If You’re Not an Art Director, Don’t Be

This is a snippet from an email I sent to a designer I’m working with:

Also, one additional thought: the photo seems a *bit* ambiguous—do you think it would be better to shift it left so that you can see more of the laptop (to provide better context)? Not trying to art-direct, just trying to look at it from the potential customer’s eyes.

I’m working with a designer to shore up the lines on The Iron Yard’s brand. The resulting standards will serve as a guide to any designer creating any sort of artwork or collateral related to our company.

Throughout this process I’ve worked hard to let the art/creative director do their job without interfering. What does that mean? Many times when you have a deep connection to a brand (i.e., you started the company) or your authority over that brand (which is part of my job), you’re tempted to let your preferences guide decision making about the brand. To some extent, if you know the brand intimately, you are one of the brands most valuable resources.

Many times, though, that intimacy can deceive you into thinking that you always know what’s best, even if in areas where you’re unqualified. For example, I’m not a designer. I’m not qualified to make choices about color, typography, hierarchy, etc. I certainly have opinions, some of which are probably good, but at the end of the day the creation of brand guidelines needs to be done by someone who is qualified to make those decisions with authority, producing a result that’s ultimately best for the customer—not my preferences.

Playing art director when you’re not—even if it comes from a good place of caring about the brand—can actually damage that brand if you don’t put your preferences in their proper place.

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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

2 thoughts on “If You’re Not an Art Director, Don’t Be”

  1. Well said Eric. And, I’m not sure if I ever told you or not, but when we
    worked together my impression of your work ethic and the above
    recommendation for best practice in your post above was what you exemplified. I
    was appreciative of your (close to client) insight when I couldn’t attend the same meetings. BTW, and you know I’ve followed your journey
    in photography, but you are a designer. It’s evident in your images. You
    may not be able to rattle off the Gestalt Principles of Design—but
    they’re very evident in your photography. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Whitlock! How are you, my friend! Thanks for commenting here—it’s great to hear…er, read your voice. And thanks for the encouraging words. Working with designers is super fun. As for photography…I miss it man. Been so busy I haven’t had a chance to pursue that avenue of design. One day again soon!

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