Saturday, 2 April 2011


About a month ago, on March the 1st, I was made redundant by the company with whom I'd been employed for just over twenty years.

It was a move prompted by the restrictive financial climate and a change in administration and, while I was initially stunned and a little bitter at the decision, I suspect I should have sought greener pastures of my own accord quite some time ago.

A former senior colleague once told me, as I'd come up to my tenth year with the company, that once you've had the same employer for ten years, it's time to leave and get a life! This was said tongue-in-cheek, but in the back of my mind, I think I pretty much agreed with the sentiment.

Of course there are pros and cons in any situation, and the clear advantage to long-term employment was the acquired sense of stability that makes it easier to commit to a mortgage, marriage and family.  So I stuck around. Ironically, while this work colleague left the company a few years later when she reached retirement age, my termination has come just a year prior to my first child starting school. Different dynamic, different consequences.

So here I am, a free agent after two decades, a well-heeled design professional in my early 40s with a comprehensive knowledge of the various processes involved in getting a graphic asset all the way from concept to pre-press stage for any number of production methods. As impressive as I hope that last sentence sounds, I know the chances of landing a secure long-term position with a single firm are pretty slim, certainly in the regional area that we've chosen to call home.

In any case, after all those years why would I want to go back to the same old grind?  What better opportunity to set my sights on something a little more fulfilling, even if it doesn't pay as much.  I've only been a month away from the job that has defined me for so long, but already I feel far more relaxed than I have in years, I've enjoyed playing with our kids more than I have in a long while, and I finally have the time to expand my professional knowledge beyond what I've needed to know to get my everyday tasks completed.  That last point is quite pertinent; despite my expertise in press media, it's obvious that most of my younger professional peers have been more smoothly indoctrinated into the broader disciplines of multimedia than I could ever have hoped to be.  And there lies the con of longterm employment with a single firm; you don't get to be a jack of all trades.

But as I said, I now have the time to catch up. I'm already one-third of the way through a comprehensive self-paced course in Dreamweaver® - a program I've been dying to master but which has sat forlorn and neglected for many years in my Applications folder among the more well-used apps of the Adobe® Creative Suite®. I'll be pleased when I can say I've mastered every app, and can justify having purchased the entire package in the first place!

So what happens once I've got myself up to speed with contemporary design disciplines?  What will I do with all this updated knowledge?  First and foremost, I'll be applying it to my own creative projects, which may or may not make me a lot of money.  And I would also like to offer my services to small businesses as a professional consultant in the application of brand design management.

"He said what now?"  Basically, I would like to provide small start-up enterprises with a grassroots understanding of how to foster a positive image of their business through a well managed presence in various media.  This is called brand design, and it's a concept that all the big players embrace through strict and structured management. Unfortunately, the big players embrace it because they can afford to employ staff who specialise in design management.  The small players, meanwhile, are too busy keeping the business viable through day-to-day operations to worry about what appears to be a fairly frivolous concept.

More often these days, design studios are promoting the advantages of brand design management to their potential clients, but from my observations over the last two decades, what the design world thinks is important for businesses bears little resemblance to what small business operators are able to give priority. Logo design is as far as many relationships go between a small businesses and a design studio, and in many cases the lack of understanding between the business manager and the designer results in a brand presence that fails to do justice to the business.

The philosophy behind brand design management is often expressed in a manner that ostracises the small business community, and it's no wonder that there is a significant gap between those businesses who indulge and those who don't.

There has to be a middle-ground that benefits all parties. I'd like to put my accumulated experience to good use and help the small business community tap into the knowledge-base that has served the big players so well.

In future posts, I'll explore the fundamental aspects of brand design and suggest ways that small business operators can cost-effectively accommodate procedures that add perceived value to their operations.

I look forward to feedback from both designers and small business operators.

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