Letter Exchange

What happens when Creative Director turns Project Manager

Blog #18: Running the Letter Exchange Conference gives Mark a new appreciation of the PM role…

One of the things I love about our team is that we all have projects and interests outside our commitment to the corporate, commercial work we do together. One of my other hats has been as the Chairman of Letter Exchange, the organisation for professionals in the lettering arts – covering for example calligraphy, letter cutting, font design, architectural lettering, letter design for print and web – really, anyone who finds beauty in the alphabet.

I do it because I love it – but I really see the benefit in my client work as well. Understanding how the shape and cut of a letter attracts the eye, and how people read letters, are really important in getting typography right, particularly for a complex document like an annual report.

My last task before standing down after six years in the role is overseeing the organisation of our 30th Anniversary conference (11-14 October in Cambridge, if you’re interested!).

I think it’s fair to say I was ambitious in the early-stage planning but a lot of it has paid off. We will be welcoming some of the world’s finest letterers from the UK, Europe, and North America to give talks and host workshops. We will also be putting on an exhibition, film screenings, live events, demonstrations, and a seminar. Full details are on the Letter Exchange website.

But, as we approach the conference opening, I find myself spending whole days on the phone or emailing just to make sure everything happens as it should. Apparently this is called ‘project management,’ something that just seems to happen by itself when I’m working with the Falcon Windsor team. I really miss working with people who know how to do this stuff properly!

Within my comfort zone, I’ve been designing all the materials for the conference – from the identity and the programme, to the adverts, delegate badges and exhibition labels. But I’m also having to do all the typesetting, and all the retouching, not to mention print liaison, copy checking etc etc. And then there’s the writing side. It’s not the ability to fill a blank Word document that’s the issue, I can manage that. It’s the skill to make the text readable, relevant and engaging. All these are things for which I rely on the talents and creativity of my Falcon Windsor colleagues.

So, as much as I am relishing the challenge of putting on a conference, I am also looking forward to returning to the sanity and predictability of corporate reporting once this is out of the way!

And there is an upside. If I realise how much I appreciate my colleagues when they are not there, I must also be guilty of not letting them know how much I appreciate them when they are. So, for the record, it’s a real privilege to work with such talented, dedicated, and conscientious individuals. I’ve been in this business a long time and can safely say this is the best team I’ve ever worked with. Thank you all.

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