Jay Perdue of Perdue Creative in Memphis, Tennessee gave a fantastic lecture for the AIGA Knoxville chapter at the Knoxville Museum of Art about sustainability (ability to sustain long term maintenance of the relationship between living and nonliving materials). I’m a sucker for earth related lectures, even more so when it’s in relationship to my field of study. I’ve heard many lectures about sustainability, but I think this one was different because he didn’t focus on design, but on business. Although he was accompanied by amazing graphics. He had one of the most interesting power points I’ve ever seen! I’m always impressed by beautiful presentations. It was also probably the shortest lectures I’ve been to, including collegiate classes.
In a nut shell, Perdue talked about a few principles that businesses should implement: virtue, accountable, usable, quantifiable, charitable, likable, remarkable, and adaptable. He said in order to be sustainable in a business, you have to give value and meaning to each project and each client. You have to make the client feel special. You have to be responsible. When you say you are going to do a project, do it to your best ability. You have to give attention to each client, and serve a function. Make their important project your priority. You have to establish and articulate a meaning for each project. You have to help the client decide what is the right choice for their project and, in a larger sense, their business. He also touched on an interesting subject of pro-bono work. You don’t have to do for “free work” only for “good work.” You have to create a sliding scale for clients so that you can help each company promote good design and good principles. He also mentioned that he had turned down a few projects because of “artistic differences.” In this day and age it’s nice to know that you don’t have to take any and every job in order to pay the bills. You have to make yourself desirable in order to be able to distinguish your personal design ethnics. It’s really important to me to have clients that have a similar perspective as I do, or at least open to the idea of sustainability. Perdue continued with the idea of likability. He said you need to be likable not only to your co-workers, but your clients. You have to be someone people want to work with. You have to standout amongst your competitors. You also have to be able to change in an every changing environment. You have to become a luxury rather than a dinosaur, keeping up with technology and social expectations. Perdue basically said that all these things make your business sustainable. All of these elements would make your business not only environmentally sustainable, but economically sustainable. He didn’t talk much about how you can physically be sustainable, but how you can be sustainable in a community.
Something I thought was interesting was that he did most of this education on the job. Of course, the things he learned in college weren’t applicable in a digital world, but he was able to adapt his skills that he knew into something he could learn. He pretty much taught himself all the skills he uses today.
Another interesting fact: Perdue Creative, this designer’s name sake, is only three people! It always surprises me when you see really great design come from small companies. They’re so small that they work out of Perdue’s guest house on an acre property in Memphis. Perdue joked that he only had a 27 step commute, which is the another bonus for the environment. He also has a certified wildlife reserve on his property, which is pretty impressive. He and his family are doing their part to preserve the environment around them.
He also mentioned that you should always let the client think they thought of the good ideas. I think that’s an interesting concept. In my experience, I’ve been able to encourage clients toward a certain creative route, but I’ve never been able to convince a client to pick what I felt was the “best” option, much less let them think it was their idea. I have a lot to learn from Perdue.