Six categories of design firm promotional phrases

In Design Patois: Voice: AIGA Journal of Design: Writing: AIGA: Steven Heller points out that for all the differences in individual designers' styles, there are only six categories of design firm promotional phrases.

1. Happiness Is a Warm Client

  • Our primary concern is with our client’s success in their business.
  • Our goal is to meet our clients’ visual communications needs by applying an approach based on discipline, appropriateness and ambiguity. [huh?]

2. Style? We Don’t Have No Stinkin’ Style

  • Our belief is that any one visual problem has an infinite number of solutions.
  • We don’t have a style or philosophical framework. We simply want to understand, then solve the problem.

3. Meaningful Relationships

  • Our professional ability has been developed and tested for 20 years in a highly competitive environment and has been the basis of many enduring relationships.
  • We nurture the client from beginning to end.

4. Touchy-Feely-Squeezy

  • Graphic design should touch the viewer as well as inform.
  • We try to balance our own personal insight with the client’s particular needs—design is a magical balance.

5. Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

  • Every client, project and problem is unpredictable. Each is unique. Our mission as a group is to solve the unique problem, manage the unusual project, and serve our wary client the best quality design available.
  • Our experience allows us to approach a range of design problems in a fresh way.

6. How Do I Love Me?

  • We take great pride in a body of work that has received national recognition for excellence, and in the roster of prestigious clients who hired us to create it.

One has to wonder whether these designers and firms read each other’s promotion or whether these pearls just develop over time in their own hermetically sealed environments. Design firms tend to stink of their own perfume. In fact, virtually all of the designers represented by the statements above are fluid and literate when talking about their work. But put them in front of a keyboard and they choke up.

Preach it, Steven! That's all so very, very true. He's got many more great examples of the blather, which are good for a laugh.

On a previous version of my website, I simply broke down the different kinds of things I do: design, writing, and illustration. I didn't have anything about my design philosophy. Then, after getting asked repeatedly by clients, 'So, what's your philosophy on design?' I grudgingly added one: Good design should be invisible. This still wasn't enough of an explanation for the small businesspeople I was working with, so I added a bit more, talking about how the design should get out of its own way, how the message should be important, blah blah blah. I hated it. If I have to explain what my design philosophy is and it's not apparent in my portfolio, my work has failed. It should be invisible, people! If it's not, then it's an EPIC FAIL.

I swear, sometimes, the most difficult part of being a designer is explaining what it is I do. I like to say, 'I make pretty trash,' which makes people laugh, once they get it. Now that I'm an art director, it gets tougher, because I have to explain to clients what my designers do, and if I'm a smartass, they get riled. I can't say, 'Well, we sit around and drink coffee and snicker at your choice of Bookman for your memos,' or 'We make jokes about how you can't make up your mind about capitalization, and you write a bunch of crappy jargon and call it copy.' Nope, that wouldn't go over well at all. So instead of telling the client what we really do, I have to make something up. But trust me, it won't be blather like that promotional design twaddle.

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