Away from the fun creative utopia called graphic design land, another world exists. This world has suits, photocopiers, partitions, notice boards, ergonomic chairs, cool blue filters on stock photography, graphs, excel files, handshakes, microwaved leftovers, bathroom etiquette, coffee breaks and phone extensions. It’s called the corporate world. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in roles and with clients in both worlds.
The creative world is where I’m most passionate, but the corporate world is where I’ve been more exposed to in recent times. This is due to my role being to manage a studio, staff and work on hitting targets etc. I’ve had to endure many functions / workshops in Adelaide, Melbourne and Gold Coast learning about powerful and important stuff like ‘how to run an high powered team’, ‘building a sales pipeline’, ‘how to be an effective leader’, ‘optimism and resilience in the workplace’, ‘planning for the future’, ‘managing profits and cashflow’ and other brain numbing topics.
I completely agree that these are all things that are super important to running a successful business and that a good manager or business owner should be exposed and become a master in these skills BUT for someone who is inclined to be more creative, these are all foreign subjects which aren’t taught at school / university, and generally go against the reasons why we get into a creative industry.
When studying graphic design, they don’t really prepare you fully for the real world and what it’s like running a studio, working in a team, working with clients, dealing with a ‘board’ or ‘committee’ etc. It’s through the ‘corporate world’ that I’ve increased my knowledge and skills in running a business. As much as I poke fun at it and love watching parody TV shows eg The Office or Corporate, I’ve learnt lots, and soft of wish I had known about these things before getting into the workplace.
One of the great things I learned while at a corporate business event in Queensland was the theory of personality profiling, and how to use this to better communicate and problem solve issues with your team or clients. I’ve found this to be super helpful in alleviating frustration with the creative process and explaining or getting approval from clients on design work. When you’re learning how to be a graphic designer, your work is critiqued by your teacher and peers who are all creatives. Clients in the real world are a completely different beast – and sometimes you have to battle against not just one person, but a whole marketing team, board or committee.
Here is my personal take on the different personality traits and how each of them is likely to respond or what they look at when it comes to the creative process.
The dominant one
You always know when you get a dominant personality. They are blunt and straight to the point, and they want to be the ones to make the final decisions. When looking at branding, they want to know how the design is going to better their business. How is it going to lead to more sales, more productivity and move them forward to their goal? They are generally not interested in what sort of emotional response the design will give, and don’t bother telling them that to give the flyer meaning, you painstakingly customised the background to have a subtle texture taken from their office floor tiles. They don’t give a crap about this.
This is the sales person or business development staff who is responsible for closing deals. They ooze optimism and are generally happy-go-lucky. They also talk too much but are easy to get along with and love working with others. What they tend to look for in a design is something that is going to stand out and make them look better. They want it to stand out against the competition and not blend in and are more than happy to do something a bit more risky and unconventional. When it comes to the content, they love a good f-bomb dropped into things eg. ‘Buy our boat motors, they go fucking fast’. Ultimately, they want to get noticed and anything that helps them get more attention is an attraction. They like the design to have meaning and are more likely to respond well to a super fluffy rationale (as they want to memorize it and rattle it off to anyone who will listen). It’s often easier to work with persuaders as they ‘get’ the creative process a bit more, and you can send them a quick mockup or some examples and they’ll be able to get on board with a ‘vibe’ or general feel.
The steady one
Has everything been done on time and to perfection? Are all the numbers matching up? Have I arrived on time everyday with minimal sick days? This is the steady personality type. They don’t like to rock the boat and cause issues with anyone. They just want to rock up to work, do their job to a high standard and leave. They’re not likely to want to create any new initiative or close any big sales deals, but they’re more than happy to be given a task and run with it. Great people to have in any organisation. I have noticed that this personality type always want to know what proof we’re up to, how many hours left in the budget and think more about how easy the design will be to implement. These are the people who will be first to point out a spelling error when you’ve sent them a mockup with DUMMY TEXT. They won’t look at the big picture of the design, they’ll look at the small details. It’s a good idea to point out any small details to this personality type as they will appreciate it – and make sure spacing, text and other info is accurate. They won’t like receiving a ‘rough mockup’, they find it harder to visualise things until they see them.
I’m sure there are other personality types out there and some people have combinations of a few different types going on – so it can be tricky to work out the best approach when pitching concepts and ideas. Hopefully this will make you feel more at ease so if someone responds immediately to your painstakingly designed proof simply with ‘you missed a full stop’, you’ll know they’re probably a ‘steady’ personality type and to just take a breath and work through it. Knowing that these different personalities exist makes it easier to roll with the feedback rather than butt heads.