The Cella Slant: Being comfortable in a world of gray

By Jackie Schaffer

It’s interesting how designers, and really all creatives, are said to be comfortable with subjectivity and working within undefined parameters, predominantly right-brained traits. But I’ve found through countless conversations with creatives that they LOVE rules.

One of the primary challenges I hear from designers and writers is “our clients don’t follow our process.” I’ve come to see this clinging to the process as akin to Linus and his blanket—it adds a sense of security as there are very few things an in-house creative gets to control—they don’t control deadlines, they certainly don’t control when their clients will provide content or feedback, and they rarely control when they need to work overtime. This can lead to a very frustrating existence. But what they hope to control is the process—if at some level, they can expect work to come in a certain fashion and in a reasonable amount of time, they can survive all of the other things they can’t control. Only, what every creative eventually learns is that a creative department that is strict on process is not a well-reputed creative team that is seen as a partner.

We creatives need to live in a world of gray in which we partner with our clients to define what is acceptable outside of the process and what is unacceptable (e.g., one day to create an 8-page brochure). It’s not that there should be no process, but we need to minimize the anguish our clients’ lack of process adherence can cause so not to distract from our ability to be successful.

Jackie Schaffer, vice president and general manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative.

Cella is a co-author of the In-House Creative Services Industry Report and authors weekly blogs on business operations topics pertinent to the role of creative leaders.