Ronojoy Dam

Having worked as a strategist at BBH and then crossing the divide to work at Nike and Vice, creative director Ronojoy Dam understands both sides of the client relationship. He is currently working as a freelancer.

On being able to differentiate between passion and hot air... I start to get concerned when I hear a salesman in the room. Creative hot air is the worst! The work and ideas should do most of the talking. This isn’t to get muddled with passion, as people talking passionately about what they do is always inspiring, but people talking in industry language without saying very much means the meeting’s already over in my opinion.

On the work clients don’t want to see... Another warning sign is when commercial work is presented that’s bad, and the client knows it and makes excuses about it, whether they’re true or not. You should only present what you’re proud of, or that you think is good enough. Similarly, I worry when pitches or ideas are presented, that never materialised. These could maybe be presented as an appendix or a curveball, but they are not to be led with.

How clients see collaborative creativity... The client should lay the foundations for idea generation, as a general compass point and directional guide. Colour and context for this starting point is helpful; beginning from a blank slate is counterproductive. But I don’t believe clients should define or lead with a formed idea for two reasons: firstly, if a client starts with a set idea in their heads then the whole process is useless as they want that idea executed and/or improved and secondly, agencies or creatives can often be subservient to what they think a client wants, especially if on a retainer. This is so common it’s absurd.

A brief guide to a great brief... Too many briefs are generic, prosaic, and say nothing, and are subsequently ineffectual. A good brief is like a good problem. It should offer interesting context and insights, but ultimately be questioning for answers. It should be open-ended. Directional not didactic. Particular not generic. And there should be clarity in the objective. Creativity is given more freedom with parameters than with a blank sheet. A good brief sparks the imagination and ideas. Insights, challenges, references are all starting points from which to run with. A good brief is the gate to creative freedom, not a prescriptive closed wall. A good brief is absolutely the client’s prerogative and they must take responsibility for it. If the brief isn’t insightful and stimulating why should you be surprised if the responses are boring? If you don’t start right, you’re playing catch-up the rest of the way.

On getting on personally with each other... I don’t think it’s a prerogative to get to great work. The most important thing is the professional productive relationship; I’d rather work with someone who I wouldn’t go for a pint with but I had a mutually positive and effective relationship with, than a good mate who was unreliable and wasn’t delivering the goods.

On being straight from the start... This is as much a frustration for many clients as it is designers, it really is. And something I’ve faced on both sides of the fence. I think the best way to deal with it is for a client and designer to be frank about the levels of review or approval that will be needed from the outset so that they can work together to plot their best approach. And to best manage creative expectations, and work process. It’s maddening when you think you’ve got to the end of a creative process of several reviews only to learn it now needs to go through several additional levels of review and potential reworking. But if creatives know of the obstacle course ahead from the start, then you’re both in it together and working more effectively as a team.