THE EVER-CHANGING ROLE OF THE ART DIRECTOR

Since starting my business over 25 years ago, I’ve worn a lot of proverbial hats, ranging from those of designer, to businessman, to part-time psychiatrist, often overlapping the three. Of course, the latter of the three is never disclosed in a job description, but the role is required nonetheless, free of charge. I’m sure that any of you who are reading this knows precisely what I’m talking about.

Once you peel all the job layers away, what remains is a creative being, plain and simple. Regardless of where you’ve fit in the overall project plan, you’ve realized that everything you’ve ever done has required some degree of creativity, whether it involved designing something brilliantly visual; developing the focused strategy to support it; selling it to the restless client; assembling the team to execute the overall plan; reading the client’s mind—perhaps many times over; and then, finally submitting an invoice with the good taste to make the client realize you’re not ripping him or her off. Finally, like a promising first date, we sit in a corner and wait with as much patience as possible until the client calls us again.

At that point, those who are professional enough to grasp the relationship-building concept realize that the work of nurturing a client has just begun.

My company, The Barnett Group, has survived many industry transitions over the years. Beginning with photostat-making contraptions hiding behind black curtains, T-squares and register marks, and waiting hours for the typesetter’s perspiring messenger to finally arrive at the eleventh hour, and then to the clincher; computers replacing all of the above; then, to translating growing global brands across cultures and borders; to the onslaught of websites replacing most print as we knew it; to having the expertise in today’s ever-expanding 24/7 technology involving social media, demand generation marketing, and (what else?)… excuse me while I catch my breath.

Meanwhile, the role of the art director keeps changing, to bring us back to the title of this article.

And now, with the growth of sites that literally give away website designs and logos, and of course, the nuclear-proliferating Getty Images, single-handedly usurping the talents of photographers around the world, you, too, can get for a song much of the creative labor that used to actually cost money. It’s clear to me that the industry that I’ve known and loved for so many years will be exponentially evolving, perhaps for the better, perhaps not so much. Of course, the upper-crust creative firms will always survive supremely well, since great classic design and marketing will always be appreciated by those willing and able to pay for it.

In the spirit of “horizontal growth,” a phrase I penned many years ago, to reflect what has always worked for my company and my clients, I have (creatively) morphed my company once again. BTW, I define horizontal growth as expanding one’s capabilities to fit one’s clients’ needs, not “vertical growth,” which represents adding tonier office space, more and more staff to whom you don’t necessarily have to buy health insurance and IRAs since they’re only paid to work 30 hours a week or less, a covey of interns, and an aisle of ping-pong tables, resulting in what might appear to be a more credible agency thanks to its admirable size and additional zeroes in the invoices.

Yes, Barnett Group has donned its Transformer costume once again to morph in yet another direction, offering Demand Generation marketing services to our clients as well as to newer, often smaller, companies to grow their prospect base, not by leaps and bounds, but by vastly more efficient steps, reaching more focused, highly-qualified prospects using this generation’s newest, albeit complicated, technologies. Combined with our long-standing track record of creative brand-building, we can now ensure that our strategy, on behalf of our clients, will be received by those who actually want to take advantage of it. We literally “roll back” our strategic timeline to include much earlier involvement in the creative process, beginning with “Hello. It’s so nice to meet you.”

It wasn’t difficult for me to attain this expertise, I must say. Allow me to introduce my talented son Daniel Barnett, who has spent the better part of the last decade developing the intelligence and the certifications to operate the required programs, as well as his own fan base, with this technology. And, not coincidentally, he has the same last name as mine; consequently, Barnett Group will stick around for awhile. One current objective is assimilating these new capabilities into our existing range of creative services. And, as we see by the plethora of newly-hatched companies offering this new technology, it has taken an even higher level of creativity to actually make it work seamlessly.

We’ve always made it work; we’re doing it again.