January 30, 2011 - 10 comments

Some thoughts about — 


To keep quality in all your projects, every month, every year, and in particular as your agency is growing is not an easy task. Everyone who has been working at a design bureau knows how easy the growth and profit take focus from that final touch and execution. That’s a deadly, but common sin.

At North Kingdom we have always been discussing our projects quality. These internal design evaluations are not only important for you as a designer but for the entire company. How will you otherwise improve and take it to the next level? One step we have taken is to appoint a North Kingdom design director, and that guy is me since a couple of months.

“Critical discussions around design is as important as the design process itself." A quote from Aarron Walters excellent article about "The art of design critique".

In a growing, creative design company, there are two elements that needs equal focus; the economy and the portfolio. We use to say that if you concentrate on quality it will sooner or later pay back, when a well-executed project will give your company great PR which will give you more contracts in the future. Sounds maybe easy, but of course, it’s not. You really need to understand how to sell and run a business as well. When we started North Kingdom almost eight years ago we had something that later seemed to be a perfect match. When I focused 24/7 on the creative side, my colleague and the other founder, Roger Stighäll, focused on the business as a full bloodied business man he is. We were two strong individuals that were fighting our different interest.

Besides the internal design discussions it’s also important for you to fight for your visual ideas. As a designer or art director it can sometimes be hard to internally convince why you would need two extra days, fixing visual details when you have a strict budget and deadline to follow. A fight that becomes more important for you when you know how fine the line is between an acceptable and an award winning project. It's now so important that your colleagues are understanding what you want to achieve. Sometimes we have what we call a “tweak week” at North Kingdom; a week after launch where we fix details that wasn’t done during the last hectic weeks, so we ourselves are pleased with the final result. If you are building a pyramid it would be a bummer to miss the top, right?

Personally I think many companies needs stronger art directors and designers with authority to really fight for their design vision (which should be a vision that not only are based on personal style but business goal). If you as an art director makes a project without any bigger complications within the team or with the client you have probably not taken the work to the level it could be, or should be. If it’s easy, you are probably doing it wrong.

“If people aren’t telling you that your idea is crazy, then it is likely not a very big idea” - Francis Ford Coppola. I like this quote when it touches design as much as ideas itself.

What concerns me, is that is too often we see well known agencies working with super big brands with a terrible result. I hardly believe the budgets are too small, instead I believe there are stronger people in their organizations who are more concerned about money or credits than what they actually are going to launch. Maybe, we should question more if these persons are having to much power in house for each companies best?

Robert Lindström, art & design director, North Kingdom

Published by: Robert Lindström in empty


February 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Great article Rob!

You got the speech, that I heard so many times, down on paper. And you can still hear the passion in your voice…

Comments are closed.

February 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Bra skrivet Robert!

Comments are closed.

February 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Thank you! I completely agree. The challenge is convincing non-designer bosses of the importance of quality. Bravo.

Comments are closed.

February 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I think part of the problem is that there are often too many “xyz Director’s”… “Director’s” and meetings kill off many good projects imho. No offence Mr Design Director :)

Comments are closed.

February 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

This article makes a good point but I would like a little more reflection on how that “extra time” is supposed to pan out in the real world of budgets and deadlines.

That is to say – is the quality at the expense of just the designer in unpaid additional hours? Of course not. But is it then fair to put the burden upon the company to pay for the additional hours internally to ensure a quality product? I would love to see some budgets to actuals from big projects on how that relationship pans out with larger firms.

Comments are closed.

February 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm

wow, great article, thanks Robert.

Comments are closed.

February 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

“This article makes a good point but I would like a little more reflection on how that “extra time” is supposed to pan out in the real world of budgets and deadlines. ”

You could argue that good design takes “Less time” if you know what you are doing ;)

Comments are closed.

February 8, 2011 at 8:50 am

With all due respect, I think that one fact is overlooked here: a lot of big name agencies totally suck at understanding what good digital creative is.
If your idea of what a creative should look & feel like is something else than what the public feels the creative should look / feel like (and for instance interact like) to be a good creative…. then we’re not going to solve this problem by keeping these types of creative people in charge of overall projects.

It’s not just account who is to blame…..

P.s. I’m not account & yes, I also have gotten too little hours assigned by account on projects. It’s the way of things…. alas

Comments are closed.

February 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

I agree with everything here, but the statement “the line is between an acceptable and an award winning project” seems a little off. Do you really care if you win an award for the project? Should that be a deciding factor? What should matter is if the design was effective and produced the desired response/result.

Comments are closed.

Robert Lindström
February 22, 2011 at 7:05 am

Thanks for the answers! I totally agree that meetings can take to much focus from productions, therefore you as a designer should ask your team each time it is meeting; what is the purpose with this meeting, how long will it take and what is your role in it. I personally hate meetings cause they steel too much time from me.

No, of course it’s not the account to blame if the outcome is bad. It’s more the art director or the designer’s fault, when they need to fight for their visions. However, the designer and the account people need to be more involved with each others work. Art directors need for example to be sure his concerns takes serious by the account, and vice versa.

About “the line is between an acceptable and an award winning project”; winning awards is great PR for your agency and the clients love it. If you have been working hard for month an award always feels great, cause it is telling you that you have done something great. But yes, what matters is the result. Still the line is very thin between a project that feels premium and project that feels crappy. Imagine if BMW haven’t put their effort to make the sound super perfect when you open the front door. Details like that would kill the overall feeling. Interactive websites/apps/installations are so complex comparing to a print ad or a commercial, which means you have lot of potentially details that can turn out wrong.

Comments are closed.