As a freelancer I’ve had to wear quite a few different hats: I’m a web designer to start with, I do a lot of Flash programming, I write content where required, I’ve had to learn basic HTML markup and server-side languages so I know what’s going on behind the scenes, I’m a client to my service providers, a service provider to my clients, a consultant to other studios and a team member to whoever I’m working with at the time. But the spot most alien to me that I keep having to deal with more everyday, is business development and client servicing (I’m not even acknowledging accountancy).
Dealing with clients is an art in itself. It follows its own logic and has its own rules: many unwritten. Meeting a client then, especially for the first time, brings with it a set of prerequisites accepted in the business world: a sense of formality, urgency and organisation expected of an upstanding businessman.
In this world, thought goes into the way you dress and speak; you project an intentional image of yourself so as to be seen in a certain light: you sell yourself as much as the product. You are voluntarily out of your comfort zone because work and play are distinctly separate things.
Let me clarify here that I’m not implying people who accept this and live it are any less creative or fun, simply that in my experience, as soon as you put on a formal shirt and a nice pair of shoes, you carry yourself differently, you speak differently, you mean business, and this is an excellent thing when you’re selling. When we actually have to sit down for production however, this formality can be detrimental.
Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.
Thomas A. Edison
As a designer/programmer, I’m most effective when I’m most comfortable. Working in an environment that is relaxing and accepting gives you the ability to fear less and try new things. It allows you to see failure as a part of the process, not as a judgement, and this is incredibly conducive to peaking brain activity. I guess this is why many people say they get their best ideas in the can, or the shower – Archimedes getting into a bathtub; Newton under an apple tree.
Coming back to my title, by all means be formal when it’s expected, but if you’re going to do any thinking whatsoever, I’d recommend all involved be comfortable with their surroundings, with themselves, and there be as few rules (especially social) as possible. It’s erratic, it’s inefficient, but I love it.
What’s your favourite work environment? Where do you get your best ideas?
Note: I used ‘Designer’ because it’s what I most relate to, but it really refers to any creative endeavour: engineering to painting to architecture, programming or marketing.