…and to me, that’s what design is, it’s not creating the product – it’s the process that you go through. It’s not the final thing, it’s how you got to the final thing. It’s the journey. It’s all the crap that comes with it.
The key to any business’s success is all about the value it creates. Same goes for employees, products, or any relationship. As designers, we often struggle in defining the value we create beyond “we can make it look nice” especially as more of our industry is commoditized by talented production artists and DYI platforms. Why should a client pay upwards of $10k for a “custom website” when a simple Squarespace site, or in some cases, a well-executed Facebook presence, can accomplish many of their business requirements for much less? Same can be said for logos, printed materials, on down the line.
We must be able to define and sell the value of our services and offerings if we expect to have any longevity as design professionals. It’s something I constantly am working towards, and too often, find myself back in that production/generalist mentality instead of narrowing my focus around the true value proposition that’s intrinsic to good design and strategy.
In his talk, designer Clayton Farr provides some much needed direction for creating a value based design business. A few of my key takeaways from what Clayton had to say:
As a business, you must decide what work you’re going to do, (just as importantly) what work you’re not going to do, for whom you’re going to do it, and why.
This is a daily struggle as a recovering “wandering generalist” who needs to pay the bills.
Become intensely appealing to a certain group.
How do we become the person who a friend recommends as “Just the guy/gal for the job”?
Clayton’s four principles for defining what you do and where you do it:
1. Think Beyond Money – What is the higher purpose – why do you exist?
2. Competencies – What are you uniquely qualified to do? Play to your strengths.
3. Who Are Your Customers? Is there a need and can you bring value to them?
4. Culture – What are your principles?
Finally, he has some excellent advice regarding pricing: Don’t negotiate costs, negotiate value.
Can I produce this for what it’s worth profitably? If it’s only worth X amount, but it takes you this much to produce it, it’s not a project you should take on. It’s not financially viable for you or anyone else.
View Clayton’s talk in it’s entirety above.
Ears are still ringing and mind is still foggy from last night’s Kurt Vile show at the Urban Lounge. School night, or not, it was totally worth it.
Three weeks ago I entered the parenthood club. Welcome to Earth, Josie May.
Willie has some wisdom about that. He says, “Do what you want to do. In case somebody likes it, then you have to go do it again.” In other words, Sturgill’s doing what he wants to do. That’s the most important thing. No advice from this corner. I’m a fan. I want to see what he comes up with.
Merle Haggard from a recent interview with Sturgill Simpson
I haven’t been as excited for the release of a new record as I am about Sturgill Simpson’s upcoming A Sailor’s Guide to Earth in a long time. If for whatever reason you don’t know Sturgill’s music, go listen to his previous two releases High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music ASAP! The latter of which was recorded on a whim in four days, and is a modern masterpiece.
Below is the single ‘Brace for Impact (Live a Little)’ off the upcoming Sailor’s Guide which Sturgill wrote as a letter to his new son.
The above video for River by Leon Bridges is some of the most beautiful and moving five minutes of filmmaking I’ve seen as of late. It also has my heart heavy thinking about racial inequality in America, as well as what my role as a white male is in this fight. I have no solutions to offer, or even an idea where to begin, but I do know the following:
- 1 in 15 black men are expected to go to prison compared to 1 in 106 white men.
- Black men and women earn 75% and 65%, respectively, compared to white men.
- Black children are almost 4X more likely to grow up in poverty than white children.
These statistics are nothing new, we’ve all heard them before. But here’s your challenge: take a minute to ask yourself why the numbers are as such. There are two potential answers:
- Black people, as a whole, are simply more prone to trouble and drug abuse. They are inherently lazy and unwilling to work at bettering their standing in life.
- Black people, as a whole, are at an institutional disadvantage put in place by a system that arose from slavery and free labor, which was created by wealthy white Europeans to serve their interests.
To deny the latter, puts you in camp #1. I’ll tolerate this viewpoint, but only if you agree to own one or all of the following:
- You believe black people are inherently lazy.
- You believe black people aren’t as smart or capable as white people.
- You believe black people aren’t as moral as white people.
Of course believing any of these is your right, but it also, by definition, makes you a racist.
White Privilege is Real
My grandparents were midwestern, depression-era, farmers who came from poverty and worked hard for what they have and where they are in life. My parents instilled in me a hard work-ethic from a young age (much to OSHA’s dismay, I was running a backhoe on my dad’s construction site well before I had a driver’s license). I’ve worked hard to get where I am, as I’m sure you have.
But I also can’t deny the inherent advantages and help along the way I’ve been afforded simply because of the color of my skin. I think back to encounters I’ve had with the police, where, had I been black, might not have turned out so well. Furthermore, favorable circumstances largely go unnoticed, as they’ve simply been what we’ve been conditioned to expect through our white American experience.
The intent of the Black Lives Matter movement, or white privilege discussion, is not about taking away from what anyone has achieved or suggesting that those who are successful are undeserving. We all fight our own battles, rich, poor, black, or white. Instead it’s about acknowledging that we, as a country, indeed have a serious, institutional race problem, and committing to it’s resolve by any means necessary.
As an endnote:
A lot of people get hung up on the semantics of “black lives matter” and simply react or respond with “all lives matter.” However, the Black Lives Matter movement is not implying that only black lives matter. Of course all lives matter, but that’s irrelevant to the conversation. Think about it in terms of the following analogy: A house is on fire. Does the fire dept start spraying all the houses in the neighborhood, on fire or not, or do they focus their efforts on the house that’s in the most danger of destruction? Yes, all those houses still matter, but in that moment, there is one clearly in need of attention.
In an increasingly complex world, they tell simple stories that allow us to mistake their seemingly effortless bluster for assurance—for a confidence that is often built no sturdier than a house of cards but that, in the moment, is impossible to cast aside.
From Brandon Harris’s “The Hidden Stars of This Year’s Sundance: Hoaxes, Hucksters, and Glamorous Frauds” via The New Yorker
While the intent of Harris’s article was to highlight emerging storytellers from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the above passage struck a chord in how it relates to building brands and telling stories. Think about your favorite or most notable brands – Nike, Apple, etc… Their messages are simple, “Just Do It,” “Think Differently,” respectively. Yet when we’re standing in the store or shopping online comparing products & brands, that story is what we remember. Not what space-age materials the shoe is constructed with or which tablet screen has the most pixels-per-inch.
Is your brand’s story simple or complex. Worse yet, does it cease to even exist?
Well, I’ve been doing web shit for around 20 years, and I’ve built a lot of websites, and I’ve done some testing where I watched people using other websites, and I go to expensive conferences where other people like me explain back at me what it is I do and why I am most likely doing it wrong, so then I go back to the office having been told that everything I thought was right is now wrong based on, I dunno, how some other site that has completely separate goals and a completely different audience with completely different solutions to completely different problems is doing it better than we are.
2016 should be simple: Work on what you love with people you love in a place you love.
Today marks my first day as self-employed, which makes the above quote entirely too timely & relevant. While the decision to leave comfortable, gainful employment with a kid on the way comes with it’s own fair share of anxiety, mostly I’m filled with anticipation and excitement in starting this next chapter as well as the opportunity to focus on work that’s important to me.
Time as a finite resource is an incredibly hard concept to grasp, and perhaps it’s only through major life events that we even begin to understand it. Between expecting our first child in May, and losing one of my best-friends in December, it became more and more obvious that there is never a “right-time” to make such a leap. Staying at a job out of fear or laziness doesn’t do anyone any favors. Moreover, it is a disservice to those who don’t have the opportunity and freedom to change their circumstance.
Fear of the unknown breeds complacency, and though I might fail miserably over the coming months, to not have set out and tried would be a personal exercise in futility. So here’s to the unknown, and whatever happens, know that I’ll be there giving it my best.
When I first showed up at Nate’s door nearly a decade ago, I was a green college grad who had just arrived in Utah with little more to his name than a busted Jeep, a good woman, loyal dog, and two month’s rent in his pocket. I knew nothing more about web design than how to create a Flickr account, which was where my portfolio was hosted. However, after being hired, I quickly received a baptism by fire and before I knew it I was creating image sprites and slicing up Photoshop files for export (oh, how things have changed).
Eight years later, I’ve bought and sold a house, bought another house, gotten married to that same good woman, buried a few loved ones, acquired yet another loyal dog, have a baby on the way (oh fuck), grown proficient in a number of programming languages and web platforms, as well as have racked up more memories than one can count. Along the way, Nate has always been there with his most gracious support and oversight, accomplishing what many bosses try and only few achieve by establishing genuine friendships with his employees; a friendship that continues even in my absence at Flint Digital.
Monday marks a new chapter in my life. A chapter that fills me with excitement and anticipation, as well as some anxiousness, did I mention that I have a baby on the way;). However, I want to take this moment to extend my extreme gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities and doors that have been opened to me over the last eight years with Flint Digital. It’s been a great run, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us both collectively and independently.