Comparing creative professionals to doctors is bullshit

Despite being 6 months old, this cartoon is doing the rounds again. Disgruntled creatives of all sorts, not just designers, are spreading it like wildfire.

In my opinion, it’s whiney, unprofessional, and simply untrue. If you’ve shared this cartoon, or if you feel like it reflects your experience as a creative professional, please read below.


Manage your clients

If your client makes unreasonable requests or expects impossibly cheap or fast work, you can do one of two things. Fire them, or better manage their expectations.

Believe it or not, this is also something doctors have to deal with.  Patients will go on WebMD to diagnose their own symptoms,  use home-remedies, forget to take their prescriptions, and let’s not even get started on homeopathy.

So next time a client asks why you can’t do the work faster or cheaper, explain yourself. Sell your skills, walk them through your processes, and show them why you’re better than your competition.

Empathise with your clients

When you go to the doctor, you don’t tell them you have Hepatocellular Carcinoma and need surgery. You say you’ve got a sore abdomen, fever and have lost weight. You express your problem in terms you understand.

In much the same way, clients don’t tell you in strict design terms what their problem is. They say things like, “Make it pop”. They express their problem in terms they understand.

It’s your job to narrow down the symptoms, e.g. “Why do you want to make it pop”, “What do you want people to do?”, “What do you want to dramatise?” Once you better understand the core of the client’s problem, offer a diagnosis.

So put yourself in your clients shoes, they’re paying you because they don’t know what to do. Don’t be surprised or rude when they ask stupid questions or make stupid requests. Otherwise you’d be out of a job.

They might be right

Bill Bernbach was one of the most influential people in advertising. Depending on who you ask, he was the first to pair copywriters with art directors – birthing the modern day creative team. He’s also the ‘B’ in worldwide agency DDB.

Despite Bernbach’s genius, he was incredibly humble. Whenever a client voiced an opinion he disagreed with, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper which said, “They might be right”.

If one of the most famous admen of all time can question himself, then so can we. I would recommend starting with a piece of paper which says, “You might be wrong”.  

Doctors save lives, creatives sell products

At the end of the day, advertising doesn’t matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I think advertising is one of the best industries to work in. I love the people I work with and the work I do. But compared to a life, anybody’s life: Advertising. Doesn’t. Matter.

So next time you stress over changed copy or revised layout, it’s nice to remember there aren’t any lives on the line.

Spot on or missing the point? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.