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

Answer The Brief, Not Answer With Options …

One of the things I find really interesting is how adland has got into the habit of providing clients with multiple options for every bit of work.

Oh I get it.

Apart from the fact there’s always more than one way to answer any brief, we want – or should I say, we need – clients to be happy.

Except it doesn’t always end up that way does it?

We make alternatives that aren’t as good as the idea we think they should buy.

Clients demand diluted versions of the work we don’t really like in the first place.

We end up getting fired because the campaign they pushed us to make didn’t work as well as they wanted.

Who are the bigger idiots?

The people who don’t buy what the experts put forward or the experts that offer alternatives they don’t really believe in?

Which is why every single person should read the story of Paul Rand – the designer who Steve Jobs turned to, to design the logo for his NeXT computer company.

Not just because it’s a brilliant story.

Not just because he didn’t even bother to turn up to the pitch, he just sent a brilliant 100 page book with his idea in it.

But because when Jobs was asked what it was like to work with Rand, he said …

“I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said … no, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me.

You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’”

How good is that?

+ I will solve your problem for you.

+ You will pay me for my recommendation, whether you use it or not.

+ If you want options, go talk to other people.

While some may claim that makes Paul Rand arrogant or petulant, I would say it shows someone who knows the value of their experience … their talent and their craft.

More than that, I think it shows someone who really thinks about what idea is the right one for their client and then puts only that one in front of them.

Not countless options.


A single idea that has gone through hundreds of possibilities to get to that single recommendation.

Something that has been created and crafted to answer the brief, rather than simply executed to satisfy the clients taste.

And while the article itself states the NeXT logo might not be a classic … the style, approach and attitude of the presentation certainly is.

Adland should take note.

Read it here.

21 Comments so far
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I’ve met Paul Rand. This story is on brand for him.

Comment by Bazza

He view on pitching is good too.

Comment by Bazza

It’s excellent. He is also right.

Comment by Pete

An excellent post that asks companies serious questions about how they go about answering their clients needs. What’s right? What’s popular? Whatever they decide?

Comment by George

Ironically, the NeXT logo is one of his worst. But his argument his approach is one of the best.

Comment by George

Yes. There are many ways to solve a problem but there is always one that you believe in the most. How many companies have created lesser options to the one they believe in simply to provide clients with choice? How many times has the lesser choice been chosen? For that alone Rand’s advice is excellent.

Comment by Pete

Sacrifice. Sacrifice. Sacrifice.

A lost art in today’s strategy …

Of course there are more than one way to solve any problem, but when you do the due-diligence and look at what excites you the most … more often than not, as you say Pete, one direction is a clear winner and yet we actively dilute it by offering other options.

Now I get why we tell ourselves we do it. We say it provides more evidence why our favoured idea is better. It rarely does. If anything it shows there are alternatives to solving the task and then the client sees it as a popularity contest rather than a strategic decision.

Paul Rand’s approach may be filled with risk, but not as much as winning a piece of business based on something you don’t believe in and will tell the market the standards by which you operate.

Though in today’s market, many agencies don’t care about the standards, just the income … which is the sort of short-term thinking that has contributed to the mess the industry is in.

Comment by Rob

I wonder if Jobs would have been so accommodating in his later years? From what I have heard of him, he was extremely demanding throughout his life so I assume he respected Rand enough to accept his terms. Not just because of his body of work but maybe he saw himself in Rand in so much as he respected himself enough to never just do what was needed to win, but what was needed for himself to be happy if he won.


Comment by Pete

That’s a great question. What do you think Baz? He liked you and you’re definitely a polarising individual. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Jobs was demanding. Intensely so. But it was always about standards and values. You never wanted to disappoint him. It was one of my greatest honours to have worked for him.

Comment by Bazza

I bet it was. But then cynic set you up to know how to deal with the pedantic and difficult. ; )

Comment by Pete

Fair Baz. Fair.

I can tell how much he impacted you by the reverence you speak of him. I remember when he died, we were supposed to catch up in SF and you – like much of the world – was devastated. It would be amazing to know what he thought of the company he started. I’m sure it’s success would please him. How it has got there may be something he questions. Who knows. I certainly don’t. As usual. Hahaha.

As for you Pete … tut tut tut. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

“In this example the e is the mnemonic factor.” Yeah right. Could it be that Rand got the job because he was an iconic elder statesman designer and his supposed ultimatum would make a good PR story?

Comment by John

If you think that, then you have no idea what Steve Jobs was like.

Comment by Bazza

I have absolutely no idea what he was like. I admire him hugely, but I just don’t understand how that logo got chosen.

Comment by John

I don’t know the story behind it but I can’t imagine Steve Jobs bigging-up anyone at his own expense just for a PR opp.

Comment by Rob

it takes someone special to create something shitter than the google logo and flog it to someone who always had a bit of fucking taste about him. what rand says is great. what rand has done is fucking iconic. next isnt any of them and if you need 100 page book to prove it youre trying far too fucking hard.

Comment by andy@cynic

still looks better than teslas piece of shit identity.

Comment by andy@cynic

Tesla’s logo is a car crash.

Comment by DH

Elon Musk approved it after a night with 420.

Comment by Bazza


Comment by DH

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