The Vitruvian Man
I reflect as my first month here at IE comes to a close. I’ve learnt all the important things – my colleagues’ names, how everything works and most importantly, where the kettle is located. As with anyone starting a new job, I’ve naturally had lots of well-wishers asking after me. Friends and contacts from other agencies are curious about how IE compares to the industry norm. I find myself giving the same answer time and again; one thing that definitely stands out that’s different to me about IE – process.
I’m very familiar with the agency environment and its incestuous ways, where everyone knows everyone else. It’s quite easy to get an idea of how things are done across the board. When clients are aiming to build a fresh relationship with a new agency, they often look for the differences between several shortlisted agencies operating in similar sectors. Any agency worth working with will have a striking display of work readily available in its portfolio and a myriad of superlatives at hand to extol their virtues upon potential clients.
But to see what makes IE different, one must understand some key things that agencies have in common. Agencies are generally full of creative people. As a Graphic Designer for ten years myself, I have great things to say about creatives. I find it incredibly invigorating to witness a true artist at work and believe that is what keeps this industry so exciting. Talented people solving creative problems is truly inspiring, whether they be branding challenges, a large-scale digital project or a beautifully tactile piece of print. Artistic people, though, don’t always make the best business people. It can be a stereotype, and of course isn’t true of everyone, but I’ve found that the same people who can realise the most incredible feats of creativity can often trade for decades without quite knowing where they're headed. Often, there is something of the maverick that comes with the artistic temperament and this isn’t necessarily always to the benefit of a client.
IE is more than a room full of creatives; we don’t see the design process as a ‘beauty parade’, where only the best-looking designs are scattered before a client. Everything is scrutinised in-house, adhering to a strict procedure, ensuring that all our projects have substance and are more than just a pretty facade. Truth be told, this is an industry where it’s unfortunately too easy to ‘paper over the cracks’ and, sometimes, too many agencies think only of the look and feel rather than the purpose of a project.
There is a view that adding process or rules to an essentially artistic profession stifles creativity, but I firmly believe this is a misconception. As a child, I was fascinated by Leonardo Da Vinci – universally recognised as one of the greatest artists of all time. One need only look at ‘The Last Supper’ or ‘The Mona Lisa’ to see his artistic expertise as work. However, behind the talented artist was also one of history’s more learned scholars, engineers and architects – widely credited with inventions centuries ahead of their time such as the helicopter, the parachute and even the machine gun. He had a strong grasp of engineering and how things worked.
Bearing this in mind, one can appreciate that without ‘the Vitruvian Man’ (Da Vinci’s infamous study on the proportions of the human body), there could not have been a ‘Virgin on the Rocks’. While his paint on canvas may have been the ultimate representation of his artistic endeavours, his knowledge of shape, form, light and colour are just as responsible for his well-deserved place immortalised in history. Thus proving that a solid foundation should not limit creativity, but enhance it.
During my first few weeks at IE, I’ve heard a simple phrase time and again, regardless of the project we’re working on. We always ask our clients: “What does success look like?” Namely, how can we measure the impact of the project and gauge the experience? While this seems so simple and sensible, it isn’t the approach at every agency.
So, if you’re seeking out knowledgeable consultants and talented creatives, an agency that isn’t afraid to challenge you and be challenged in return, you’ll certainly find a perfect match here at IE.
For many agencies, it’s all about the pretty creative. IE’s clients can take ‘beautiful’ for granted but can also rely upon a healthy fixation on impact, stringent process, and return on investment. Without all that, it might as well just be paint on canvas.