An early-career graphic designer that had been with the company for 6+ years was asking for responses to a newly designed ad. The point of the ad was to evoke an emotional response, and the designer was asking for the initial reaction from folks around the office.
The designer first asked the person that was closest to the featured product in the ad. The response was immediately positive, then was asked, “Are you sure we can use that photo?” The person was wondering about the use of an iconic figure the designer had used in the ad. The designer assured the person that it was definitely purchased and licensed for commercial use. After they discussed that aspect, I again, had to ask for this person’s initial emotional response.
The designer and I then went on to show the ad to others,observing and asking for their initial reactions. Each and every person asked about the licencing and permission to use the photo. A few even followed-up with, “Are you sure?” While this designer is incredibly good-natured and patient, I am not. By the time the 6th or 7th person asked this same thing immediately, I was done looking for reactions. I now had other questions:
- Why was photo licencing the first thing to come to mind?
- Was everyone just void of emotion that day?
- Were they all really uncomfortable talking about their emotion?
- Were they so risk-adverse that they couldn’t look past a “liability” to respond?
- Did they suddenly no longer trust the graphic designer to follow basic rules of creative licence?
- Further, how would they feel if this designer then asked them if they knew about a very basic tenet of their job?
To be fair, almost everyone eventually was able to tell us a very positive emotional response or reaction to the ad. Also to be fair, they first needed to be assured we could “legally use the photo.”
Seth Godin recently wrote about perspective and looking at your work with optimism. After this experience, I realized I was hearing from people whose first choice was to see liability over emotion, risk over creativity, and comfort over possibility.
If you choose to trust, you’re also choosing to let a lot more in. If you choose to trust, you allow space for emotion, creativity, and possibility.