Artemy Lebedev

§ 148. Unit of sense

March 24, 2008

It is hard to evaluate a designer’s work quantitatively. The total size of the images he or she prepared, or the number of hours spent on the task are nothing but useless indicators.

This section will to be published as a separate chapter in “Do It Yourself,” a book telling how to set up your own design studio

A designer is worth just what his works are worth. Still, it’s desirable to know the efficiency. The author’s approach successfully used in his everyday practice is based on the Unit of Sense concept.

A unit of sense must be intellectually rich. Things like good ideas, interesting concepts and fresh techniques are units of sense. A one-hundred-page brandbook may also be considered a unit of sense—not on a per-page basis, but as a whole. A front page, an original layout, a tricky way of connecting a cube to a cone, can represent units of sense, too.

A thought like “let’s travel twice the speed of light” doesn’t count. Neither does “let’s put our logo on the napkins.” Creating a logo results in a unit of sense, whereas printing it on letterheads and envelopes usually does not.

As a rule, a designer believes that he is a) incredibly talented and b) tremendously productive. The author has known a designer, who was only capable of making one logo a year (and he never played false and thought of himself as a programmer).

Should you ask a designer to give you an approximate number of units of sense he produces each month, the answer is likely to be more than 10. And in fact, such humble self-estimate is, of course, far above the truth.

Most designers, who wish badly to gain a reputation as idea generators, score no more than two times a month. An average good designer is capable of coming with one–two ideas every month (which is a high enough indicator to consider employing such person).

Four units of sense per month is a very very high mark. Such designer deserves being talked and listened to and can undertake important tasks.

Art directors should run above six (it’s no use putting in charge of creative work a person unable to generate as much as at least three designers).

Self-evaluation has a great sobering effect. Anyone can grade him or herself by counting the number of units of sense produced, for instance, in last three months. Certainly, the most important thing is to stay honest with oneself—a vague recall of the latest one-hundred-something ideas won’t do, all of them need to be written down. This can reveal that your super-valuable, extra-brilliant thoughts are, firstly, as few as three, and secondly, occured to you several years ago. The list rarely ends up being longer than half page, and that is in large handwriting.

This technique evolved during a long period of time as hundreds of designers got employed. It works excellently. For example, a person’s salary can be calculated by multiplying his or her individual monthly indicator and some amount. And if a designer’s performance declines, it means that he or she is either making money on the side or intends to leave the company.

Unit of Sense approach is recommendable for all creative professionals, from copywriters to art directors. Althought it is primarily meant for business, the concept can also serve individual purposes.

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