Sagmeister on Keeping It Real

sagmeisterWhereas in ancient times a big waistline was an indication of prosperity, today it’s not. The same goes for your creative business.

“The conventional wisdom in our business is that you have to grow and keep moving to survive. We never grew, always stayed tiny, and it serves us very well over the years, allowing us to pick and choose projects, and keeping our financial independence from our clients. We actually have a rather good track record, because we do select projects carefully. Most of our ideas don’t eat dust but glimpse the light of day because we find it much more helpful to spend some serious time and effort before we start working on a project, rather than suffer through it afterwards.” – Stefan Sagmeister, Designer

Your client list can get big. Your staff can get big. Your hopes can get big. Productions can get big. Even invoices can get big. But none of that means a thing unless you’re doing work that you believe in and doing it well. And only you can measure that for yourself. Where do you want to go and what do you want to do?

Bigger is only better when you’re talking vision.

[thx to the lovely blog the99percent]

59 Responses to Sagmeister on Keeping It Real

  1. Mike Tittel May 14, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Stephen D. Smith May 14, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Thanks for sharing this. Today, of all days, I truly needed to read this.

  3. Jonny May 14, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Very true. I think our small company size is an asset, not a hindrance. Doesn’t mean we think small project wise, but it allows us to serve our clients better than many.

  4. David Killingback May 14, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    Spot on. :-)

  5. Joshua May 14, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    This made me smile today. It’s always great to see that the being good at what you do can trump numbers/power/money/resources.

  6. Marcin Retecki May 14, 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Well said, very well said.

  7. Dylan Haley May 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    Chase, I’ve had more offers in the past couple of weeks on different projects then I have ever had in my career, and only one of them do I want to do, and none of them do I need to do. For some reason I’ve been stressing on how to get them all done by mid-June, which seems to be around the time of all their deadlines…in short, I needed this post. Thanks buddy.

  8. Lauran May 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Agree with you Chase … But none of that means a thing unless you’re doing work that you believe in and doing it well.

  9. Donald E Giannatti May 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    I went from single photographer to staff of 8 in the early 80’s. Cut back to only two over a period of two years… just hated the shooting towels and garage door parts and such to make payroll. Then added design to the business and by 2000 we were the 2nd largest ad agency in AZ (OCEAN Integrated Media) and had 20 people working for me and my partner.

    I am back to only one… thanks to the dotbomb and 911 and a crookedasswipe of a partner, but I love it. I really do. My clients love me, and I deliver exclusively to them. I agree with Sagmeister 110%… I love keeping the overhead small and the work large.

  10. Matt May 14, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.”

    – Edward Abby

  11. Leif May 15, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Agree 100 percent – can we share this with Wall Street

  12. Roberto May 15, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    Ótimo texto. Vem ao encontro do momento de transição profissional que vivencio.

    Quem quer, faz. Não importa o que terá que superar. Simplesmente faz. Mas saber como fazer é sempre fundamental, diferencia.

  13. David Dvir May 16, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    Couldn’t be more true. My first, and perhaps last, business partner always talked about expanding and dominating by hiring more photographers and branching out. But I just wanted to be really awesome at what I do. No reason other than greed to go overboard. Thanks for sharing.


  14. Duckrabbit Digital May 16, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Thank you for posting this. It’s cheering to hear that quality is still appreciated. So often small business owners are encouraged to stop providing services that are time-consuming when, really, taking the time to perform those services are what keep people coming back. And it’s a lot more rewarding to work with the same small and dedicated group of people for years, getting to know them and developing friendships with them, then it is to have a lot of customers but constant turnover.

    As it turns out, bigger is not better.


  15. Claudia Hung May 17, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Wow, totally needed to hear this (again) today too. I had a meeting with a potential client today which was an absolute struggle. Was tempted with financial fears and the counter-intuitive nature of saying “No” to work. Reading the quote above was a needed reminder of learning to draw the line and maintaining artistic integrity.


  16. Mirko Vukasovic May 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Awesome entry from an awesome designer. We designers (chilean designers at least) have a tough time once we finish college because amidst the huge ammount of useless courses made for money earning only, we never get the lessons that are related with marketing and business. Fortunately, I’ve managed to learn it quite smoothly.

    Big ideas, big vision, selected projects make huge products.

    Saludos Chase!

  17. Matthew T Rader June 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm #

    I love that philosophy! Thank you for sharing! It’s about quality and that’s my goal in my work too.

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