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Turn Frustration into Fascination

I turned the draft pages of the brochure one by one, looking at the photos and the copy. On the cover was a dark photo of a sunset. The inside pages’ font size was made for the eyes of a 10-year-old versus our 60+ years (and counting) clients. Both design choices did not meet the company’s brand style or creative brief.

“Brian [not his real name] can I talk to you about the brochure draft?” He comes into my office, eager to get my thoughts on his design.

I thank him for getting it to me on time, and that I need him to make a few adjustments before I show it to the product team. “Can you tell me why the font size is so small?” Inside I was frustrated. We had gone over this before.

“This is the copy I got so I put it in and made it fit,” he says. Okay, now a second problem and frustration, why did he get that much content from our copywriter?

This had become a reoccurring issue. The designer wanted to create innovative designs but also wanted to get positive feedback from his teammates, and he’d spent time on making copy fit that was just too long and couldn’t get used. His designs also needed feedback, but the copy was a mess and I had to focus on that first. It turned out the writer wasn’t keeping the word count down, pressure from the product team to include details had gotten in the way.

All the issues came to a head. After much frustration with the different team members, I knew I needed to figure this out. We needed a new process. I sat down with each one and talked about how they were getting the assets and information. What was frustrating for them? What was important? How might we solve the problem? I didn’t realize it then, but I had turned frustration into fascination.

This is now something I ask team members to do. Instead of getting mad and annoyed, I want people to inquire with themselves first. “What else might be contributing to this that I don’t know about?” Or, “What might be going on in the life of the person I am frustrated with?” Or, “Is there information I’m missing or something I’m doing to contribute to the situation?

Back then, working with a team to put out almost 75 travel brochures a year, I was new to managing. I may have made mistakes along the way, but I had the right instincts.

Though you may not always find fascination, you can take a deep breath… and another, and ask yourself helpful, inquiring questions before letting frustration reign.


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