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The Artificial, Week 256: Personal

published at theartificial.com on

When I started writing these, I intended to expose the efforts of building and maintaining a studio. But I have found myself too reluctant to share all the struggles and joys. It all feels too personal, which would make this a diary.

Our team feels like family, the office seems like an extension of home, the work that we do seems as if I had much more of a direct hand in it than I usually do. This sense of it all being personal was not entirely expected, but I’ve learned to embrace it. After all, Shannon encourages designers to take the work personally. If we don’t engage our aesthetic judgement (in the Kantian sense), then we’re only executing process and the quality will suffer.

Let me share a bit of the personal, though: we are having a very quiet quarter in client work. You might think this is stressful because we need more paying work, and you’d be half-right. We have run our finances very conservatively, so have plenty of runway for times like this. Several clients have told us they’ll be returning with work in the near future, and we’ve been able to take on smaller-revenue projects that are rewarding in other ways.

It is nonetheless very stressful, because keeping ourselves sharp and cultivating our skills means we need to also create internal projects. These can be surprisingly tiring. Without externally-imposed deadlines and constraints, we have to brief and manage timelines and resist an unusual temptation to just carry on forever.

A “dry spell” also presents an impetus to seek new clients. I find basic networking quite natural because it’s genuinely enjoyable to connect with people who I might be falling out of touch with. Perhaps I should be stronger in asking them for work and referrals directly, but I’m not sure that would even be productive.

Reaching out to strangers is naturally required to grow our network, but very difficult for me and not as rewarding as hearing updates from friends. I know that getting to know new people and especially learning about new client organizations is enjoyable once my curiosity is piqued, but that future reward is not enough motivation to make “cold calling” anything but a terrible, impersonal chore.

Stressful points are, of course, a useful indicator. It demonstrates that we need to develop this skill as a company, and find ways to get those first introductions that will lead to new personal relationships.