It was 5:30 on a recent Wednesday afternoon.
I met an old high school friend after work for a beer. He and I visited one of the newer brew pubs, and perused the extensive list of craft beers carefully written in a variety of colors and handwriting styles on a glowing board behind the bar. Foregoing our traditional stout, it was a rich amber choice on that particular evening.
My friend and I caught up on the typical goings on of middle-aged creatives – recent project work, updates on who’s working where, design ideas we’ve been tossing around, distant dreams of slowing down and relaxing a bit. He congratulated me on reaching the 20-year mark with Ruttle Design Group. (“Actually, twenty-one,” I reminded him.)
“Wow,” he said, “that’s a serious accomplishment for a small business! For any business, really.” He’s been at it, too, and knows full well the challenges of managing a business, the creative process, and continually meeting the needs of clients. “People like us, we need to be scrappy if we’re going to make it,” he said before taking another sip.
I laughed, because that’s exactly what many other people have said about RDG. We’re “scrappy” – in the good sense of the word. It’s something I’ve prided myself on since day one at RDG, and it’s the way we go about business to this day. But just because we’re more of a boutique design firm, doesn’t mean we’re flying by the seat of our pants. Far from it! There’s a difference between producing high-quality work and just winging it.
“That’s what makes our point of difference, and why clients find us so attractive.” I told my friend. “Our culture. Giving our team the room to run, to stretch their creativity, to be the best designers they can be.”
I grabbed a napkin, pulled out a pen, and scribbled five words. “There are five ways we’ve created RDG’s scrappy creative culture,” I told him, “and happy to share with our peers in the spirit of our highly-creative city.”
- Freedom. I try to make our designers’ jobs easier by removing some of the barriers that can bog down creativity. This allows them to focus on the needs of our clients, and really fosters a sense of design thinking, and keeping their passions burning.
- Space. Our office environment is one that encourages creativity. And more than that, I want our people to go beyond the office, to explore the open spaces of our community, to find inspiration in the remarkable and the unremarkable.
- Trust. I hire people I believe in. They obviously have design talent, but they also have a way of thinking that complements my own. There’s an expectation that they’ll give our clients their best work, and we hold them accountable.
- Question. Always question. Challenge the norms that have been placed on ourselves and on the more general sensibilities of design. Creating something that excites the client takes energy and drive. We approach every assignment with a fresh, start-up mentality.
- Co-leading. Our team shares the responsibility for our collective success. They’re empowered to push design limits, to help our clients’ projects stand out with exceptional creativity and execution. We’re true design leaders.
My friend took the napkin and tucked it into his pocket. We toasted our collective genius, then decided we’d get together again soon to explore another of our local pubs and discuss the goings on of Cincinnati’s creative scene.
“Twenty-one years,” he said. “You know, Andy, we are scrappy, and still turning heads. We’re part of the creative legacy of this town.”
Laughing, I stood up and told him, “Until next time!”