This blog was born thanks to one devilishly smart guys at Like Minds; Scott Gould recognised that I have a compelling track record of successful design selling other people’s products and services. But he also saw that I can become diffident and uncomfortable selling my own skills.
This diagnosis took him less than 30 minutes on our first meeting. He gave me what I can only describe as Alex Fergerson’s Hairdryer Treatment. But, and here’s the clever bit, having harshly isolated a problem he swiflty moved to the positive. Scott’s observation was that once I stopped ‘trying to sell’ I relaxed and just chatted about work experiences in my own words and became animated and enthusiastic. Before I had time to be indignant and defensive he instructed me to set up this Blog and tell the stories behind the portfolio.”There aren’t half some clever bastards” as Ian Dury once said.
Thank you Scott. Right on the money.
Q:Why is there a “Blockbuster” Jacket up there?
A1: I thrive on variety. With books it is healthy to be able to sell a big airport read as well as a Booker Prize Winner. I have done both. Many times. Only doing the former I would have become a design hack. Only doing the latter I probably would have disappeared up own ego long ago.
A2: Because designers don’t design just for other designers. Designers solve problems, for clients.
Savages is a novel, “Five Rich Women forced to go Native on a Desert Island”. I won’t expand, read it if that appeals.
Shirley Conran had been lured away from Penguin to Pan. I was due to design the paperback but the hardback publisher wanted me to create something early for them. Publisher, Phillipa Harrison flattered my design work and I took the bait. I took the manuscript home to read. Back in my West London flat that evening I turned to putting thoughts to layout pad. Had ideas, like you do.
For some ideas to work I was going to need the pooled budgets of both publishers, and it would make a nice big fuss of the author, I thought. Never a bad move, especially with the big ones. Good ROI, as Pan later agreed.
But for now all I had was crumpled paper. Doodles, random notes, thoughts etc. This stuff is very rough just an aide-memoire to me. No, you can’t see it. My squeeze, Sandy, posed for reference for one idea in a T-Vest holding up a broom handle as a spear-gun (see above).
Next day, back at Art Director central, a normal morning, return from lunch, my quiet time in the Busabong, Fulham Road, with the papers. My recently appointed assistant says, “Shirley Conran called.” Pressure already? 24 hours, Jeez, that’s a record. “What did she say?”, I asked. “Wanted to know if there were designs for her to see yet. Don’t worry I saw them on your desk.” Cardiac arrest as she announced, helpfully, “I sent them straight over by courier.”
Bear in mind this is Shirley Conran, ex of Terence, mother of Jasper. Me, boy-art director. Shortly to be ex-art director. What she has been sent were random ramblings, scribbles, thinking on paper. Un-edited. Rougher than rough. Did I mention they were rough? This was not good.
Phone rings. Assistant says, “It’s Shirley Conran . . . wants to speak to you”.
There is a strange spongy vertigo when you are sure you are about to get fired. “Are you the individual who did these sketches?” Bugger, sarcasm too. “I can explain . . .” I began. “No need” she declared imperiously, “I love one of them. It’s genius!”. Waves of relief, self congratulation, instant conviction I knew it was a triumph all along . . .
“The one that’s got Conran The Barbarian written on it.” she said.
No moral. It progressed to sell shed-loads. And on the way stuff happened – Accounts Dept. imploaded when I commissioned Vogue fashion photographer Tony McGee. Showing a 5×4 transparency to the Sales Force, I witnessed them turn the tranny around to see the model from the front. Same crew managed to successfully block me from carefully placing the ‘A’ in the title neatly on her bottom as they thought it “too suggestive”.
And a week after the shoot Tony McGee called to tell something about the ferry that had tragically sunk recently with serious loss of life. The model had cancelled her ticket on that very sailing to take our assignment.