Improvise, Adapt and Overcome: Marine Corps of Design

Change is hard. But we see it all the time in our 'tech today, gone tomorrow' society. We, as creative professionals, need to take some serious lessons in order to be at the top of our craft. I'll be the first person to tell you that I've got a handful of 'tricks' that I fall back on in my designing. I don't like that I do it, but given the schedule, I know how to adjust what I do to meet the demands of the scope. This is good and bad. Good in that I can correctly estimate the amount of time it will take me to perform a certain task. Bad that I know just what it takes to get that product complete.

Here's the rub –– We kill time for evolution in our design when we do this. We need to take the time to step outside of our comfort. We need to challenge ourselves to learn new styles, techniques, use different colors, fonts and special development, new photography, new technology and overall make ourselves uncomfortable to the core. Out of this, good or bad, you will go as a design/creative professional.

I once had an ECD that did not own a television at home. He told me that the best work is on AdAge.com and through his review of their materials, he kept his craft in check. I disagree. If you don't know what's shit, how do you know that what you're choosing to watch is good? Additionally, 99.8% of us don't get the 50 million dollar account and can sit in a room and pontificate about "wouldn't it be cool to give away a diamond encrusted unicorn?" Well yes it would be, but I digress. We fight for every penny we have and try to give the client the most for what that money can buy. More often than not, we eat into our own pockets to make those little ideas work even harder than we had originally scoped – and we sleep very well.

The USMC has a saying: "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome" – it requires no definition or explanation. As a 'creative' professional, you should expect to do the same. I've written and read countless posts on how to get inspired, how to brake molds and how to become a better professional. I once listened to a speaker tell me that art is "10% inspiration and 90% desperation of trying to complete it." There's more truth in that statement than any client will ever know. But the harder we push to Improvise, Adapt and Overcome, the better we are, the stronger we are and the better we can be for the next project.

Reach beyond your comfort zone.

Do something mentally painful.

Delete the fear that can't start over.

You don't know everything. Be humble, go listen and learn.

Every project gives you the opportunity to grow a little and mentally vet the 'unspoken creative' projects you'd rather no one find even in death.

A couple of primary keys in the Marine Corps of Design:

  • Make sure you have all the necessary feedback from the client (protect yourself at all times).
  • Don't let the budget put a bulls-ring on the creative direction/execution.
  • Take your personal desire out of the design – make sure it works for the audience.
  • The best ideas come from the attrition of internal battles.
  • Don't be afraid to do something they didn't ask for -- but only after you've completed your assignment for creative presentation.
  • Don't ever be afraid to kill an idea.
  • Defend your thinking with logic, passion and proof (if you can find measurement to back your thinking). If overruled, be humble and live to fight another day.
  • Don't ever disagree with a peer or client without a position.
  • Don't ever be afraid to fire a client.

Posted on June 4, 2010 and filed under Business, Design, Soapbox.