Throughout my career as a designer, I have always been fascinated by the work of others. Perhaps a bit out of admiration as well as a small sprinkling of creative jealousy. So whether that’s the breathtaking print work of Chip Kidd, or the brilliant use of colors you find in Kate Moross’s work, they have exceptionally definable styles to their work. It was something for years that I had always tried to define my style in my work. It was almost as if I was trying to find my voice in a choir to virtuosos.
During the early period of my career, I worked for several agencies that quickly helped me understand that I was working towards business goals, not creative showcasing. As a young designer, it became deflating on some levels. How was I ever to achieve the level of design that I saw in the work of some many that I had admired. It made me realize that I needed to take a step back and review what it was that I wanted. I had signed up to be a commercial artist, not an artist that companies used to align their creative vision. Now read that statement again, if I am a resource to be the vessel for an organization’s creative vision, then it is my responsibility to take into consideration the alignment of their vision to the goal they are looking to achieve. However, if I am creating my work separate from the demand of a client, then they have chosen to fit their vision into the alignment of something I had produced separately from the client themselves.
I thought about this when I was listening to the radio one day. I heard an ad for an insurance company that had taken a Motown classic tune and turned it into a jingle to insure your car, boat, and family with their company. It was the realization of what the paradigm was. The original artist that recorded that work had no intention of it being a jingle for an insurance company that would have likely been something they would have purposely stayed away from at the time. Now, when I watch television or see interstitial ads on YouTube or Facebook, I constantly hear songs from my childhood that were songs of angst, uprisings, etc, but they are being used to promote a product or service. The 1992 punk rock California kid in me wants to immediately scream “SELLOUT!” However, I take a step back and think, at the time of the intended creation of this art, perhaps no one believes that it will evolve into something else. Perhaps the needs of the artist have changed during this time, and the creative concept that was originally developed has now become something that allows the artist to profit from their work years later.
What I think is paramount to understand as a commercial artist, is that your art that you create to meet a client need is not just your vision it wasn’t your vision originally at all, but instead was the work of a company or business to create a visual representation that the masses will understand about a product or service they are trying to sell. That is the real challenge. Can you align your creative mind to compliment symmetrically with what the business needs that will cause an action by the intended audience? If the answer is yes, then you have succeeded in bringing to life someone else’s work of art.
Make no mistakes, we are the creative talented artists that bring an eye or vision that those who asked for it likely could not do on their own, however, you have to understand the role that you play on the team. I’m terrible with sports analogies, however, I think in this case it describes in a great fashion what I am trying to express here. Traditionally, in American Football, the Quarterback is the field general of the game. However, that does not mean that he is going to be kicking field goals or defending a punt. Instead, they understand that their role is to organize their team offensively to achieve the greatest success on that side of the ball. Understanding their role is to make athletes like Tom Brady, Lebron James, Lionel Messi, Serena Williams titans in their respective sports. I don’t think anyone of them would say that they could have achieved the height of their success without the support and dedication of their teammates, coaches, etc. So understanding that you as a commercial artist must clearly understand your role to achieve the highest level of success, whatever you believe that to be.
In closing, be your creative self in everything you design. Don’t be afraid of breaking down walls with your designs, but understand that at the end of the day, if your design doesn’t meet the client’s need then it hasn’t succeeded at being a creative piece to serve the audience that it was intended for.