There’s a strange culture that has grown over the years in certain design agencies. I’m not sure where it came from, but I know I'm not seeing it anywhere else. I've noticed it's not just the small independents who are guilty of this; I know some pretty big players who do this sort of thing too, and it baffles me. The bizarre trend I'm talking about is, of course, dogs parading as staff on website pages. What are agencies thinking?
Ok, so maybe I need to lighten up. A lot. Maybe? What is surprising to me is how this simple act belies a truth about a mindset. Because usually, in my experience, if you look a bit closer, you’ll spot the other tell-tale signs of self grandiosity, or at the lowest denominator, trying to be hip. Stuff like mentioning that the 'kettle is always on' or ‘there's a beer fridge for Friday afternoons’ and my favourite, ‘we like Star Wars’. I mean who doesn’t? If you're a certain age, it’s generational, right?
Ok, let's unpack my thinking... The reason design agencies can afford to put the lights on is our clients. We should be here to help them solve their issues and steer them towards becoming the best versions of themselves. Right? For me, clients should feel assured and be at ease with the whole process of working with an agency. They should also feel assured of what the outcome will be. So when we see that a Jack Russell is further up the pecking order than the Lead Web Coordinator, what should we take from this?
In all seriousness, having a dog in the workplace can create a productive and happy place to work. That's not in contention for me. Showcasing as staff? That is. Unless they've been doing an Open University course on the virtues of aesthetic brand consistency of course; otherwise I'm struggling to see how it impacts a client's business in a positive way.
I come from a very subjective time in design. During the early '90s you were seen as a success by your peers if you did what you wanted, regardless of the brief. The flippancy. The arrogance. I knew designers who would flaunt themselves as if they were actors or pop stars. The truth is, the landscape since those days has changed dramatically. It's no longer just about your design ability, but the way in which you can find and engage with the objective of any given project. Nobody that I knew back in the early '90s gave two hoots about ROI's, KPI's or measuring the metrics, mostly because it was near impossible to track with any real success. Design was art, and art is subjective. As art director and design consultant/speaker, Adrian Shaughnessy wrote: "Fame in graphic design circles is a bit like fame in dentistry; it doesn’t travel far”.
I'm not saying I haven't felt that emotion over the years. That need to be better, to be seen at times, as something you think you have to be in order to be successful. Of course I have. The dreaded 'imposter syndrome' has at times raised it's ugly head (more on this another time). But you have to push past it. Maybe the issue is more about how creative types see themselves? Or more importantly, to reframe the whole theory, how they think a potential client sees them. Or worse, what a client expects a designer to be (cue bike on the wall).
So, to the guilty parties, just focus on your clients. Don't stroke your own egos and don't try to look cool either. Take the bikes off the walls, unplug the PlayStations and start to cultivate honest working relationships. And while you're at it, take your Bichon Frise off your staff web page. Your clients will thank you for it.