A rallying cry for objectivity, empathy, collaboration and craft

Continuing our series, Harry (our Strategy & Creative Director) shares his slightly uncomfortable history with Beautifully Effective®, and how it has come to represent the responsibility we all share when handling our client's most precious asset – their brand.

I first visited the Salad office in the summer of 2018.

At the time, the office was split over two floors and, having been introduced to a number of future colleagues on the first floor, I was escorted up to the second floor, where the studio was located. It’s an impressive space, with bare brick walls, and massive iron girders. A familiar environment for someone who worked in London agencies and lived in lofts in the late 90s and early 2000s

But by far the most noticeable element of this floor is the enormous message, sprayed in 4-foot letters on the wall: “Beautifully Effective“.

I was interested, but not intrigued.

Fast forward a few months, through some exciting conversations, to December 2018. Those words were now a daily reminder to me too, having accepted a role at Salad and taken a window seat on the second floor.

“Beautifully”… What an ugly word, or so I thought

I had a problem with those words. Actually, I had a problem with one word, “beauty”.

I had no problem with the word “effective”, but “beauty” struck me as too subjective a measure. A word that I immediately wanted to change. If effectiveness is the objective, surely subjectivity was the enemy.

Couldn’t we be “brutally” effective?

Wouldn’t that just remove subjectivity altogether and provide a suitably pointed and objective means to communicate an undying commitment to effectiveness?

Now, I’ll caveat that I’m a fan of beautiful things. Or, should I say, I’m a fan of things that I find beautiful. I love the craft of the world in which I work. Typographic detail, the way a line is drawn, the rhythm of a well-written piece of copy. I love art and visual expression. I get goosebumps when I listen to certain pieces of music. I find beauty in nature. But I’m conscious to remember that whilst I may find something beautiful, the next person may not.

So, “beauty” as a form of objective measurement seemed to me to be flawed. I argued this point with many colleagues. I think my arguments were compelling, but as I talked and railed against the choice of words and, finally, started to work out what it meant to us as a proposition, a realisation came upon me which has swayed me to accept and to champion “Beautifully Effective” in its entirety.

Firstly, I’m grateful to Stefan Sagmeister and his definition of beauty:

“…the antithesis of beauty is not ugliness, it is carelessness.”

Stefan Sagmeister

Cue deep breaths, and a bit of a climb down from my slightly pompous position on brutal vs beautiful. Or, more specifically, objective vs subjective.

When we started talking about the antithesis of beauty being carelessness, I felt that I could co-own Beautifully Effective with my colleagues and share it more fully.

Considering the interactions I have with our clients, often deeply-held personal views are presented, notwithstanding some pretty hefty responsibility when it comes to dealing with branding, messaging and identity, I and the rest of my colleagues find ourselves in a position of extraordinary responsibility.

We are trusted to make recommendations for how a company presents itself, how it talks to its customers (often the ones it hasn’t yet started a relationship with) and how it talks to its people. We craft messaging that aligns teams around strongly held beliefs, and we advise on how to extend that belief into the marketplace. In short, carelessness can very easily become a watchword for failure.

I’ve written about this before, but our shared values really do help us to see the way. Empathy. Collaboration. Rather than just nice, positive words, these are directives. Treat your client’s business as if it were your own. Understand them, their customers, and their position in the marketplace. Work together, feeding off the passion they bring, become an objective mirror to the truth, and consider deeply the advice you give.

Beautifully Effective is not just an output. It is a process.

Beautifully Effective is to be applied at every stage of the journey. It is a rallying cry for objectivity, empathy, collaboration and craft. It helps me explain why I do what I do: helping people to communicate with clarity and consistency so that they can be fully heard, and totally understood.

It’s more of a proposition than I first thought. Recently I’ve seen it as a promise. A promise of care and attention. A promise of empathy, collaboration and the application of craft.

Are we always Beautifully Effective? Probably not. We are, after all a group of humans doing our best and trying our hardest to utilise, for good, the craft we’ve spent time honing. But that means we’re fallible, we have good and bad days, and we are continually learning.

Are we always trying to be Beautifully Effective? Damn right we are. Because we believe in things being simple, beautiful, cared for, poured over, loved and cherished. Because we believe that if we truly understand a problem, or a challenge, as a team we can design a way through it. Because (to paraphrase Sagmeister), we believe that the antithesis of beauty is carelessness. So, if we’re going to do something effective, we will do it with all the care we can muster.

And if, by anyone’s subjective judgement, that ‘thing’ turns out beautiful, we will know that it’s through the craftsmanship of our expert team, our shared empathy, our overwhelming belief in the power of partnership and allowing the passion we have for our work match the passion our clients have for their businesses.

Get in touch for more information on our Beautifully Effective® approach or to discuss how a digital project could help your brand evolve.

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