Monday, February 10, 2020

99. What's in a Big Name

This post is both a question, "What's in a big name?" and a tribute to the power of relationships.

First, the big name
My colleague Mark Kingsley once noted that nobody has ever gotten fired for hiring Pentagram. I believe he was referring to work that smaller firms don't win because clients love a big name. Possibly, he was referring to a specific project he didn't win (but I'm being cautious because Mark also told me that my memory is getting hazy—which makes this entire post that of an Unreliable Narrator/Unreliable Relater).

Whether I recall the reason for the comment or not, I recalled the gist of Mark's comment when a US-based client contacted me to refine, for the US market, a catalog that Pentagram UK devised as part of a huge brand refresh. My first question was, "Why don't you work with Pentagram?" When I pushed the question further and noted that there's a Pentagram office in New York, one of my contacts replied that they didn't have a relationship with Pentagram in the US. (I took that to mean that they didn't want to pay Pentagram budgets, whatever the number may be.)

I'm sure some of the aspects of the project involve:
—The mother ship of the UK vs the sales-sibling US
—A more subtle way of communicating with a UK sales force as opposed to more practical US salesmen
—The need for speed in rolling out a fresh new look

Even giving the situation and my client slack, I have to say that the London-based refresh of the catalog doesn't look fresh, was hard to read, was dense, and was slightly incoherent. I wouldn't be surprised if all of the thinking and presenting went into updating the colophon/logo/cartouche—which meant the catalog pages were less refined and successful and done without a nod toward a reader. There were other odd production glitches as well.

The US version is in a larger US trim size (Of course! We're the big brassy Americans) and the short descriptions of each book are easy for salespeople to find. The overall look follows the UK format but with a few adjustments that render the pages more readable. Am I pleased that I was tapped to work on the US part of the project? Yes. However, I must admit to a dash of irritation at being a cleanup squad. Bad attitude? Yes.


If I followed the rules I made for myself, post 99 would have been done on October 18, 2019; posted on February 3, 2020.

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