The WHY Factor

POSTED BY on Dec 22, 2011

As Hornall Anderson approaches its 30th anniversary, it seems only fitting to reflect on how far we’ve come as a firm since first opening our doors in 1982. We’ve grown from a two-person design shop to a global branding firm with nearly 200 employees spread between our Seattle location and our office in London. We’ve had the privilege of partnering with small boutique businesses to international Fortune 100 corporations, including some of the world’s most iconic brands. And along the way, we’ve navigated the course with as much grace and humility as possible.

But through it all, one thing has remained steadfast and consistent. The WHY. Why does our organization exist, why do we do what we do, why do we get out of bed every day and come to work? Simon Sinek's “Golden Circle” is a very inspiring presentation on this exact question. If you haven’t seen it, I would encourage you to check it out. The WHY is a very individual calling, and yes, a great organization has a collective WHY. Which is why I was inspired to write the following.

Why did John Hornall and I start the company almost 30 years ago?

We wanted to work with people (colleagues and clients) who believed in the power of design, not the decoration of design. Design that was unexpected, design that would draw a reaction, design that created change for the better. Back then, the world was mostly ruled by advertising agencies that used designers to make their advertising look pretty. We wanted to create an organization that broke rules, went after assignments it had no business going after, for clients we had never worked with. We felt there was no limit to what we could do. We didn't think of ourselves as "graphic designers;" we thought of ourselves as creators, as inventors, as explorers. Our greatest joy was creating work that zigged, work that raised eyebrows, work that made people smile or say, "Shit, I wish I had thought of that," or "Damn, those guys are smart." We always kept pushing the work, accepted incremental improvements, but always wanted more. More opportunities, more challenges, more wins. Along the way, we realized the power of relationships—relationships inside the studio, relationships with our clients. Our clients became our friends and our friends became our clients based on a shared interest in solving problems through the power of design, which in turn built trust. Trust strengthened these relationships and generated more opportunities. We continued to earn even more challenging and interesting opportunities as our clients realized we had their interests at heart; that we wanted to play an ACTIVE, sometimes uncomfortable, role in the success of their business. Our WHY, our belief, our purpose, the reason we got out of bed every morning was to learn, create, invent, break rules, solve problems…day after day after day…to deliver the unexpected. We knew smart, thoughtful, provocative design could make a difference. 

Why do I still come to work?

To learn, create, invent, break rules, solve problems...to deliver the unexpected. To inspire, to be inspired, to stay plugged in, to stay relevant, to contribute, to make a difference, to connect, to stay connected. Some of the most interesting people in my life work in this office. To quote Lee Clow, "Hanging out with most people my age is boring." I love this organization! I love the people who work here and I am inspired by their passion and commitment. I still come to work because I want to play a role in helping us become better—better creators, better inventors, better problem solvers. I want to be part of an organization that leads, not follows; an organization that can influence the future.

The Future.

The future is inevitable; it will happen. Some believe they have no control over the future; that the future happens to them. While there are many aspects of the "greater future" we have no control over, we do have a say in how we—and others—react, including how we respond. Putting politics, religious wars and the Euro zone crisis aside, as designers (strategists, writers, typographers, programmers, photographers, videographers, illustrators, etc.), we really do have the ability to influence how people experience their daily lives in a positive way. We ARE creators, inventors, technologists and storytellers. We have the ability to change perceptions, to inform, to persuade, to modify behaviors, to lead. I really believe that when we're at our best and use all the productive dimensions of design, we create connections…we create experiences. Experiences that are sticky, memorable and relevant; experiences that can reinvent a category, connect a community, advance a cause, animate a space, enhance how we access information, and dimensionalize a package held in our hands, etc.

What's Hornall Anderson’s collective WHY?

As a unified organization, when we challenge the status quo, when we bring our best informed thinking, when we are passionate, yet empathetic and balanced, we can create the future. At a minimum, we can influence a person’s experience of the future. We are experience creators!

Taking the time to explore your own WHY, whether personal or professional, may just uncover a newfound sense of purpose, commitment and a reason to make a difference in the world.




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