This is the final article in a three-part series on managing creative partners.
Our last article covered what to do if you find yourself in a creative partnership that is at an impasse, or just not the right fit. This next section covers how you can avoid those situations all together.
How do I find the right creative partner I can trust?
The right creative partner will ask good questions up front and really listen. My friend and Portraits To The People owner Sarah Deragon put it best when I picked her brain on the subject, “It’s all about creating trust.” Talk about a tough audience! Reviewing photos of oneself can be wrapped up with all sorts of personal issues. Sarah has a surprisingly thorough intake questionnaire for clients, but it’s her way of making sure she’s able to support them effectively at the outset, saving everyone time and energy later.
They will make educating you part of their process, even when it’s a tough conversation to have. When I managed the internal communication function at GSD&M, an ad agency in Austin, I learned a lot about collaborating with creative talent. One of my first projects, I was sitting over a shoulder of an art director where I made a few too many comments about the colors and textures he was using on a design. He turned to me and said very kindly, “You’re fine to chime in on the content, but I’m the art director. If you want to dictate different color choices, then learn Photoshop.” It was probably what every creative person dreams about saying to a client. And for me, that was hard to hear but incredibly liberating because I learned what it meant to trust my creative partners. He set boundaries of what was good feedback and what was overstepping my expertise. (Ironically, I went on to marry him. Apparently, trust works for marriages, too.)
They will push you. You shouldn’t worry about design when you’re in a respected creative partnership. As a client, you must be clear on your bigger vision for the project, demand excellence by empowering partners to do their job, and then let yourself be wowed (and maybe even scared). A great creative partner will push you to think about bigger, better, and bolder ideas than you could have come up with on your own, and this is a good thing. Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow, speaks frequently about pushing these kinds of boundaries in your business. Great design can do more than just set you apart, it can generate more revenue for your business.
Walk into a creative review by reminding yourself that there is a reason you’re not doing their job. I have never in my life seen a logo and been moved by it. Not once. Brands are made through actions and the value they provide to clients. The love for the creative elements comes after that value is established. And creating that value is on you as the business owner and force behind the business.
You don’t have to worry about design when you find the right partners and trust them. If you find a creative partner you can trust and work with over and over, they’ll be more efficient and excited to do more work. Save yourself from stressing over inconsequential things. I know enough from working with creative people; they’ve been stressing over these things for hours before they delivered them to you.
I welcome conversation, advice, and dissenting opinions. Comment below and let’s duke it out!