The creative tug-of-war
One of the biggest responsibilities of being a production artist is being the bridge between creative and accounting. It is very likely that as a production artist, you are the last one to interact with the creative product before the work goes out to the printer or digital supplier. But, you may be pressured from both ends of the spectrum. On one side, you have to maintain the creative integrity of the particular graphic piece. On the other side, you have to adhere to deadlines and fit in all of that legal type. Sometimes a client wants to sneak in an extra image or logo during your watch. Sometimes the creative director won’t budge from resisting client feedback based on principle. A few extra changes may sound simple, but they’ll still take time, and the budget’s already used up. So what do you do? Who’s side do you take?
Being the middleman does take its toll. Sometimes you are the only communication between the artist and the account person, whether due to strained relationships between the two or both simply having different schedules and cannot coordinate their feedback or changes. Both sides want their way. Can’t blame either of them. The creative person wants to keep the integrity of the design and the account person has to keep the client happy by keeping the job on time and on budget.
So which side are you going to be on?
There are many times I am on either side of that coin, when the art director is just being inflexible about an idea or the account person will not budge on a timeline. It also depends on the type of client I’m catering too. Dealing with banks and law firms, for example, are certainly different than car manufacturers or clothing designers.
If I have to give an edge to one over the other, I will tend to defend the creative integrity of a layout, before the drastic account change request. Here’s why. When it comes right down to the bottom line, the client has hired the agency for the creative ideas that come out of it – not necessarily the prowess of the accounting department. Don’t get me wrong – accounting is very important, and a creative director who can’t, or won’t, conform to a project’s budget will adversely effect deadlines, and likely lose business for the company. However, its that creative idea that distinguishes our client’s message from the competition in the marketplace. If that creative idea is supported by the designer, the creative director and the client, then its our duty as production artists to uphold creative integrity in the wake of difficult changes.
This is the fine line the production artist walks. We’re often not in those meetings between the client and the art director, nor do we fully understand the pressures the account person is under. Yet, in the end, while budgets and schedules are important, its the creative product that will be remembered most, and that “big idea” is what brings the client back for more.