Archive for January, 2011

You’ll Always Get What You Pay For

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Communication design is one of those “hoodoo voodoo” (thanks Jim!) professions that no one quite understands. They think they could probably do a decent job of it themselves, but at some point they say to themselves, “maybe I should hire a professional”. When they talk to us, they are often gobsmacked by the fees we quote them. Even when we’re quoting our “friend” and “altruism” prices. I’m speaking here of people new to buying design. Our “big” clients understand how it works and generally know the value of communication design and respect it. So I’m extremely grateful for the articulate missive from Blair Enns who understands the issue and wrote this.

Why I Charge More
A Designer’s Open Letter to His Future Clients

“The more I charge you, the more pressure I put on myself to perform for you.

“The client who grinds me on price is the least satisfied. He gets less attention from me and is most likely to be pissed off at me. And I don’t really care, because to be honest, I resent him. The very fact that he is on my roster reminds me that I’m part prostitute. For him, I’m doing it for the money and as it isn’t very much money I’m not troubled by not doing it well. He pays me a paltry sum, I perform poorly, he gets angry and I resent him. We can have that type of relationship if you like.

“The client who pays me the premium gets my best work. He’s the one I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about, wondering if I’m doing all I can to earn his money. When he calls, I jump. Hell, I call him first. I take pride in moving his business. I try to make myself indispensible to him. I imagine that he winces when he opens my bill (he doesn’t say), but he thanks me for all I do for him. He’s the one I worry about.

“I’m great at what I do, but if someone hires me without giving me the resources (money, time, access) to do a great job, it’s easy for me to rationalize poor performance. When a client gives me everything I ask for, he removes all the obstacles to a high quality outcome. There’s no way for me to rationalize anything less than perfection.

“There is no greater pressure than the pressure I put on myself, and the only way you can add to my own sense of pressure is to pay me well. Yelling won’t do it. Neither will threatening to pull your business. My deep sense of obligation comes from you paying me well enough to dispatch all of the excuses. Then I have to prove to you, and, more importantly, to me that I am as good as I say I am.

“So, I’ve given you my price and it’s the price that I need to charge to bring a deep sense of obligation to the job. Will I work for less? Probably. Can you negotiate with me? Sure. We can have that type of relationship if you really want me to be that type of designer and you want to be that type of client.

“Let’s just understand each other before we get started.”

Where Are We Driving Our Kids?

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I am fortunate to be a member of the sessional faculty at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I say fortunate because I think I get more out of it than my students do. It stimulates my energy and creativity and it makes me think. For me, the university environment — the academic realm — is like a warm bath. I feel right there and I thrive in it. And, for 80-90% of the fourth year students I teach, it has the same effect.

But it is not like that for everyone. Nor should it be. As a society, we have put academia on a pedestal. A vast majority of parents push their children to go to university, as if it is the only worthy career path. I’m here to tell you that it is not. Sir Ken Robinson has spoken twice at TED Conference in California on education. First, in 2006, his talk called Schools Kill Creativity, he posits that we are crushing the life out of our children and forcing them into molds into which only a portion of them really fit. He spoke again in May 2010 with a talk called Bring on the learning revolution!. I encourage you — with emphasis — to watch both of these talks. This is no light-weight TEDster. Ken Robinson “led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.”(1)

I’ve grown up understanding the hypocrisy of pushing children into universities when not all of them are well suited to it. And the greater tragedy is that we see being “not well suited to university” as inferior. It is not inferior. We need hairdressers, dry wallers, plumbers and clerks. These occupations are not “less”. This work is valuable to all of us. We need to respect every worker. We need to allow anyone to feel great pride in what they do. If not, are we then developing our own western caste system?

I think it is in human nature to want to dominate or to serve, but it is less than civilized to encourage the practice. Any education, be it apprentice, trade or life, is — in fact — education. Any great skill, regardless of how it is gained, is still a great skill. Even the most technical careers, peppered with MAs and PhDs are also populated by self-taught geniuses who simply do not fit the standard eduational mold.

I call on all educators and parents to consider — before any other factor — the happiness of their child. What gives them joy? What makes them get out of bed in the morning? Nurture it. Support it. And, if it doesn’t lead to an Ivy League school or a “profession”, celebrate its value. As a society, we need to grow in this direction.


Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

Creative Commons License
The Value of Varied Choices in Education by Casey Hrynkow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Rebranding in a Democratic Marketplace

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Democracy in brand identity is here. With brand “Tribes” comes the benefit of being a loved brand and the disadvantage of being a democratic brand. Having read this in the Economist yesterday, there is clearly a new dynamic afoot in rebranding and it can scuttle the process at great cost to the incautious. It’s a massive expense, with everything from signage to vehicle livery dwarfing the actual cost of initial design. Rebranding may not always be necessary and may — occasionally — be a symptom of myopic navel gazing on the part of senior management.

Rebranding has a place in the growth and change of a company and, where significant shift has or will occur, it can often guide the process and be the banner under which it takes place. The recent Starbucks rebrand is a case in point of what I believe will be a success. It maintains the familiar elements, the Siren being the most central, and it carries a emotional friendliness. It frees the company to some degree, allowing it to do some things other than coffee while still being under the familiar banner. Like Starbucks or hate it, the rebrand will work.

40 years of Starbucks visual identity.

40 years of Starbucks visual identity.

But when you pull away the very things that resonated most with people as Tropicana did, you are bound to piss people off. I am amazed that Tropicana didn’t see that their photographic orange and straw as the important asset it is. When senior management speaks in immortal terms about the reasons and representations of a new logo, they may be setting themselves up for a public relations disaster. It’s not a language they know fluently and it comes off as weak in almost every instance. You can’t tell your customers that a logo makes you more relevant to them. They will decide that. And you sure as hell don’t start talking about design issues that are esoteric and irrelevant to the customer, such as references to things like the golden ratio. That’s an internal discussion. What you can talk about is what your changes are in the company and how the logo represents those to you. Howard Schultz put it perfectly,

“Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all. And now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update to ensure that the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage in ways that are true to our core values and that also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth.”

That’s plain language and it’s bullet proof. There has been lots of outcry about the change to the Starbucks logo because it is so known and loved and because of the democratic marketplace. But they’ll get used to it as they have the last two times the logo has changed. Starbucks understands its assets and has honored them.

If you need to rebrand, don’t do it in half measures or without doing your homework. Audit your assets and know their value before you burn them. Then make the right decisions and talk about them in the right terms.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

Creative Commons License
Rebranding in a Democratic Marketplace by Casey Hrynkow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Design is Not a Hobby

Monday, January 24th, 2011

This is an old and nagging issue for designers of all stripes. It was fascinating, though, to realize that we’re not alone. Witness Raul Pacheco or @hummingbird604 and his post today on the Economics of Free. For some reason, people seem to think that if work is fun, we don’t need to get paid for it. News flash: It’s not always fun and it’s how we feed ourselves and our families. Thanks for the validation from both Raul and John Bolwitt.

When we compromise and do things for free or for ridiculously low fees, we hurt every other practitioner. There is no perceived value in what is given away for free, or priced as a hobby.

SPIN Farming and Design

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

I’m a serious foodie and I grow my own. My sister and I work a community garden plot in Richmond and, with varying rates of success, grow fat Roma tomatoes, fava beans, garlic, onions, kale and arugula. I could be described as being passionate about local food.

Our community garden effort

Our community garden effort

Arzeena Hamir is coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society and writes for the Richmond Review. In yesterday’s Review, she explained that the BC Association of Farmer’s Markets will hold is AGM in concert with the Richmond Food Security Society March 11-13. They’re calling it Working Together to Strengthen Our Local Food System.

For those who are not yet converts to the local food movement, let me explain, in brief. If you’re buying tomatoes from Chile, they are grown in soil you don’t know about, sprayed with stuff you don’t know about, then shipped at great expense, time and use of fossil fuels to the Lower Mainland. The fact that they might be cheap should worry you. If you buy local tomatoes — or better still — grown your own, you can choose organic if you want to be sure of what went into and on the tomato, but you do know that local means it had a short trip in a truck and was likely picked a day or two ago. The taste is better, the texture is better.

This kind of passion isn’t for everybody, I suppose. I prefer to buy less and buy better. I know that the increases in obesity, cancer and various other diseases seems to have coincided with the growth of factory farms, so I want to pull it back to the local level.

Back to the conference…
Curtis Stone will be giving two workshops on SPIN farming — Small Plot Intensive farming — during the conference. It’s a slightly bigger operation than our tiny little effort, but makes local farming possible in small spaces.

So, how does this relate to design? Design is problem-solving. It’s taking what you have and making something work with it. Whether that’s industrial design or communication design. The local food movement is designing better solutions to our food supply every day. I love food. I love design. What’s not to like? I blog about food here.

Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.

The Shift in Media Access

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Caught this on Twitter today from the Harvard Business Review and its worth a read. David Armano of Edelman Digital succinctly describes the new world of media and who has the stage, when and how. You can read his post here, follow him on Twitter here.