May 24, 2011


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Making mistakes. It’s my thing.

Twelve years ago, I worked at a small design studio, here in Austin. It was during the dot com boom, so venture capital was falling from the sky, businesses were springing up left and right, all of them needed branding, and that is what we did. We were a small shop, growing quickly and sporting a fancy new Congress avenue address. Of course, since we had a new address, we needed a new identity. We were just finishing our own rebranding exercise and had the great idea of placing banners outside our office sporting our new logo and our new tagline: “Creative Intelligence.”

“Creative Intelligence” was supposed to illustrate the fact that we were more than just “make the shit pretty” people, but strategic thinkers and business consultants. There was only one problem with hanging a banner with such a statement outside our offices: We misspelled the word “Intelligence.” I say “we” because before my boss came walking down the street one morning and noticed the mistake hanging above her, at least 4 people (herself included) approved the proof without noticing the error. Now I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that was the last time a project I worked on, had such a glaring mistake.

Until today.

I’m working for myself now, and, occasionally, I’ll send out promotional pieces. And just like the old days, I struggle to find the words to cleverly describe what I do. Ultimately, the vast majority of designers and design firms offer very similar services. We usually end up getting hired because a client likes our past work, likes us personally, or both. This time around, I just cut to the chase, and sent out promo books with samples of my logo work in it. (See clever headline and fancy logo)

It's my thing.

But, just like the old days, mistakes happen. Today, I got this little gem mailed to me in a blank envelope with no return address. (See clever reply and helpful edit in red)

Spelling. It's my thing.

My first thought: Oh shit. I mailed out 200 of these things. My second thought: Oh shit, did I submit that misspelled logo to the original client? (Thankfully, I didn’t). My third thought: Oh shit…wait a minute…what an asshole. Really. In today’s day, who takes the time to write a snarky note and mail it? I was pretty pissed. I still am and trying to figure out why. I don’t know this person. They obviously didn’t have the courage to attach their name to the note. Why does someone’s anonymous note bother me so much?

I supposed it has to do with my own insecurity and perfectionism. I’m not alone. These are traits that a lot of us possess. We are a culture that abhors failure. And that is the biggest mistake of all. Without failure, there will be no success. So, more mistakes to come, future clients. I’ll save a special misspelling just for you.

It’s my thing.

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  • Carrie Glassmeyer

    Awesome :)

  • Carrie Glassmeyer


  • Maury McCoy

    In one of my pitch books, we had a quote and incorrectly spelled the name of the person it was attributed to. Not a big deal until we actually scored a meeting with the guy who we quoted… Ughh.

    This will make you feel better.

    Also, it was probably a friend of yours who took the time to mail it back. Others wouldn’t take the time to do so.

  • mattfangman

    If that is true, that is the type of friend I do not need.

  • Claudia Leal

    It is very true, I totally agree with your comment at the end. “We are a culture that abhors failure. And that is the biggest mistake of all. Without failure, there will be no success.”

    I think I will use your quote. Make it a sticker and it will become famous!

    Matt, I am glad you are doing well. I met with Judy from OK Paper and you came up in the conversation. (good things) Hope to see you in the near future.

  • mattfangman

    Thanks Claudia!

  • Marybeth

    Beautiful self-promo, Matt.

    I agree that was a jerk thing to get in the mail. They could have signed a name and been more kind. Probably someone who aspires to be a talented designer like yourself.

  • mattfangman

    Yeah, in a way I’m happy it happened. It is a reminder to me to try and not let mistakes(and people) get to me so much, and to keep on the right path.

  • john langford

    Loving your blog Matt….kep up the good wrok!

  • Dave

    I’m terrified of this happening to me, though I think I proofread too much, if that’s possible. I like your perspective on it… great blog.

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