I'm not even sure where to start. Heaven forbid if I'm beating a dead horse here, but this just needs to be addressed. On October 22, Veerle Pieters wrote a follow up piece to her Sept 18 post entitled "Deadlines Kill Inspiration." Veerle's follow up piece, "Deadlines Sometimes Affect Inspiration" was mostly in response to "The Tao of Deadlines" by Andy Rutledge who felt he had to address some issues in Veerle's original article.
Now, I will also tell you that within Veerle's original post she kindly quoted my Tomorrow is not always an option. She quoted my post because I had written to several designers whom I respect greatly requesting their opinions on the subject of unrealistic deadlines.
There are all kinds of deadlines (which Veerle points out.) There are the monthly deadlines, deadlines for copy, deadlines for the printer, client imposed deadlines, self imposed deadlines and.... unrealistic deadlines. "Tomorrow is not always an option" was in response to a particular client here at Dragonfly Blu requesting (dare I say, demanding) unrealistic deadlines. It was quite clear to me that Veerle was addressing not ALL DEADLINES in her original post, but those which are unrealistic. It is a pity that she felt she had to re-visit something so obvious due to Mr. Rutledge's comment and post, however, she does so most eloquently.
I too read Andy Rutledge's Design View. I've tuned in to listen to his new podcast. I've agreed with some of his points but I also know that if I want the most hard-core, opinionated, conservative view on design and how to practice it... Andy's my man. But... life, business and design is not always black and white.
I read "The Tao of Deadlines" and I must make issue with several points regarding Mr. Rutledge's "absolute" statements.
Andy writes, "Deadlines can have absolutely no impact on inspiration or creativity." Ummm... yes they can. But let's make the differentiation between deadlines which are realistic and planned for, and deadlines which come upon us as surprises. Life is full of surprises.
A big part of our job as designers is to anticipate and plan for deadlines. We expect them. We plan for them. And they do not affect inspiration or creativity because we know what's coming down the pike. However, when a surprise comes along, the reshuffling of priorities and duties can impact inspiration and creativity.
Sometimes the impact is positive and sometimes it is not. There have been times when an urgency has occurred and a client has requested a quick and dirty deadline. I've found that by pulling a design out of my head in a matter of hours has resulted in something instinctual and wonderful. It was something created from my gut and no thinking or analysis hampered it.
I've also found that when a deadline is looming and I still haven't received materials from a client, (and the deadline hasn't changed), their lack of preparedness has affected my ability to produce the best possible product. The stress levels in these types of situations increases and stress is not the friend of creative thinking.
So please, Andy... don't say that deadlines have absolutely no impact on inspiration or creativity because whether the result is good or bad, they do. Clearly, my own experience, the experience of Veerle and the many comments she's received on this subject shows that surprise deadlines do indeed impact inspiration and creativity for many people.
"To be clear, problems with deadlines almost always come down to one root problem: poorly managed business. I hope you can agree that professionalism requires a designer must never miss a deadline," so says Mr. Rutledge. Holy cow... whose poorly managed business are we talking about here? The designer? The client? The back end programmer? Many people can collaborate on a project and it's not always the designer who is responsible for missing a deadline. This is not to say that a lackadaisical attitude toward business ethics and responsibility should not be taken seriously by all involved. Hitting a deadline is a trademark of professionalism on everyone's part, but in the real world shit happens. This is why we must also embrace the ideals of communication and trust.
I have also seen and appreciated the "scope creep" situation. This too can affect a deadline. But when I see a client getting excited about the process of a little project which turns into a bigger project, I know I'm doing a good job for that client. I want my clients to feel excited, to start saying "ohhh wouldn't it be great if we could add this or that." It's a team effort and one I embrace. If the deadline needs to be extended then so be it. While I can count on one hand the times I've had to extend a deadline it's been for good reason. I've consulted and communicated with the client about it. And the project has been the better because of it. I am not a slave to a deadline but I do work my butt off for my clients and being that many of them have been with me since the start of my business... well I guess I'm doing a pretty good job of it.
Andy goes on to say "No client ever caused a designer to miss a deadline. If you believe otherwise, you’re laboring under a grave misapprehension (not to mention that you’ve got a victim-mentality)." Ohhh please! I have been fortunate to have great clients and I'm all about communication, but not all clients are great clients. And when asked what is the biggest problem I've faced in my business practice, it is that the client has not provided materials on time. I give my clients deadlines and timelines in what I call a "working description" which lays out the objectives and tasks of each job.... and yes, I've had clients who have missed those deadlines. I don't take them to task for it because guess what? It's a team effort and those clients are pretty busy people who are running their own businesses as well. Instead we talk about the issue. I explain the deadline for design work must now be extended and it all works out. But again with the absolutes here Andy... "No client ever caused a designer to miss a deadline"? Really, Andy... never ever? (And I won't even address the "victim-mentality" statement. Honestly!)
"When it comes to reviewing contracts with clients, be sure to deliberately point out the client responsibilities as described in the contract(s). They must be made to appreciate that the project is not a one-sided affair. They must work as diligently as you in order for the project to be a success. Few clients understand this of their own accord." And please pray tell Andy... What is a designer to do when the client doesn't understand this or when they don't deliver on their responsibilities? Is that the fault and responsibility of the designer as well? We are all working grown ups here and it's not the responsiblity of the designer or design team to beat the client over the head demanding materials, text or cooperation.
Well it's late at night and I've been ranting on for some time now. It's time to call it a night. I can only hope that somehow Mr. Rutledge finds his way to my little blog to read what I've written here. Actually I'm sure he won't even really care. I'd comment on the "Tao" or send a trackback but hey, Andy doesn't allow comments or trackbacks on his blog. I wonder why.