Extraordinary work gets done for extraordinary clients.

Partnering with an agency means you’re going to spend a lot of time together and if all goes well, work together over the course of many projects and many years. To deliver as brand strategists and designers we’ll need to know what you do, who your audience is, why your work matters, the politics of your organization and the essence of your culture. Basically, the get-to-know-you phase of dating and then some. All the tenets of a healthy relationship are vital: communication, empathy, boundaries, a willingness to work through messy moments and a shared interest in one another’s work. If we’re going to do great work, it’s a heck of a lot more likely to soar if it's built on a rock-solid relationship.

As the producer, I’m often the translator between our creative team and the client team. And as your humble translator, I’m here to tell you that our relationship matters as much as our scope. I’m always looking for ways to strengthen our communication and create a dependable foundation for magnificent work. Here are 5 things that will empower our teams to elevate the work: 

1. Kindness. This is a business exchange, yes, but you and me—we’re all people and the work is better when there’s kindness woven into the process. Our best clients crack jokes in meetings, ask how we are—each of us—and bring us donuts after the rare all-nighter. We’ll do the same, of course, because we care about your well-being.

2. Forthrightness. Since we’ve got kindness padding the air around our project we can go ahead and be candid with one another. We’re here to do strategic and creative work, which is 10x harder when you’re trying to read between the lines or being kept in the dark. The nature of our work is very close to the heart of your business, and as such we often uncover disagreement among your party. Talk to us, we’re here to help. We’ll gain a better understanding of your culture and the work will be stronger for it.

3. Fluidity. I call this shades of gray (green). Have you ever headed into a creative project thinking, "Ah, yes, I’ll do this and put that doodad there, make that thingy lime green and write a thingamabob for that and it’s gonna take like 3.75 weeks?" Only to start the project and find out the doodad is still in development; the thingamabob is unspeakably complex and lime green reminds everyone of cartoon vomit. Extreme example, but you get my drift. We do our very best to understand your business and needs inside and out before we scope our work, but we’ll never know as much as you. We’ll have to learn a little as we go. Creative and strategic projects need room to be fluid. Adaptable. We’re devoted to finding the best solution, but the road may wind.

4. Respect. You’re the expert in your business and we’re the experts in solving brand and design problems. If we work together, respecting and leveraging each other’s expertise, the work will sing. There is a super fine line between telling us what’s not working and prescribing the solution. We prefer the former. It’s about respect, one of the chief ingredients in creative work. When respect is absent the work and relationship erodes in a couple of dooming ways. 

First, the project takes on a purely transactional feel. This is problematic because a business transaction can lack collaboration and passion. We do our work for so much more than the money; solving problems for people through branding and design is a labor of passion and when a project is reduced to a paycheck the work becomes a slog. We’re professionals and we’ll always deliver, but there’s a special sparkle in the work when we’re having a good time. 

Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

Second, when told the solution rather than the problem we’re no longer contributing our expertise as brand and design detectives. When our expertise isn’t needed, we begin to feel like a very expensive production studio. If we’re not getting “it," we need to know so we can try harder, pivot to another solution, or ask for your help. Solving the problem with collaboration often yields the best ideas and always makes us both smarter about each other’s skills.

Respect is a two-way street. We’re all smart, talented people with expertise for miles. Respect. 

5. Dialog. You've got to talk to us. This might seem terribly obtuse but it’s remarkable how often we’re left out of the loop. If you’re feeling unsure about something in the work, telling your colleague is a helpful second opinion, but don’t forget to tell us, too. Projects can take on an “us against them” tone—I don’t have to tell you why that’s the kiss of death. We all need to make a stouthearted effort to stay on the same team.

Embrace these 5 relationship fundamentals and you’re golden, the work will be incredible and our partnership will last way past the awkward get-to-know-you phase” and on into the couples-that-look-alike phase.

Stephanie Downes


Stephanie Downes is our Producer and Project Manager. She'll be the most efficient person you've ever worked with, focused on finishing your project on time and on budget.

Filed under: Culture

Tagged with: Seattle Brand Agency