also tools and will help you grow as a creative.

  125. 314

    It is not easy to redesign a better website. For our company, every department joined in the new version design and gave a lot of constructive ideas. Though the new one improves much, it needs time to find out problems and then optimize.

    Website management is a matter of carefulness and persistence. Wish our site a better future, more visitors and traffic.

    This post is really awesome! I will insist on learning from smashingmagazine.

  126. 315

    SUPER helpful! I’m super new to being an art director ( if you can really call it that ) and was about to do lose my mind when Google led me to this snazzy little piece. I’m a part of a small magazine (and by small I mean it’s just me on the creative board) and I’ve been struggling and frustrated with just what to do with the input and disagreements. This really helps!


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