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Time Management

Pro-Am: Practical Productivity

"Proactive creativity" is the order of the day at branding and design outfit Pro-Am, where they're dedicated to staying focused and staying small.

Pro-Am is a design and branding agency based in Lower East Side NYC, founded by New Zealanders John Malcolmson and Simon Endres in 2001. Pro-Am’s clients include Metropolis Magazine, Amnesty International, New Zealand-based Art and Industry, Dubai-based Emirates Leisure, and agencies including McCann Erickson, BBH, StrawberryFrog, Sugartown, and Consortium. Behance caught up with the Pro-Am team to discuss frustrations, staying organized, and their mission as creative professionals.

Pro-Am manages creative projects with a ton of communication, self-discipline, and a few other tricks. As John explains, “…we critique each others work at designated times during the process. We also keep our clients informed through direct contact and by using a project site, Basecamp, that keeps all the info in one place and everybody up to date. Individually we have our daily lists using Action Pads (editor’s note: yes, Behance creates Action Pads and Pro-Am was an early tester) and iCal with the alarms set to full volume. In terms of tips or tricks, we have that apartment theory book kicking around, and they have heaps of good insights into organizing environments.”

Productivity in the creative environment requires a clever approach to managing (read: restraining and filtering) information. Pro-Am’s Take on this: “Filtering incoming mail at the door so it doesn’t sit around and distract – forcing yourself to say ‘I’m not going to read that stupid catalog’ – this idea of setting filters for incoming information is really powerful. In a similar vein we set our email to collect on the half hour (thank you 43folders) which helps us keep task-focused while at the computer. We also recently started to use a big whiteboard to map out all the components of a project…”

Collaboration is always a process of enrichment for us… it makes you think outside your world and think new thoughts.

As for the greatest frustrations that Pro-Am deals with in day-to-day creative work: “Time management has been a big learning curve for us. When we started we were the agency of record for a new cable network so we were involved in all strategy, branding, identity, advertising as well as consulting on-air creative. We flew by the seat of our pants trying to deliver all of these services while we were working out of our respective homes and without any formal process in place. We realized that we needed to develop an infrastructure that would help organize our time and workflow without getting in the way of enjoying what we were doing. Being able to see what’s coming around the bend allows us more time to spend creatively and to be ‘pro’-active instead of reactive.”

Pro-Am employs some serious self-discipline when it comes to staying focused. As John explains it, “having a strong vision can draw you through a project – even through tough repetitive production phases or when we lose that initial excitement at the beginning of a project. We are still learning that nurturing this vision throughout a project – returning to it and redefining it when necessary – is essential… Practical ways to stay focused: keep relaxed and have energy – we try to roll down for a game of tennis when possible which helps us deal with the crazy amount of sitting that we do each day. There’s also the beer o’clock as a goal.”

Collaboration is a core value at Pro-Am. Simon proclaims that “collaboration is always a process of enrichment for us… it makes you think outside your world and think new thoughts. In terms of sources, much of our daily inspiration comes from the internet – big fans of stumbleupon, digitalthread, etc… Checking the Chelsea gallery openings is always guaranteed to be inspiring.”

Pro-Am is motivated by a well-thought-out mission. Simon and John (principles of Pro-Am) went to art school together and realized when they met up again in New York that they “had a similar vision of a studio: turntables, a good sound system, a relaxed vibe, somewhere where we could make good work, set our own agenda, be able to do side projects and experiment (a clear acrylic box with the gloves poking through, like on the Andromeda strain… for our science experiments).”

John goes on to explain Pro-Am’s approach, “Our vision was to grow to a 5-6 person studio that specializes in branding products and services that fit our interests… In terms of motivation, the biggest motivation is when you are passionate about the product or service that your client or friend needs help with. The work that we do for record labels may not necessarily be as financially rewarding, but the hidden benefit is it feeds into work that is more of a commercial proposition and keeps us happy.”


Comments (2)
  • undoredo

    Loving the work they are doing for Randolph. I love the stuido-apartment atmosphere, seems like a much more relaxed environment.

  • Patricia

    John I have been trying to contact Kay and Robert Are they OK do they have a cellphone ?

    Pat married to Norman was my aunt Kay is a special and treasured friend I grew up in Ch-Ch but now live out at whangarei heads. Pat Gates

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