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Big Ideas

Actually Make Something

For teams focused on long-term projects, tangible products can provide a measurable jolt of motivation.

The client-service industries are infamous for ideas that exist outside of the realm of possible. For consulting, idea-generation, advertising, and advisory-type companies, there is often a struggle to really identify with a client’s needs, goals, and situation.

There is a tendency to propose ideas without consideration for the “execution experience.” Questions like “will the team go crazy trying to do this?” “do they have the energy to pull this off?” and “can they even afford this?” are often secondary and left unconsidered.  Some of the most productive service-based organizations we have interviewed insist that the only way to really understand a client’s reality is to make something yourself.

Method, a brand experience agency, is a perfect example of a company that has grounded its client-facing approach with multiple internal projects. Their own website,, was described as a “challenging and very personal branding exercise” by CEO Robbie Vann-Adibé. “We were committed to applying the design fundamentals, strategy, and technical expertise we use for our clients in order to fully support our own brand.” They benefited from taking a taste of their own medicine.

Another great example is New York agency Brooklyn Brothers – the advertising agency that also produces Fat Pig Chocolate, PMS vitamins, and a series of children’s books (see previous interview). The team at Brooklyn Brothers believes that making a product lends invaluable insights into logistics and the real amount of time and effort it takes to execute. Not only do their own products boost profitability (and fun), they are also a competitive advantage when serving clients.

And perhaps, in a world of digital and virtual products, there is a benefit to creating something tangible that can be held and felt – something entirely physical. At Behance, we have been surprised by how much we have learned from creating our Action Method product line. The product serves as an embodiment of what we try to do with technology and knowledge. And the product line has taught us all a lot about logistics and operations.

We believe that every team should venture to create something for themselves. If only as a refreshing team development exercise, teams should experience what goes into the pursuit of making ideas happen. As we all know, conception is the easy part. You will gain newfound empathy for your clients and perhaps a profitable product that you never expected.

More Posts by Scott Belsky

Scott Belsky is the Chief Product Officer at Adobe and is the co-founder of 99U and Behance. He has been called one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and is the author of The Messy Middle and the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.

Comments (4)
  • exit29a

    This article is right on the money. I make business cards and brochures and am amazed at how people can complain. If they were doing th job 45% would be good enough. I think the general public and executive managers moto is “Anything is possible as long as I don’t have to do it.”

  • naina

    Scott, as a designer handling clients and doing creative work, I would think that the above tip is a no-brainer. Still, it no longer surprises me when companies who are in the business of web design ask me to design their company website or companies that specialize in branding design ask me to design their logo. I appreciate the business but it is a sorry state of affairs if you don’t have time to fulfill your own design requirements when you are a designer.<br />
    <br />
    It is fabulous to have a process but amateurish to not try it on yourself first. I wouldn’t want to learn about kinks in my design process once I have been paid the advance by a client. I agree bad design is not life-threatening but that’s no excuse to deliver and execute half-baked ideas.

  • TubbyMike

    Scott; I’m going to add this article to my reference clippings, because it contains wisdom that is worth saving. I work in a project-focused client-services team and I’m often troubled by problems in the execution phase that weren’t ever considered in the sales or planning phases. The execution questions you ask here should form the basis of a kind of checklist that should be run through before the execution phase is even started. In fact this is just sound project risk management. A timely and useful tip.

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