Archive for February, 2012

talk about taking a leap…
February 29, 2012

It’s probably no coincidence that today of all days, leap day, February 29, news arrived that my city, a city i’ve called home for more time than any other city in my whole life, awarded a job, a job that i’ve committed my living to since the day I got here, to the adequate state of Kansas. Kansas. Dorothy. Her dog. That witch. The flying monkeys. The ugly munchinks. The pathetic wizard. The yellow brick road. The metaphors astound and astonish. The tin man. The lion. The scare crow. If I were Sophia Coppola, I could not craft a a sader more Oscar worthy screenplay. Honestly. I couldn’t.

Here’s the thing. I tried. They asked me to do things that a professional could not do. A bit like asking a mom to sell her child to get the job, then blaming the parents for not wanting to do what was required to make it work. So sad. The single local firm did not want to participate. Boo hoo. The community as a whole is simply incapable of working for its own city. Or so it would seem.

In the Fall of 2011, my firm was invited to quote on an RFP for the city’s website. But here’s the catch. Could I please design, for free, a few layouts that they could consider. NO. NO CAN DO. that’s not how it works. Unless you feel comfortable asking your barber to cut your hair for free in exchange for a lifetime of hair cuts. Unless you feel comfortable asking your accountant to do your books for a month for free for a lifetime of bookkeeping services. NO. NO CAN DO.  I know you understand this but for some reason, when it comes to design, this seems to be an “OK” way to do business. Well, not for us. No amount of money will ever change that.

To clarify, what is appropriate to ask from an RFP process is your fees, your rates, your related experience and a review of your relevant portfolio work. That’s a fair process. You can’t ask for speculative design anymore than you could ask an prospective employee to work for nothing if they really want the job. That other firms agreed to do speculative design is not my concern. My concern is that my city asked for it.

Great. Now I’ve ruled myself out and freed up the bureaucracy from having to “deal” with the only local firm in the running. No need to consider our award winning work or our community contribution including the people we employ or the contractors we hire, the local suppliers we use or the volunteer contributions we make.  My city can focus their efforts on the kind and generous suppliers who may have wowed them at the last municipal convention in big city BC.  Sound familiar?

I’m not surprised. But it still bites. As design and advertising firms, we spend our life’s work promoting our clients and adding to our community’s bottom line. When word comes down from our newspaper (as opposed to our city officials) that the deal’s been done with a firm – not from out of town or out of province – but OUT OF COUNTRY – it still bites, and hard.

But the Kansas metaphor is too much to overlook. Normally (and I say normally because sadly it’s happened before where neophyte clients are wooed by the free “preview” designs by firms eager to impress),we keep our mouth shut (some would say rise above the fray) and focus on the clients who need, appreciate and value the work we do. But this is TOO much. It’s time my industry, my colleagues, suppliers and employees take a stand against this absolute nonsense.Together, as a group, because we are tight-knit and fed-up, we’ve come up with a plan to knock loud and hard on the  clearly labeled “we spend plenty of your public money out of town” door.

Keep a keen eye on us in the days and weeks ahead.We’ll put our best people on the job. This town is stuffed full of talent, creativity and savvy business experience.

As for Kansas. They are happy. Dorothy, her dog, the witch, the munchinks et al got what they wanted. For now. But it’s going to take a town full of tornados to undo what our city has done. There is power of in being a local, professional, caring, committed, eager, willing, contributing, talented, capable person and there are plenty of them. Join us. Tell your city. There’s no place like home. It might take more than a few pairs of ruby slippers to convince them. But it needs doing and you can help.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Dorothy – I sure hope you were right. This may be the only time in my professional career I’m betting on shiny red footwear. But it’s a chance I’m prepared to take. What other choice do we have.

dial zero
February 29, 2012