A year ago, Flanders DC launched, together with Creative Network, the Creative Fair Play manifest. The seven guidelines are intended to stimulate a sustainable, successful cooperation with creative entrepreneurs. A great many companies and partner organisations have in the meantime joined the initiative. We spoke with a few of them about why it is necessary to continue focussing on this.
“Creative Fair Play is extremely worthwhile, because in that way a healthy manner of cooperating gets a stamp of approval.”
“The designer-client relationship is always a two-way street. And preferably a street with multiple lanes on each side so that the flow is good. And a hard shoulder to stop on for a moment when something is making a funny noise.”
“My recommendation is to specify and document everything very clearly during the process, such as the technical aspects, expectations, time planning and intermediate deliveries.”
Creative Fair Play as a stamp
Kristel Van Ael and Joannes Vandermeulen, managing partners of service design office Namahn: “Creative Fair Play is enormously worthwhile, because in that way a healthy manner of cooperating gets a stamp of approval.” In this way our choices, for example the fact that we do not take part in free competitions, don’t give rise to so many frustrations. It also creates the hope that other parties with whom we work together want to follow the same principles. The professionalisation of the sector, the strengthening of the market and a correct balance between buyer and seller are necessary.”
Stoffel Van den Bergh, graphic designer at Dastof and owner of the graphic print studio Superdruk (the former Kastaar): “This manifest has not only been drawn up to serve the creative, but is also a healthy basis for the client to promote long-term thinking. By understanding and respecting each other’s needs, desires and boundaries, you avoid frustrations later on. Good agreements definitely make good friends. Clear communication only benefits mutual trust. We are not always aware of the thinking and expectation pattern of the other party.”
Still work to be done
The non-respect of payment deadlines is a problem with which the three agencies regularly have to contend. Intellectual property is another cause for concern. In addition, it is Namahn’s experience that it by no means goes without saying that their work will be credited, in press releases for example.
CEO Marc Wauters of B·U·T, a company that creates digital communication applications: “Because BUT mainly works for multinationals, the power to change something fundamental is rather limited. Purchasing services are all-powerful and dictate the conditions, even though a bit of fair play can still be coaxed out of direct contact people.
Often clients have great expectations of creative suppliers, even before an actual order has been placed.
It is assumed that they will deliver all sorts of services such as concept, design and synopsis free of charge. What’s more, the same question is asked of a great deal of parties, as a result of which a large number of people are obliged to spend time on it, while only one party will end up being paid for it.”
Joannes: “We find it important to be able to work together with our customers in all confidence, because we always set to work co-creatively within projects. Mutual commitment means that we both go for the success of the project in every regard and we both derive advantages from it, both financially and in terms of knowledge. Every project has its difficult moments, but you have to be able to look for solutions at your leisure.
Be transparent about what you like to do and do not like to do, about what you can do and what you can’t do.
The degree of difficulty of a work must be presented correctly from the beginning.”
Stoffel: “As a graphic designer and a supplier of artisanal printed matter I have mainly been a supplier up to now. In addition to that, with Supercollect we are now starting with the production of limited edition prints created by other designers and artists. So we are entering into a bond with other “suppliers”. Mutual trust and transparency are keywords in this respect. Because I am a designer myself, the prints are printed in our own studio and because we started this story from a sort of idealism instead of a commercial goal, I also believe that we are succeeding in this. We ourselves understand very clearly what sensitivities there are (or can be) and what can destroy a good cooperation. To ensure that this story works, the balance for each party must be positive.
Stoffel describes the designer-client relationship as follows: “It is always a two-way street. And preferably a street with multiple lanes on each side so that the flow is good. And a hard shoulder to stop on for a moment when something is making a funny noise. The customer must understand that creative work is not a ‘hobby’, but a profession preceded by studies and years of experience. There is always someone who can do the job more cheaply. Maybe that’s an attractive solution for the short term, but is it also in the longer term? What influence does this have on quality? Is the service of the same level? ‘You get what you pay for’ is a common refrain.”
What concrete steps can you as a creative entrepreneur take to ensure that a cooperation takes place in the best conditions? Marc: “My recommendation is to specify and document everything very clearly, such as the technical aspects, expectations, time planning and intermediate deliveries. In addition I always ensure that limitations must always be flagged in the number of feedback rounds. It is important to abide by agreements and to speak up when for example a budget turns out not to be sufficient. One last tip is that you must definitely not forget to read the fine print in orders and purchase documents. Do not agree to things that you can’t agree to, such as the transfer of rights to images from an image repository for example.”
Stoffel: “I myself still find the personal contact unmissable.
In a face-to-face meeting, you get to know the other party so much better.
It makes the contact more human. If something doesn’t go too well later in the process, it will also be easier to communicate with your customer or client openly. Also say in good time if you’re having difficulties with something, and give the reason why and offer alternatives. In the long term the customer will have more confidence and want to build up the relationship with someone who has an opinion rather than someone who always says “Yes” to everything. Also do not hesitate to pick up the phone if something important has to be decided or if you notice that something is being misunderstood. The tone of an email can be misinterpreted and this is something that has already happened once or twice. Sometimes ten emails can be avoided by one quick telephone call.”
Kristel: “Our colleague Michel gives a number of recommendations on cooperation on his blog. Even though things can sometimes look bad, that is not necessarily the case, because misunderstandings can quickly arise. You can always get a bit cross (if necessary) within your own organisation, but don’t do so with external partners. Seeing an argument as something that per definition has a winner and a loser is the best recipe for misery. It’s not us against them, it’s us together against the problem. After all we don’t live in an ideal world, so the “best” way of doing things doesn’t exist. Do make sure that the “ideal” way of doing things has been documented somewhere and then go in search of the most realistic solution.”