Excerpts from a recent conversation with John Taylor, Chairman and founding partner of Taylor!Sprules Corporation.
Q. Taylor|Sprules Corporation has been a successful business for some time, what was the creative climate like when you first started the business?
A. Actually, it was over 35 years ago when my business partner and I decided we could do it better. We had met earlier at design school and embraced the idea of taking the path less travelled to find the truth. In Canada, design was an add-on at best to most business processes and designers struggled to make a living. The leader in embedding creative thinking within business was the late Don Watt, who I worked with when I graduated. He understood the power of the creative mind and I learned a lot about business from him.
Q. How is the landscape different now, given the success of your firm?
A. Sure. For me, the excitement and intellectual challenge of creating future for our clients is no different. Of course, I have a lot more experience, a broader view, more channels available to reach stakeholders and successes, but creation remains constant. I am always looking forward. Sometimes things are not as they seem. Knowing how to seek out, interpret and effectively communicate new ideas wtill changes everything.
Today, it is accepted wisdom that creating thinking is the most important factor in the success of any enterprise. Even business schools now routinely teach various interpretations of it, for example, innovation or entrepreneurship at Harvard. We see the results of creativity in firms such as Apple, Google and Tesla every day. It wasn't always so. Enterprise (start-ups to multinationals), governments and NGO's need to truly embrace the role of creativity at the board level and internalize the benefits. As a partner with our clients, working with the decision makers at the C-level is the only way I can be effective.
Q. What is it that clients are looking for and continue to find at Taylor|Sprules?
A. Odd to say, but I often find that what clients think they are looking for and what they really need are entirely different. The world never stops pulsing and its ever-increasing heart rate continues to spark debate. We continue to see that what worked yesterday does not work today, just look at Blackberry, and what works today likely will not work tomorrow. Standing still means you are being passed. Creativity based simply on a rear-view research model, which is more than prevalent even today, does not work. A new logo will not solve declining sales, a new name cannot compensate for an ill-defined product mix and a new website can't save unimaginative engineering.
Our clients value our understanding of and insights into their businesses. They recognize the same drive to invent and shape destiny as they do. They understand the commitment of our most senior people and partners to success. They love our creative ability to surprise and invent change. Change may come from the bottom up, which is increasingly the case given the impact of social media, or from the top down. Change is what we do.
Q. We know that some clients understand the role of design in business and others less so. What is the ideal client in your view?
A. That's easy. The best clients have always been the ones with open and creative minds, where we can seize the reins and let our imaginations run. It always challenges us the most, brings out the best in us and changes outcomes. It's been the secret of our success. Most of our clients have been the best.
Q. What is it really like to be a designer and why do you keep doing what you do?
A. When I wake up in the morning and look at my toothbrush, I think i could design a better object. When I squeeze out the toothpaste, i don't like the lid or the shape of the tube. When I grab the bar of soap I think it is the wrong shape. I look out my window and wonder why on earth anyone designed that building the way they did. When I look at a facebook post I sometimes wonder what was the point? And on the day does in much the same way. When a client comes to me, I listen and ask why. That's how it starts. The creative process is an obsession, akin to a medical condition. It is something that never leaves you and drives your ideas and imagination every hour of the day. Meeting new clients, working with them to create something that did not exist before is constant reinforcement and a real buzz. My business parter (Mr. Sprules) and I are particulary proud of our loyal people, past and present, who oever the years have helped buils our reputation and created extraordinary programs for our clients. We have endeavoured to train them on the journey and they have given more back than they know.
Q. Thanks very much for your time today.
A. Thank you. I love what I do.