Thursday, April 1, 2010

What really matters, anyway?

Back when I was an advertising copywriter, I had the good fortune to work for an ad agency in a building designed by Frank Gehry.

When we first moved in, I hated the place. Didn't like the aesthetic. Couldn't understand how this Gehry guy could be so famous and have such abysmal taste in materials and colors.

But after a couple of months, I realized that I was more productive there than I'd been at any job I'd had. The place worked. It went beyond what an office is generally meant to do and created an energy that affected all of the employees. Or me, anyway.

When I left the job, I didn't like the aesthetic or the colors any better, but I had respect for what the architect had been able to accomplish. The agency soon moved into another building –– also designed by Gehry. The new building was much prettier, but it didn't work as well. When books are written about Frank Gehry's illustrious career, the second building gets a lot more ink than the first.

What's my point? My point is that stuff works on a lot of levels. And each person's estimation of the greatness of someone's work is a function of the areas that are relevant to the person. I was able to disregard the aesthetic of the Frank Gehry building I worked in because the energy was so wonderful. (And just so you know, I think a lot of Gehry's work is visually stunning. The one building I worked in just happened to be butt-ugly.)

The lesson? Two lessons. As a consumer, know what you're evaluating and disregard the stuff that's not important. if you go to restaurants to feel pampered, don't make a reservation at the place where you have to sit on a wooden bench and put up with surly waiters, even if the food is supposed to be amazing. If you like watching films with incredible character development, don't expect to be satisfied by a Quentin Tarantino movie.

And as a creator, understand that there are a lot of different areas on which you're going to be evaluated. And don't get pissed off when someone tears you apart for not nailing something you weren't aiming at. If you really really really care about special effects, so what if someone thinks your performances suck?

Sure, it would be nice if you could nail every area, 100%. But then you'd have nothing left to do but die.