Success in a Studio
Some observations and perhaps naive views of success in studio culture have been developed in my short albeit eventful career so far.
It has evolved from abstract assumptions at the beginning of this year, to partially tested experiences. To the point, I delve into my view on success where a studio's ecosystem is concerned.
1_At its nucleus, a studio must have defined leadership. The leaders will direct and set the tone for the rest of the troops to fill in. If no head can be seen, it is up to the majority to create day to day environments which can be incredibly effective if the alpha does not actually exist (thus defined.)
However when there is leadership present but its not clear or certain that they're the bee in command — a dark dance within limboland ensues and ultimately stifles the climate.
2_Trivial matter of opinion and taste cannot be attacked. Humans, at root level, have capacity to be opinionated. From an early age, we develop affinities and proclivities to certain actions, aesthetics and objects. Opinion and taste is a large portion of what creates identity and uniqueness. If this is disposed of, individuality is eventually silenced. In a creative setting, the profit margin depends upon free expression of matters regarding taste and affinities. How can someone express their professional ideas if their social ones are ultimately denigrated?
To go deeper — developed opinion are considered as belief. Ideologies cannot be attacked. If savaged, the outcome is a culture of fear and fascism. The undercutting of ideology is not accepted in many facets of society and so should not be accepted in a studio.
Young designers will sharpen their conceptual faculties eventually. The seemingly bad ideas will eventually lead to good ones if within the right environment. Over time this process is compressed to short, more succinct lifespans. And you have yourself an efficient designer.
3_Eye Contact is an underestimated tool in the studio. When at a bar, speaking to someone you've just met in a foreign country -- you'll mostly find yourself staring deep into the eyes of this intriguing fellow. From a plutonic level — you're interested. Interested by what they say, by what they reveal about their personality and fascinated by their newness.
Leaps and bounds are made at this first meeting and tend to plateau over the duration of a relationship. In a studio this simple act of humanness is often forgotten when planted in front of monitors for 9 hours of the day. Conversations are had without ever making eye contact.
To truly value the person speaking to you, the best thing to do is to stop working and give them the respect of your full attention. This may cost you a minute of work but the reward is exponentially more valuable.
When a person feels heard, they will speak. The profit margin of a studio and staff retention tends to partially rest on the simple act of being heard.
4_Break bread together everyday. In my experiences in Europe, the staff within the studio I was at, stopped work for one hour each day at one o' clock. They stepped away from their desk and sat together at the communal table and broke bread.
This was an hour where connections were formed, and stress was relieved. The mind was cleared and the soul rejuvenated. An unspoken barrier is broken when this hour is set aside religiously to eat and drink together.
During this time, hormonally, your body balances itself. During this time new connections and paths are formed in the brain which aid creativity. Neural paths that have no other way of forming but through play. Spiritually, something too takes place.
After such a break, the ability to work faster and concentrate harder is heightened. And whilst overtime everyday is not encouraged — I found myself working happily until 8:00pm+ everyday with plenty of energy after work.
5_Everyday is an opportunity to learn. The old must learn from the young and the young must learn from the old.
The young are a sponge and gauge on the current social and cultural climate. Their views will be different from the old but these must not be belittled. These views must be learnt from. Or at the very least, enjoyed and lovingly challenged.
The reverse is true too. The old have lived and encountered trials you are yet to face. They have the map to navigate through them. They have an understanding of the past that does not mean irrelevance, but highlights greater relevance to the young. They are given a view of the present and future that the young have no internal access too.
When you place the young and old in a mutual relationship, both can advance further faster and create at a superior level.
The overall health of a studio is one where self betterment is a daily ambition that is targeted in tandem.
6_ Life-cycles are key to learning. Young designers are taught to think conceptually and create something to show for it in their time during university or college. The view they gain from university is either incredibly micro or extremely macro. The nuances of the in between can only be learned through time and experience.
The experience of seeing a project from start to middle to end will create mental paths for young designers to follow. It will allow them to gain foresight into where a project needs to go be completed. And finally it will allow all the natural mistakes to be made faster and thus — process to be refined.
It may take up to 4 or 5 life cycles for a young designer to truly feel they're able to take the reigns on future projects. The faster they can do this, the faster they can progress forward through their career and begin increasing profit margins within a studio.
When young designers learn the right way, their energy is directed positively. This will retain young talent.
The rest of this list is yet to be completed over the coming years.
The qualities that lead to a positive studio culture must not remain as discourse but must develop into action.