One of the things we were guilty of in the last agency is never taking the time to fully review our activity. The enormous elephant in the room (we needed to change) prevented us from analysing our activity in too great a detail, daft really because with the benefit of hindsight, we should have changed 12 months earlier.
We did an end of quarter review last week. We discussed work, money and the future. We also discussed feelings, at great length and how managing our feelings are surprisingly important to the business.
We kicked off discussing where our heads are at; personally and collectively. This is a vitally important topic for a tiny team like us. It’s so important that we’d already listed ‘a breakdown of our personal relationships’ as a threat in our SWOT analysis. Can you imagine how grim it would be if Joe and I split up, it’s bad enough when we can’t agree who’s turn it is to collect the kids from school. Yeah, #feelings. They’re a big thing in the Well Made Studio.
So, how are we feeling?
On the whole, surprisingly good. The first quarter was extremely positive - we gained a lot of ground with the relaunch, more than we’d hoped for. We built Well Made on a foundation of the best bits of Mercy and have managed to only add to that.
One thing that did crop up with this share session what that our plans for the future probably aren’t ambitious enough. Six months ago, our goals were:
- to be good designers
- to be good people
- to support emerging talent
We set goals that were achievable and flexible, had room to interpret as we wished, yet also had milestones we could measure our progress by.
The only way to be a good designer is to design, all the time. A creative business isn’t like a real job. Of course a large part of the working week is dedicated to mundane tasks that can’t be ignored; updating the CRM, designing packaging labels, sourcing print quotes. We all have specific tasks that we just don’t like doing but on the whole it’s an engaging and inspiring way to earn a bit of cash. Unlike other jobs, we don’t switch off at 5.05.
My dad goes spare if his work encroaches into his home life and I’ve seen him rip some very important people to shreds to calling the home phone. It’s different for us. Our work and life are two very interconnected and enjoyable things. Switching off from work, from design would impact terribly on our ability as designers.
I’m rapidly sliding into chest puffing territory here, but I’d say that our work is being judged as good by our peers as well. We’ve been invited to take part in amazing industry projects like Creative Process, Open Studio Club and Secret 7s. We’re having more conversations with other designers and we’re being absolutely HAMMERED with vacancy requests which I think is a good indication that talented designers regard Well Made as a studio they would like to work at.
We’ve also started gaining a bit of press attention which is utterly, utterly utterly brilliant. One of the things we mentioned in the review day was me trying to be a bit more chill on Twitter when we get a good bit of press. The lads are lucky I’m not swinging my jumper round my head and howling like a wolf. One of the things I’ve learned from my grim past in PR is that no matter how good you are at blagging, journalists will still only feature what they think their audience will like, i.e. stuff that’s good.
Goal number two- to be good people is actually a lot easier said than done. It’s easy to bleat on about honesty and generosity but still act like complete cretins behind closed doors. For the record, we rate being good by:
- not exploiting emerging talent with pi$$-take internships,
- not ever speaking on an all male panel,
- paying any freelancers we commission the correct percentage of the budget,
- by remaining loyal to those freelancers who’ve worked on low budget work for us when the big bucks come rolling in.*
- We also try really hard to answer all emails from people wanting jobs and internships with more than the obligatory “we’ll put you on file” (we won’t, nobody ever does).
- We don’t screw our suppliers out of their profit to increase our own. A genuinely good printer is hard to find so it makes no sense to try and put them out of business.
At the moment, we’re on track to achieving goal number 3 by allocating an admittedly, small amount of our time to giving free advice and support. We do need to devote some time and cash to developing a new project along the lines of Young Pines as we’re really missing out on the benefits of working with students and graduates at the moment. We’ve had a few preliminary chats about that, but it’s a quarter three project for when we have more spare time and cash.
It was around this time last year that the cracks in the Mercy design offering were becoming prominent. I’m overjoyed that twelve months on we’re in a position to write so positively. I’m also glad we didn’t set ourselves anything too hard for the first quarter. If I’m being 100% honest, our only real goal was ‘rebrand the studio, don’t go out of business.’ Anything over and above that is really just a bonus.
* this hasn’t actually happened yet but this time next year Rodney…