Motivating Designers?

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  • mg33

    Serious question: throughout your careers, what have you found motivated the designers and creatives around you to create the absolute best work they could? More importantly, if there was ever a need for people to rally together and take a big leap forwards in terms of quality of work, ideas, collaboration, etc. that resulted in significantly better work, what made that happen?

    Were the people around you inspired and did they inspire you and others to do great work? Did they share inspiration to help better engage people who might be a little out-of-the-loop in terms of finding creative inspiration, and using it to take their ideas up a notch?

  • robotron3k1

    I've always found endless inspiration listening to new music. I select wordless, long, melodictracks. I know I go into a design trance I no longer hear the music. I will also eat very light during these design stints to keep me alert, add a little high quality chocolate, coffee and a few puffs from the bong — get me in the right frame of design.

  • capn_ron3

    Inspirational trips have always been a good way for myself and other designers to recharge and get a new perspective for projects. Taking a day off from the office to go to some museums, large shopping centers, anywhere that could inspire. Even a trip to the fashion district or something that is design related, but not exactly in what you do.

    Getting outside is frowned upon for some reason for designers, and I think that is stupid. Go get the perspective of the consumer out in the real world.

    Once you come back put together a quick slideshow and talk about what you found and what inspired you.

    • I should have added this all would happen as a team, so the whole day/experience is as a team so you can chat and share in real time.capn_ron
  • mg330

    Love those responses. Let me maybe ask the question a different way:

    Let's say you consider yourself highly inspired and aware of what's happening in whatever your design focus is (digital, print, whatever). You feel like you have a good eye for what's working out in the wild, what's turning heads, what's working effectively, representing brands well, etc. It influences your work and you set a high bar for quality and work you know measures up against the best work out there.

    If you work with people who don't exhibit those traits or outward sense of awareness of evolving styles, trends, etc., what have you done to help them evolve and get excited about refreshing their sense or style of design?

    • What about sending out a weekly digest of good design you've found, and asking them to participate as well? Or have an in-house design challenge for beers?Melanie
  • tank025

    No Micro-Managing.
    Don't send to design conferences, they are just dick-measuring contests who worked the most for NIke.
    Education besides design: Art, Politics, Science.
    Small clients can give your skills a big leap. Big clients can give your skills a small leap.
    Overtime can happen, but can't be a constant. It becomes soulcrushing to work 70+ hours per week as a habit.
    Take them to meetings: let them experience when a client is happy, or when a client is not happy.

  • Continuity0

    Frankly, it boils down to the same thing that motivates and inspires non-creatives working in other industries:

    • More money — salaries aren't they used to be in this business, and more and more agencies are paying their creatives shit, junior and senior alike. It's difficult to be motivated when you feel exploited. And if the creatives work over-time, pay them (also see point 3);

    • Respect — this should be a given and self-explanatory, but it isn't. The disrespect comes from all sides in an agency: the account people who think they're creative directors, and over-rule your creative decisions; junior creatives who think they've got it all figured out, and your ideas suck; CDs and ECDs with chips on their shoulders who take it out on you and mob you all day;

    • Work-life balance — Best way to burn a creative out, and insure his or her best work never sees the light of day? Work them 12 to 16 hour days plus weekends for three months, and see what happens.

    I went through all of these more times than I can count, and still go through points one and two, and got fired a few of times for standing up for myself on point three.

    Table tennis, a climbing wall, Nerf guns, free fruit/soft drinks/coffee/whatever, 'development opportunities' (read: stupid conferences), none of that means anything. It's all bullshit engineered to make an agency *look* like they care about their staff, without actually having to care.

    These window dressings cost an agency nothing. And they don't motivate or inspire, they don't pay the rent or help you pad your savings account, they don't lead you to be more respected, and they don't balance your life.

  • Continuity1


    '[...] what have you done to help them evolve and get excited about refreshing their sense or style of design?'

    Nothing. And I'll tell you why:

    • The chances are high that other creatives think the way you do — insofar as 'highly inspired and aware of what's happening in whatever your design focus is, etc, etc, etc' is concerned. And the chances are they're trying to 'help others evolve', too, according to *their* sense of inspiration of awareness, and certainly not yours. So, then it becomes a pissing contest with other creatives;

    • Others don't want to 'evolve';

    • This business is a sausage grinder. There are way too many assignments, way too much politicking, way too many differences of opinion, and way too many chiefs and not enough Indians* in an agency who are ultimately going to throw their weight around at the expense of you trying to 'evolve' people.

    I know you're coming from an honest place with the questions, mg33, and I respect that. But the fact of the matter is that the sort of thinking you're trying to present, here, is probably better suited for extra-curricular creative activities — something personal to you as a passion project that you do in your off-hours perhaps with others, for example — and not in the soul-crushing run of agency daily business, where there are just entirely too many external variables to consider that will pretty much crush one's efforts to do as you suggest.

    * Yes, I know this is dated and politically incorrect. I couldn't give a fuck anymore.

    • Yup. I'm 45 and bitter.Continuity
    • But I don't think you have to be so ambitious to change an entire company, just your little corner of it.robotron3k
    • I get the bitterness. I'm just at a point where I'm trying to help our creative process measure up to certain agency aspirational goals.mg33
  • robotron3k5

    When I want to inspire those less motivated or talented I show vulnerability. For example I will present my own design work to them, point out my flaws, problems with my design and ask them for feedback. I show them it can be positive. I keep working them like, repeating this until they get anxious and want to present their designs for feedback. Never underestimate the power of turning to a nearby designer and saying, "I need feedback, what do you think of this?"

    • Fantastic advice.mg33
    • damnit robo, once in awhile you actually show that you are a designer :)monospaced
    • +1monospaced
    • I do this a LOT with my designers. It allows them to help me, which flexes their own creative muscles.monospaced
    • +1 - mentor-ship is tough. Always stive to to give more than i ever got having shit CDs and corp stooges who don't value design/design-system...DarkCover
  • monNom0

    Are you new to the organization? It may simply be that there's no tangible incentive for all the extra work that's required to be innovative and on the cusp of the latest / greatest thing. Do your clients value that? Do your bosses? Maybe everyone else just figured out the proper amount of time / energy investment already?

    That's playing devils advocate, but there are certainly workplaces where consistency is prized above creativity.

    • No, not new. Just looking for ways to raise the bar on what we do, especially considering there's a desire around the company to submit to big awards shows.mg33
    • Awards = pro bono work, which is fantastic way to inspire designers. Create internal competition!robotron3k
    • Yep!mg33
    • Anything where your designers can be autonomous and really own their work should get them excited. Pro-bono awards fodder sounds like a good bet.monNom
  • shapesalad1

    Put them in a nice office - natural lighting, angle poise lamps, range of chairs, lots of plants, decent kitchen/drinks/fruits/snacks, option to work from home 1 day per week of their choosing, only 7 hour days, start any time they want before 11am, 30 days holiday on top of national holidays, share scheme, car allowance, decent pension.

    I have this package. But the office is absolutely awful , open plan 90's corporate crap, no natural light, no snacks/kitchen... I'm already updating my CV... can't wait to get out of there.

    • before we moved to the awful office, I was super motivated and doing 8.30am to 7pm days...shapesalad
    • and never took up option to work from home.shapesalad
    • most productive part of my life was in a shitty small flat, with an almost cubicle like desk. i was working against the shitty environment.sted
    • when we moved the company to a brand new building with every extras, separated office. i was still active in production but my work became soulless and rigid.sted
    • do you get to WFH ever?notype
    • will do 1 day per week.shapesalad
  • grafician2

    Yeah, no! Never put designers/creatives in an open office.

    • I think that book creativity Inc was saying two creatives sharing an office with a door is ideal. Someone to bounce ideas off, but very few distractions.monNom
    • < this. read about what Slack is doing.notype
    • Does slack have a good work environment? Link? Or do you mean slack kills flow time? Which I can totally seemonNom
    • https://www.fastcomp…notype
  • grafician1

    Also a "party" budget for getting booze on Fridays helps.
    Notice: this is dif than stocking beer in the office fridge! Give them a budget, not free drinks! It's a BIG difference.

    Also never pay account people more than creatives! They will find out and never respect you - the boss/creative director/etc. - or the account people anymore.

    Also office hours should be 11am to 18-19pm unless you have creatives that are morning people then give them the keys to the place so they can come in early and get shit done before 11am

    Never over work creatives - never call them after office hours - never call them on weekends.

    Always take their side over account people or clients - even when their ideas are dumb - if their ideas are dumb, call them and tell them that directly and work it out until you get something good out of it.

    It's all about support and mutual respect.

    • I've worked in agencies full-time and as a freelancer for over a decade - this "recipe" for handling creatives will win you Cannes Lions guaranteed!grafician
    • Also will get you friends for life!grafician
  • BonSeff0

    When it's slow, let em go early.

  • i_monk1

    Have you tried business hammocks?

  • BonSeff1

    Letting em out to pee and poop once a day helps, too.

  • notype0

    Allow them to take some serious time of and travel.

  • matski0

    I know one thing you don't do, which is to put pressure or stress on people to produce outstanding work.

    The best thing is to allow people to have a sense of freedom, to be open and produce whatever they want. I don't mean give them total freedom, because that in itself brings a lot of pressure. Some people work well when given carte blanche on a project, some (including myself) don't - I preferred to work within guidelines or some boundaries, which forces me be more focused and creative, and spend less (wasted) time trying to narrow down what the best solution or outcome would be.

    It's also important, if you are in leadership to critique the work produced by others, so they learn and develop, to make better decisions, working practices, and ultimately better work.

    • I was lucky to work under some great CD's who showed me what I was doing right or wrong. Which in turn I passed onto others.matski
  • spot132

    When it comes to motivation, you really can't motivate people - either they are or they are not motivated. What you can do is make them feel like they have control of a project or process so they feel like they own it. Some people are motivated by the prospect of accountability but not everybody. Getting to know what motivates an individual and providing some element of that is key to getting your staff to be productive.

    • sometimes having a heart to heart with an employee REALLY helps. you can get into cultural stuff and figure things out together.notype
    • for sure. virtually nobody works because they want to. finding out why they are there, what their drivers are, is really important.spot13
  • DarkCover0

    Found this somewhere and maybe even on here and hit me that is exactly what I had been trying to do for my young staff and the kids I coached(sports).

  • DarkCover0

    Some good posts.

    Agree on NO Micro-Managing. There are a million ways to skin a cat, right. Often just give a task and wait and see, then pose questions like: did you think about X or consider this view Y etc.

    For me as well I have taken pride in most of the tasks I give out I can do myself and show the team by doing when needed, but also had some opportunities to hire folks with skills I didn't have, even if outside the scope of the position.

    Showing them you are learning from them too can be VERY powerful. Builds, trust, respect, and for me many life long bonds that have lasted long after working together.

  • deathboy0

    For me I think its being allowed to fail.

    I told the last company I worked for in exit interview that. It plays into the micromanaging and teams and all that but the biggest learner and all I ever wanted was true ability to fail. All on me. When you have multiple parties and shared responsibility and collective decisioning you never really get "your" view. Or even a chance to present "your" view.

    I find if i know it's on me and my ideas have to stand all on me and no collective decisioning you will be 100% sure I'm more motivated. VS the phone it in because to many cooks in the kitchen.

    But at the end of the day its all about reading the employee.Different strokes for different folks. Management needs to read and know the different motivations of types to bring out the best talent and abilities. So maybe better manager skills is the key?