A Little Bit of History
Poppie Design has been in business since April 17, 1987.
I started this studio as a refugee from the overly hectic, business-as-usual overtime-world of advertising agencies. In my early years in this business I had worked as a creative director, published a magazine with friends, and smoked too much. It was all very artistic. Our first office was the upstairs, extra bedroom of my home. I saved on rent, expanded into the basement, and then took over yet another bedroom. Eventually, we moved into our first real studio space on November 4, 1991. Since that time, our building has changed, and so have we. Growing and shrinking from time to time, we continue to enjoy not only the work we do, but also the relationships we’ve built with clients, vendors, and each other.
Over the years, I’ve tried to describe to the creative people in my studio not only what I think about design, but how I think working together should… work. The following are some excerpts of those discussions.
Keeping the Promise
—An excerpt from the POPP!E employee manual
“Your brand represents who you are and what you sell. More than that, it is the promise you make to your customers.”
Branding, for my purpose here, is about how we build a professional reputation or develop a corporate culture (you know, the way you work with your clients and your peers). To create that culture you must follow certain guidelines and have the support and collaboration of your team. Much of our own culture has come from my vision of the kind of business I wanted to have and, almost more importantly, the kind of business I wanted to work for on a day-to-day basis. To that end, I try to practice certain principles and brand our studio in all my interactions. As a team, we carry the responsibility to support our brand and the promise that we make to our customers… and to each other. It is keeping that promise that will ultimately define whether we are successful.
This studio started small—it was easy to deal with clients (there were few), it was easy to conduct staff meetings (my cat was always attentive), and I forgot to tell myself very few things. I started, though, with a few ideas that I still think hold true. We are in a service profession—yes, we produce design, advertising and business solutions—but it is the delivery of that product that has built this studio. Work is completed on time, clients are helped professionally—we make their jobs easier whenever possible and always perform so that they know they can count on us. We are always a part of their solutions, never a contributor to their problems.
When I first started hiring people to work with me I was able to offer them a few words of wisdom:
- If you can’t be accurate, be consistent.
- Try to not lose your sense of humor. (Why is this so hard to remember?)
- And, importantly, always strive to raise the level of your worst work.
It’s always possible to do something utterly remarkable—the sky’s the limit with creativity. However, we do this day-in and day-out, and ultimately our success (paying our bills, keeping our clients and helping make them successful) is dependent not on the very best work you’ve done, but by the way you’ve handled all the minor projects, the daily do’s. Our clients recognize this and reward us with long relationships.
This is the foundation for discovering what this profession is all about. It is a profession that offers opportunity and challenge in a daily dose of deadlines and rash commitments. Regardless of where you stand or what you do in the studio, you are part of a professional team—your commitment to the promise we make to our clients and each other will determine our success.
POPP!E Design Core Values
Professionalism • Integrity • Responsibility • Respect
I wrote these values on a piece of paper many years ago. They were the first things that came to mind when I was thinking about what we should focus on as a studio. This was not the first time I’d taken these issues to task. There is a cyclical nature to these kinds of discussions—whether you have them with only yourself or share them with others. This time around, I’ve decided to share.
As I said, there is a cycle to many of the challenges we face. It is our nature to be dynamic—to change. We are constantly moving and rearranging, yet we all try to control what we have and keep things the same once we’ve found some kind of balance. We have control issues. Of course, we lose our balance and then must maneuver our way to another comfortable balancing point and thus start the cycle anew. We are constantly moving in and out of balance and carrying everything we hold near and dear right along with us.
It is in this dynamic world that our studio lives (and struggles). We succeed, we fail, we clash, we create, we come up short, we surprise ourselves—it all happens here. In the midst of this ever-changing environment and ever-changing perceptions there must be some constants—our core values.
You’ll notice that my list of core values are about relationships—with each other, with our clients, with ourselves. Our relationships, however fleeting, enduring, satisfying and evolving are an essential ingredient to our happiness. Our goal must be to always strive to make them better.
(There are few absolutes, and most of those involve death—so just remember, I’m interested in striving for perfection. Perfection itself, well, that would be too much to take from anyone).
Really, this is the umbrella that covers all that we do. It is the way we approach our work and our relationships. Professionalism grows out of the belief that what we do is more than just a job. At every level, regardless of job description, we must develop a higher standard of excellence in our work, our behavior, and our interactions.
Each of you represents the studio in your daily interactions with clients, vendors, and co-workers. Your actions, appearance and attitude are evaluated by the many people you come in contact with each day. Our goal is to do the best we can to communicate effectively, courteously; to perform with individual excellence, and to support each other as members of a team that includes our clients and vendors.
People count on your professional integrity—they won’t accept anything less for long. One local company characterizes integrity as the courage to make the right decision even when that decision may be difficult. And is it ever-difficult sometimes. Our integrity is the foundation on which we build trust with our clients and each other.
The old saying is “say what you’re going to do, and then do what you say.” We must assume responsibility for our work, our actions… and our mistakes. In addition, once we’ve made a commitment we always follow through. A child psychologist I knew once said, “don’t threaten your children with consequences, promise them.” Your threats and your promises are only as good as your follow through.
Treat each other, our clients and vendors with respect and consideration (even in conflict). We are all in this together. Don’t ever believe you are too good to wash your own dishes or run an errand. You are a child of the universe—remember to flush.
So, there they are… our core values. Remember, no one is perfect, one day you’ll be very good at living up to our studio values, the next you’ll be bad, very bad. I don’t want to ask for something more from you than what I am willing to give myself—my promise will be to always try my best.