Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and invite our readers to submit their questions directly to: DearBonnie@designobserver.com
I'm a freelance design consultant with more than 20 years of experience. I was recently hired to do a project by a visionary who believes that design needs to be front and center in the evolution of the business. I was so thrilled to work with the team at the top that it somehow escaped me that he wanted me to just report to his chief communications officer. Simply put, he loves what I've done, she hates what I've done. I'm stuck in the middle. Help!
Trapped In Toledo
The best way to deal with this situation, unfortunately for you, is before you begin. It may feel presumptive to ask who you're working with and who the ultimate decision maker or makers are, but it is important to know whose opinion really counts.
Now, however, your best course of action is to talk to the chief communications officer semi-honestly. You have been put in a difficult position and you need to let her know that your main interest is doing the best work possible and keeping the collaboration successful (that’s the semi-honest part). It is NOT too late to get her on your side. It may take some longish conversations so she gets to be heard, but actually being listened to will make her more amenable to understanding where you and her boss are coming from.
If you had known that the chief communications officer was going to be your connection to the visionary, you would have, from the start, been able to make her feel like a partner, while still trusting your instinct about what the boss should ultimately see. One of the best professional skills you can develop is making everyone involved in a project feel like they played a significant role. Even if it's not true.
I've run a design studio for years, but now that it seems everyone wants to be a web zillionaire right out of school, I've been struggling to find strong young designers and art directors. I feel like I've exhausted every job site, alumni office, and student show, and have had very little luck. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I KNOW there must be talented, deserving kids out there looking for interesting work. How would you recommend I solicit new employees? Are there any avenues I'm not exploring?
Desperately Seeking Designers
Those talented, deserving kids are out there looking for you! I know it.
Personally, I have always found teaching to be a great way to recruit young designers. You get to know them over the course of several months (instead of a 20 minute interview, which, for people of the shy persuasion, can be a terrible indicator of character). You see how they take criticism and how they interact with others. But I realize teaching is a huge commitment that not everyone has the time or inclination to take on. So, a shortcut can be giving a lecture at a school in your area with a department you respect, or the local chapter of a professional organization like AIGA or IDSA. Let the students see your work and tell them that you're hiring. By the end of the lecture, people will be lining up to ask for your email address.
And, as a bonus, organizing your work and speaking about it publicly can give you great insight into what you do and why you do it, which in turn can help you identify the right person to hire.For past Dear Bonnie columns, click here.