From the moment you step into a corporation, or really any office these days, you will be required to watch a sexual harassment video and answer a few questions to prove you understand saying “good morning” to a coworker of the opposite sex can be considered “threatening.”
Speaking on a panel discussion at the recent and fantastic Phoenix Design Week, the subject was on how Phoenix could grow to become the “Design Capital.” When the organizers wrote me to ask if I would be on the panel, I gladly agreed, but I had to shake my head and laugh. I have heard every design organization, in every city, ask the same question. From experience, I knew the answer was that it would never happen.
It’s not that there isn’t great talent spread through every city, because there is. When FedEx started overnight deliveries, many creatives I knew in New York City realized they could work from a home elsewhere, enjoying a simpler life than being crammed into an expensive apartment in Manhattan or the other boroughs, just a quick subway ride away from a client. FedEx proved to be faster than most subway lines.
At my last job with a large corporation, people started to get laid off. Many fellow creatives came to me, as they had no idea what they would do if they were let go. I had come to that small city from New York and my experience was varied and impressive to those who started their careers with this company and like their parents before them, and their hopes for their own children working there, wanted to retire from the same homey place. They were anchored in this town that held no other industries. Like layoffs in a town that has a steel mill, there weren’t many options to those looking for work.
There’s an anonymous saying, used on past ads for the School of Visual Arts in New York City, “Being good is not enough when you dream of being great.”
We all have our dream of great clients that every creative wants to add to his/her client list but either don’t know how to reach them or have no idea how to even start. Promotion is not a big subject in art school and I know way too many creatives who stare at the phone and wonder why it’s not ringing.
There are many ways to promote yourself and as with any product, you need to target your audience, efficiently and as cost-effect as possible. Let’s go over some problems and solutions.
I caught a disease from social media and I don’t know if it’s “tweetable” by modern medicine. I am fully vested in all the important social sites; LinkedIn for business, Facebook for friends, old business coworkers and a few “must know” people registered for the big time waster. I even have a fan page. I have a couple of blogs, write for some blogs that aren’t mine, I tweet, I Plaxo, Spock and other social sites I’ve long since deleted the bookmarks. I was one of the first people to discover social media. Not a pat on the back – just a testament to my ability to keep my sanity.
A friend of mine started an organization named “Creative Connect,” a twice a month get-together for anyone in the creative field. He said it was to, “get people away from their computers and to get them talking at least twice a month.” Mostly designers, programmers, illustrators and photographers with a spattering of marketing and management types show up and it’s something I look forward to attending in the light of day. Twice a month I gnaw through my own leg to escape the shackles of my computer and speak with real people…live…in person. It’s important to deal with the real world from time to time.
“The Need is Constant. The Gratification is Instant.” That’s from the American Red Cross and it was the copy I plugged into a blood drive for a comic convention blood drive poster, Those words sitting aside the image of the sexy and bountiful Vampirella, seemed to take on a different meaning. Oops! But I was struck by those words as a perfect summation of our society. We want it all, instantly and as cheaply as possible. We are a Walmart culture. Fast and cheap has entered every pore of us and it has changed our society, lives and livelihoods. Among our daily worries and pressures, we now fight ourselves to keep our industry professional and profitable. People want our blood for free and the “hacks” are designing us out of existence. Businesses have the need for cheap designs and there are people who are there to give the gratification. But is it fulfilling?
You’ve met with the client, done the creative brief, gotten some kind of written agreement or contract and work has been creative and progressing nicely. The joy and hope for life return as the promise of money looms so you start deleting the stored suicide notes and envelopes with instructions on notifying your accounts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn because an overdose of sleeping pills is no longer your main retirement plan. Then, someone adds some numbers together and realizes you can’t be paid what was agreed upon. Suddenly your contract is either a weapon in a brutal fight or a throw away to keep the job going in hopes of some pay and a return client.