"It’s rare to find a creative agency that acknowledges that truth and desires to be a change agent for good."
Interactive Designer, Whiteboard
April 1, 2020
Jose joined Whiteboard after leading his own creative agency. We asked him a few questions about why he felt compelled to join our team and lessons in serving others.
What excites you about joining the Whiteboard team?
When I first got into design, I looked around Chattanooga to see who was doing incredible things with web and branding. Whiteboard was at the top of my list. So, it’s both humbling and exciting to join the team that was such a big source of inspiration for me at the start of my career.
That was about 8 years ago. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that you do want to admire a company’s output. But, a company’s core cultural values, what’s at the heart of their organization, is so much more critical. I was looking for two core values:
- Community. I wanted to find leadership that valued their clients, their employees, their finances, and their mission in a healthy tension. I was also looking for leadership that actively sought to invest in building relationships, trust, and collaboration. I’ve only been at Whiteboard for a few months, but I’ve already been impressed by their extraordinary efforts to help teammates connect and their transparency about company goals.
- Mission. When I first started in this industry, I did the work for the sake of the work itself. Design is magical. And when you learn the craft, you just want to keep doing it because it’s so much fun. But, as you mature, you realize that design is also powerful. It can be used to help messages stand out and be heard. But, there’s also dark patterns. Design can be used to manipulate. It’s rare to find a creative agency that acknowledges that truth and desires to be a change agent for good. Whiteboard is taking strong steps (joining the Praxis Accelerator, publishing a digital paper on the influence of the internet) to do just that.
What lessons are you bringing from your experience leading Serve?
There’s a lot of little lessons. Owning a small business is hard. Working for yourself requires a system of accountability. In client meetings, ask more questions than you answer. But, I want to highlight a big picture lesson: it’s easy to state the ideals for what you want your company to be like. But, it’s difficult, in the midst of everyday business, to take active, continual steps to make your company become those ideals. I called my company “Serve” because I wanted my offering to be more than just beautiful visuals. I wanted to help companies think critically about their objectives, their challenges, their audience, and the benefits they offer. And, I wanted to formulate smart strategies for interacting with all four of those things. The funny thing is—it’s our nature to focus on the visuals first. It takes effort to slow down and approach projects idea-first. But nothing is more important to a projects’ success.
Another interesting note: serving is not the same thing as taking instruction. There are some instances in which, as creatives, we need to submit to the clients’ goals, preferences, or other contributing factors. But, there’s also times when serving means humbly challenging a client's directive. Never in condescension on pride, but in a desire to see them succeed. That can be hard to hear when we’re busy and our bandwidth is tight. But, ultimately, when you hire anyone for anything, you want to hire the “mind at work.” That mind will vastly improve your chances for success.
And finally, serving means valuing collective input. To put it plainly, whenever I implement feedback, it almost always improves the design. That can contradict the way our culture feels about art. It tells us, “art should be the manifestation of the individual’s perspective.” But there’s a freedom in commercial art. The team is freed to shape the final product together.
What excites you about serving the kinds of clients Whiteboard works with?
My initial impression is that as Taylor and Eric have explored how to be change agents for good, they’ve attracted people and companies who feel the same way. I’ve already worked with non-profits that are doing amazing things and alleviating suffering in the world. I’ve worked on commercial ventures where the leadership desires to thoughtfully excel. And, I’ve worked on forward-thinking projects that want to make the impact of technology more equitable for all people.
The projects are fun. But, my favorite moments have been going out to lunch with clients and getting to know them as people, learning what first launched them into their work and what motivates them to continue pushing forward. As I wrote above, commercial art is a group process. When you build relationships with your team, you charge the projects momentum.
If you’re interested in learning from Jose make sure to check out his Skillshare course.
To learn more about Whiteboard's services click here.