This is more of an update then a new blog post. Over the weekend I went through and rewrote and reworked the post so that its not a rant and more of a bit of hope over the horizon for agencies, studios and those who work hard for them.
In the era of startups and the big push for design, agencies and studios are preaching the power of culture (Ethos).
We all know the stories and seen the beautifully staged photos of office spaces and people having nerf wars in the halls. With the power of social media, specifically Instagram, creative agencies are spreading photos and videos promoting their culture. For the most part, a lot of these agencies are on the right track and are having a blast.
Unfortunately for a select few, they are putting up a front or at least they have become that way over time. Most agencies and studios set out to create a holy crusade to develop a company culture that empowers their employees and enriching their lives. Really great right? Definitely! For some though the path of culture begins to break away and go down another road.
A lot of creative companies focus on their people first and their profits second. Which trust me, is a very good thing and something to be admired. Unfortunately, this will sometimes get the back seat when the idea of expansion is in the works. The idea of having more people and more profits starts to creep into everyone’s mind. The thought of more people helps to drive the ideas of more money for the company (meaning more for everyone’s salaries), more hands on projects (less of a work load), and bigger and better clients (more recognition).
The sad truth of it is that for a lot of companies, more people end up equaling the same profits. The good thing though is that there are now more people to jump on projects and help out but they don’t get a chance to (at least not for long) because the bigger clients they are trying to pull in takes up more time and more man hours. This can easily cause burnout for employees, rather than the easier workload they were hoping for.
Now, all that being said, there are plenty of cases where companies are able to turn it around completely and boost their culture. Sometimes they have to lay a few people off or they have to lower salaries (I know they both are pretty hard to deal with), but they are able to climb back up out of the rats nest and give their culture a new beginning, a revitalization.
Now, I’m really happy to say that I’ve seen a few agencies and studios pull themselves back up and create something beautiful, where everything they share on social media and preach is the truth. I’m proud of them and for all of those hard workers who got them back up to the top.
In writing this whole post, I can tell you that I will probably never work at another agency again nor a studio… Unless its one that I start myself. I’d also like to say that just because I might start my own studio someday doesn’t mean that it might also face the same exact things I mention above. This whole post is not meant to be some “designer complaining” or a long rant. Its meant to be a learning experience for both agencies/studios and their employees, their fighters, their warriors.
Culture is probably the most important thing for any type of creative company. It’s not meant to be some cult or one’s master. You shouldn’t have to drink the cool-aid. You should be able to push back against the culture to make it better, especially since you are part of it. The day that you stop trying to make things better and push yourself, whether its just for the company or yourself, is the day that you should step aside and look for the next opportunity.
There are plenty of ways that you can help to improve the culture at your agency or studio. The thing that it really comes down to is whether or not they are open and receptive to your thoughts and ideas. In a perfect world, its better when the place you work has the type of culture where everyone’s ideas are weighed the same, from the founder to the new hire. And just saying that it is, doesn’t make it so.
But in the end, what it comes down to is that you have to do what’s best for yourself. We’re not living in the age of the Mad Men where it was “Company First” anymore. Think about what you want and what your heart tells you.