I once worked on the design for a brochure.
I was bored.
I loved working with the client who requested it, so didn’t want to do a bad job for them, but this job wasn’t exactly a winner.
The whole job was custom. More or less every page was unique, the client gave us room to explore, but would call us up on something that didn’t work. They were great to work with.
But this job … this one job.
The style for it had been established by someone else. And it was good. But it wasn’t mine. A coworker suggested that because I hadn’t done the original artwork, perhaps I didn’t have much to connect to, that there was little emotional investment in the job.
Probably. But that’s hardly an excuse.
I was bored. For whatever reason, I was bored and it showed.
The design was good, it was, that awful word, fine. But not great. It was smart, but not sexy. It definitely wasn’t that rare mix of the two.
Except for one page.
One page was for an upcoming event they were launching about 10 months down the road. This I could make my own.
These little teaser pages were always unique. These brochures were produced annually, or sometimes twice a year, for a series of events, and in each the next was teased.
The design rarely, if ever, reflected the materials that were going to be produced for the real thing. They existed for just a moment. A moment we could make entirely our own.
I’d had an idea I’d wanted to explore for a while, a way of working with typefaces that looked hand drawn. I’d waited, maybe, years to give it a go. And here was my chance to apply it to something that fit.
I was excited. I changed what I was listening to from my beloved podcasts to something more energetic and ear-bleedingly loud. I started moving my head to a beat, I started to smirk and smile and laugh as the ideas moved from brain to muscle to screen, I clicked, moved back from my monitor, moved back in, clicked, and did this dance a few more times.
It came together quickly.
It needed refinement but I had something that felt fun and exciting and interesting and had a rhythm to it, as I had a rhythm to me, one I’d be missing for the rest of the project.
And it showed. Damn, did it show.
For me, this one page stood out from the rest. For the first time in a week I was reminded of why design is something that grabs me so deeply.
As the haze lifted, I made my refinements. Not too much polishing, though, as the energy that went into making it was still evident, and I wanted to protect it. I figured they’d changed it, but … what if they didn’t?
I sent off a proof with a mention of the one page being quite different to the rest, and that I’d look forward to hearing their thoughts, and that I’d had fun on this page, and oh yeah there’s a few issues with the copy on the others, but that one page, please let me know what you think. That page. Please like it, that one page.
I should have just said “Please, let me have this one.”
I went out. Had a coffee. Read a little through my break.
I came back to no response. I assumed it hadn’t gone over well.
A few days passed and the email rolls in. I see the client’s name, hold my breath and open it.
It was brief. That’s never good, huh?
“I literally said DAMN out loud when I got to that page. Going to push for it to be the basis of the next event’s branding.”
There wasn’t a mention of anything else in the whole book. Changes eventually came for all those other pages. But not my one.
When we’re happy doing our work it shows.
When the problems we’re solving bore us, the solutions will probably be boring. I think this is especially true in design. There’s something about making things, and I’m talking purely about aesthetic here, that requires excitement and happiness and movement.
I’d made a mistake with this job.
Yes, I had one page that made me excited, a page the client loved.
But there’s what was unsaid. The rest of the book was fine.
And that’s all.
Just fine. Hardly needed mentioning.
That one page was a win, yes, but the rest of the book was a loss.
If I’d been smarter I would have turned the music on right away, and done anything I could to make the whole book a lot more fun.
I would have found something, anything, to be excited about for every page.
It’s worth trying to find the music for every page you work on, every paragraph and picture. There’s music there, somewhere, I promise. Find it, get happy, get moving, and the work will reflect that and give that excitement and energy to those who see it.