Hats off to Henry Yiu at YIU Studio (an ex Hornall Anderson Designer) for addressing this issue head on and sharing his deep thoughts on the matter. A very emotional write up by Britt Stromberg the ex Rivet and Sway CD too.
So, in the past I've seen agencies go quiet with case studies or feel shameful about the work and that is not worthy of sharing once this happens. It usually comes from people who didn't create or better yet "believe" in what was created for the brand in the first place, which is a bigger issue when you think about it.
I've never felt that the creative team or company should take the bullet for a business failure. Start-ups are risky, period. The dynamics and pressures put on those in charge of one can be overwhelming and really formula of being, first, in the right place, better funded or plain crazy are bigger factors to why a startup lives or dies in the first five years.
To democratize the opportunities for entrepreneurs, we have social funding sites like Kickstarter that are probably a better test launch platform than private funded or even VC funded companies as they test the desire of the offering or service "in the wild" – translation, real world!
For Example, Goldieblox is an example of a belief, one persons dream realized through the social funded site Kickstarter. Debbie Glasband, the founder was a former Hornall Anderson strategist who left to pursue her dream of creating a toy system that entertains and teaches girls the fundamentals of engineering. I believe she had such a strong vision empowering little girls to be engineers or builders through her own experience as a child. This fueled her passion to be successful. I believe her strategic background also helped her to understand the opportunity in the toy isle as there was nothing like it to date. So regardless of the branding, this project was going to be successful because it created a new category based on the vision of someone who saw the opportunity through their own life experience. To add, the social funding aspect allowed Debbie to be the owner of the dream and to not be swayed by investors and their private goals, mostly around profit. Profit isn't the goal, it's the result of a great idea that can be commercialized to an audience that needs, or better yet wants it.
I think what matters most as designers when we apply ourselves to a startup branding opportunity is that we believe in their dreams as much as they do. That we genuinely get excited about the entrepreneurs vision and their potential. Then we have within us the right energy to bring a compelling brand to life, for the founder with vision and the audiences that they are trying to reach.
And if the company fails or the idea does not move forward, we should not feel bad about the work. And if we do, or if there are those who feel that way about the creative outcome who worked on it in one way or another, then they really never believed in the work in the first place. This inherently is a much bigger problem for agencies and the culture they are trying to be the best at what they do.
We the creative people need to believe in others who dream, to bring their dreams to life! This is our purpose.