First, thanks for your great responses to the return of the blog. Very good to see, after such a long absence, that you’re still out there following my ramblings.
We are returning, for those of you I know appreciate the ‘Graphic Design as an Extreme Sport‘ side of things, to some fundamental principles of how to approach and manage design projects.
Stories, of course, will be a major part of the blogs – and there are some corkers on both the Hendrix and Metallica projects!
The Hendrix ‘Experience’ – helping to create Suite 5001, a room dedicated to the memory of Jimi Hendrix – was one that certainly challenged values – both personally and professionally. I was initially invited by Mary Gannon Designs to approach the Cumberland Hotel with her – to secure a contract to create a ‘JIMI HENDRIX SUITE‘ in honour of the world’s greatest and most innovative guitarist (sorry Mr. Page, but I’ll qualify that later). I had serious reservations from the start, concerned that opportunism may be the only driving force behind the project. Yes – the Cumberland was Jimi Hendrix’s official address and it is where he conducted his last interview with Keith Altham but was there a real understanding of what such a project involved? You can’t fuck around with legends. In terms of design – authenticity, quality and respect had to be paramount and the key to securing the project. There was only one way to find out …
A proposal was formulated and I created a letterhead specifically for it – detail at the initiation of a project is very important to grab people’s attention and also indicates how serious you are …
We were offered the contract.
Initially Mary and I refused it – discovering that the budget, quite frankly, denied any possibility of creating the vision we had of the room. Professionally we felt obliged to explain the main reason for our refusal – primarily that the budget was so low it was impossible for us to create something worthy of Jimi Hendrix’s status or produce the ‘wow’ factor the room needed. It was not about fees (we would have, and eventually did, do the project for practically nothing) but we had to question the client’s commitment to the project – it had to be something more, if we were to be involved, than a convenient PR exercise to promote the hotel group.
The response from the Cumberland, after a few weeks, was an enthusiastic increase to the budget. They realised, when they saw ideas produced by other designers within the original budget – that they were simply not good or exciting enough to represent such an iconic musician. Mary Gannon Design and Satori were back on board.
I’ve said in previous blogs that it’s crucial creative integrity is maintained at all times. It’s very difficult, when times are financially tough, to refuse work – but sometimes there is no other choice. It’s a no-brainer really – work just for the limited money, be safe but ultimately disappointed and creatively compromised – or – take the risk you could lose the job. More often than not, from my experience, clients respect honesty. It is, after all, a way of expressing respect for them too. I’m sure, if this hadn’t been the right approach, I honestly doubt I would have had the opportunity to work with Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Paul McCartney or Prince William and Prince Harry (sorry – was that name-dropping!) I seriously believe such an approach ultimately provides greater opportunities to fulfil creative ambitions – not to mention the excitement and challenges that always appear in the process. The case in point – initially refusing the Hendrix project, but being honest about the reasons why – certainly gained us respect and, in the end, we were commissioned to complete the project.
We must remember too that as long as we understand there are always people who know much more than we do – to help us in challenging circumstances – we will always find them – or they will find us. The trick is believing it. There’s never that much risk then.
What’s the worst that can happen?
We’ll soon find out!