The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Strategy Is Knowing What Not To Do …

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, when I was in NY, I was invited to speak at design gods … Pentagram.

Whenever I’m asked to speak at something, the first thing I think is ‘why?’

The second thing I think about is ‘what right have I got to talk about this subject?’

And the final thing is ‘what am I going to talk about’.

In the case of Pentagram, I didn’t know what I could say that would be of any interest of them.

Then I remembered the only reason they asked me to come is because of my relationship to a certain, famous rock band so instead of doing a deck – where, let’s be honest, they would be judging the design of each slide rather than listening to what I said – I bought 12 iconic albums on vinyl [they’re the ones in the picture above] and talked about the relationship they had with the music and the fans of the music under the heading, ‘Design is not decoration’.

Now I have no idea if they actually learnt anything from my talk, but it certainly created a bunch of conversation and debate and for me, that’s a big win.

Actually, getting out alive was the big win, but seeing some of the most talented design people in the World talk about the relationship between music, design and fans was something I’d pay for just to witness.

Which is why one of the best lessons I learned about strategy is less about what you are going to do and more about what you’re going to sacrifice.

26 Comments so far
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An excellent post. I wish I could have witnessed your Pentagram presentation. What a smart way to do it. Always impressive Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

do we know the same campbell?

Comment by andy@cynic

Amazingly, you do. Where the confusion is occurring is that my personality adapts to the situation and individual I’m with … so when someone is nice, I tend to be nice back to them. Something you probably haven’t encountered.

Comment by Rob

So you ignore any album of the band who got you the gig but throw queen in. What a dick.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I did include them … as a ‘bonus’ mention. At the end.
The very end. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Very modest of you not to feature any of your own work.

Comment by Terence Trent D'Arby

More surprising he suppressed his ego.

Comment by Bazza

more likely he didnt want to hear the audience piss their fucking pants at it and so he can continue his rock star delusion even though i know fucking worms that rock harder than darby.

Comment by andy@cynic

Please tell me you used impact and comic sans.

Comment by Bazza

if he did, it wasnt to be fucking ironic.

Comment by andy@cynic

The title of your presentation already made it great. How was it recieved?

Comment by George

Well. I think. They invited me back … though I am also aware it may be a trap.

Comment by Rob

Strategy is knowing what, where and when not to do.

Comment by John

strategy is knowing when you can be a pedantic fuck with maximum fucking impact.

Comment by andy@cynic

Why did you choose all the albums that went mainstream, the ones that appealed to the masses as well as the fans?

Comment by John

why did he choose those albums fullfuckingstop.

Comment by andy@cynic

I chose them for a bunch of reasons.

1. They’re iconic and transcended – or attracted – their core fan base … which was kind of the point of the presentation.

2. They were the ones where I got the most interesting quotes, mainly because there were a lot more to choose from.

3. Arguably the most important … they were easy to get and cheaper to buy, hahaha.

Comment by Rob

fucking cheapass.

Comment by andy@cynic

If this becomes an annual event then that’s Otis’s record collection sorted.

Comment by John

Great post Rob and a brilliant presentation idea.

Comment by Pete

No one knows what not to do like you do.

Comment by Wayne Green

They say you can tell exactly when someone got married by looking at their music collection.

Comment by Ian Gee

Apologies if I have missed this – but what was the sacrifice in this example?

Comment by Matt

Fair point Matt. For me it was a sacrifice of 2 things:

1. The ability to talk about a subject through the lens of marketing comms.
2. The comfort of a formal presentation so I wasn’t in control of the narrative.

They may seem small things but they were still sacrifices for me even though they enabled me to have a discussion about music and design with probably the single best design company around.

Comment by Rob

Thanks for sharing. Quite obvious now that you’ve pointed it out.

If it’s possible, would you mind sharing a couple/several examples for the albums selected? i.e. ‘the relationship they had with the music and the fans of the music ‘

You mentioned earlier that their iconic and attracted the fan base – but surely it’s the quality music and band/artist persona that attracts them first – if they established, the design of these is secondary…or an extension of music? I’m not undervaluing the importance of design as it is part an parcel to the band/artist persona/’brand’ but in this instance, I feel the artwork becomes more iconic because of the product.

That said CD Davar Azarbeygui has a quote (which I fully agree with) on Linkedin “Design is the silent ambassador to your brand” Paul Rand

Comment by Matt

[…] like the process of trying to think of something interesting to talk about for the […]

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