I was recently contacted by a recruiter who was looking to fill a Creative Position at a nearby company who needed the position filled immediately. The work needed was somewhat out of my experience specifically but really only required a creative mind. Basically, they needed an Idea Guy with the ability to communicate artistically. I am that guy. I was intrigued. Everything the recruiter was describing sounded remarkably interesting and challenging. Was this a new endeavor that would soon bloom into a unique work history building asset on the resume? Turns out no. While all the ingredients were there for my interest, they soon diminished when I learned what kind of company was offering the position: exceptionally large. We will call them “Company X.”
Company X is a conglomerate. They bolster employees all over the world with a large part of their personnel dedicated to manufacturing in China. In the US they staff people in the thousands in locations across the country. On top of being huge, they are conservative… well lets just call them what they are: corporate. I could argue they are conservative even by corporate standards, which is pretty fricken conservative. “Why does this matter,” you may ask, “haven’t you worked with conservative companies before?” Well yes, but the difference is the nature of a personal relationship vs the sheer volume of personnel that compounds the conservative mindset into a super conservative culture. Not exactly a hotbed of expression or unconventional thinking.
The more I looked at Company X I wondered “why in the world would they not promote from within to fulfill their positional need, they have thousands of people to choose from?” Well, not to sound too arrogant, or too much like a cynic, but I believe it is because their culture does not breed creativity, or perhaps the concept is so foreign to them that they would not be comfortable enough to confidently recognize it. Either that or they don't have the cojones to entrust one of their juniors with creative opportunities, which would be another issue. Of course, this is all just speculation. When I asked the recruiter these questions, she told me they had some new CEO in the last two years who has changed the culture and yada yada… I was not buying it. You do not change the culture of a company who has been around for decades in just two years. I countered the recruiters offer with one of my own: I will take on the project at the same price they are offering and fulfill whatever creative needs they may have, but only through the services of my LLC as an outside consultant. The response was, “well they don’t typically do that and want someone in house.”
So, what does this all mean? You may be asking, “what would be the big deal of tackling a creative project under their wing instead of on your own?” Well, first off, who knows if I would have won the position, but if I had, then I believe it would have been a nightmare. All speculation of course. Who knows, maybe I am completely wrong, and Company X is a place full of Da Vinci’s, but that doesn’t really line up with their product in question or where they intend to sell it. I will of course not share that information to keep Company X anonymous.
Here is the deal, I offered to perform the same task as I would if I were working as one of their employees and it was frowned upon. Why? Control. More specifically Creative Control. Everybody wants it. Design is at its best when it is a two-way street, a partnership of understanding: a Client with needs alongside a Designer to fulfill them. If there is a chain of command leading the design, then the environment should be supportive, or at least, not be anti-creative. The management should understand what the Arts and Humanities represent: the Human Experience. Design is an extension of this philosophy. Creativity is so important and vital for the future of humanity. If you are not buying this then so be it, but a world without art, music, and creative expression is a world in turmoil. When design is managed by those who do not understand it, then the management can quickly turn into a dictatorship while the design suffers greatly.
There are conservative businesses and conservative designs everywhere. I have worked with many conservative companies without issue, all of them small with personal relationships. However, Company X telling me they did not want the creative solution solved by an outsider told me all I needed to hear. The hive mind would rather control the design, or designer, that their corporate culture could not produce, instead of having their creative needs met by an creative (outsider) on an equal playing field. To exercise this passage would mean having to let go of control in favor of a relationship. A relationship offers more creative freedom for the designer, without the worries of interoffice politics and pseudo hierarchies of power. At the end of the day, Company X just needs something sold and does not care or have time for the creative details involved to make it happen themselves. I feel for the creative that must go in there and answer to them. Well, maybe I am being too pessimistic, maybe it will turn into the greatest thing ever. Maybe Company X will be all entrusting with their new employee and let them exercise their creative talents to their fullest extent. Maybe they do understand the creative mind better than I claim too and their product is a huge success because of it. If that is the case, then my hat's off to you Company X!