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