Injurious effects can be moderated by the taking of a grain of salt.
If you sift through the tide of student emails that almost every studio is subjected, their commonality is that they all ask for something. And in my opinion, whilst the foolish ask, straight-up “Got any jobs?”, the wiser seek “advice”. It’s one of those t-shirt-psychology-mind-tricks that, with seemingly no commitment, it’s easier to get through the door when you don’t ask a question which has a definite answer (because turning someone away, who’s only asking for a bit of ‘advice’, makes you sound like an absolute twat citing the usual no-time excuse). However, it’s all good getting the advice, what you do with it is the crucial thing. Once upon a time, I agreed to see a student (whose forename and surname started with the same letter hence, from now on, we shall humorously refer to him as PP) and offer my advice on his work and portfolio. He came to the studio, bore the usual traits—attire: smart-casual; accessories: zippy-uppy-ring-binder-folio-thing; appearance: slightly nauseous—and we went through his book. It wasn’t that bad, but for every project, he’d crammed the respective page with what looked like every photo he’d ever taken of it. My feedback to him was that he needed to step-back from the work he was obviously too close to, try to look through the eyes of another and distill each page down to communicate efficiently all the stories you want that project to tell. “Do that, get it right, and it will actually help you out a lot, because it will do most of the talking for you.” I said “Then you’re just reinforcing what’s on the page rather over-explaining or confusing people. Does that make sense?” “Yeah. Yeah. I know what you mean. Yeah. I’ll do that. Yeah.” PP replied. And on he went. A few months later I was asked to do a few portfolio surgeries for D&AD, and on my itinerary I saw a familiar name—PP. PP rocked up in time for his slot and sat down. He whipped out the zippy-uppy-ring-binder-folio-thing, opened it, and laid it on the desk in front of me. I sat there for five minutes and he didn’t say a word. And another five minutes. I just stared at his first project wondering if there was something I was missing. “So remind me what this project is again…” I asked. “Oh, you want me to talk about it?” PP replied, puzzled. “Well, Id’ like to know more about what I’m seeing, and what you were thinking…” “Oh. Right. I thought you wanted it to talk for me?” As it turns out, after speaking with me and re-working his book, he’d been rocking up and presenting it in silence. He’d been to three other agencies and waited for the viewer to become irate and uncomfortable and throw a question at him before speaking. And the morale of this particular tale is that advice, good or bad, is to be taken on board and considered in the context of you, your work, and your intentions, aims, and ambitions. It isn’t all gospel to be adhered to word-for-word. If someone gives you a convincing degree of relevant criticism then you have to take it on board and make an informed decision. The same applies if they offer you a “I don’t like that” response. But when it comes to receiving advice, you have the upper hand, because no matter what that advice is, you’re still in a position to do something or nothing with it. Don’t just do whatever a person says because they’re a step up the chain from you. Make a judgement after analysing their feedback, because ultimately, there is no right and wrong.
And you’ll never please everyone.
Craig Oldham - Creative Director / Founder
The Office of Craig Oldham