Killer piece from Eli. Monteiro's attitude toward design employees has always seemed at odds with what he claims to be (a design advocate). One could literally replace every instance of "fire them" with "teach them" and Monteiro would look like less of a tyrant.
As someone who has worked with Mike, albeit only briefly so far, I'll chime in: Mike is very focused on teaching. He puts a huge amount of time into teaching his junior designers; this week alone I've seen him dedicate hours to coaching a designer on giving a talk and cheering him on so passionately. I'll admit I haven't seen the talk yet, but I feel like wires are being tangled if that is the impression people are getting.
I feel like the commenter above didn't actually watch the whole talk (to be fair, it's an hour long). Before he got to the "Fire them" rant, Mike did spend a long time talking about what we should all be doing to teach young designers.
BTW i do recommend watching the whole thing. It wandered a bit, but lots of good stuff in there.
wow, the full talk is genuinely disturbing. i get that being shockingly negative Mike's schtick (because it sells), but having a web conference chant "fire 'em" sounds like a designer hate rally.
At least we can take solace in the fact the crowd wasn't in to it at all, only sounded like about 5-12 people shouting out of a packed conference hall. It was actually kinda embarrassing that he kept asking for a shout by the end of it all.
Glad somebody said it, getting pretty tired of the shouty white dude rhetoric of this overgrown windbag.
Just a hunch... but it might be worth him looking a little closer to home as to why his company is doing poorly. I know if I was unfortunate enough to be managed by him there is no way in hell I'd be doing my best work.
Eli is completely off base, and it's sad to me to see that Mike's completely obvious and necessary message is getting lost. Design professionals should stop looking at their own navel and start collaborating with the business, not against it.
And yes, I've worked and managed with a few designers that would get confrontational about business calls that weren't theirs to make, and I ended up firing them: best decision ever, the people that replaced them did great work, and helped me get home in time to be with my family.
I agree that there are certain problem behaviors that designers and their managers need to watch out for. Those behaviors should be addressed with training if possible. Afterward, if all efforts to correct the problem fail, and the problem is continuing to interfere with the smooth operation of the business, management should consider whether termination is warranted.
Firing people isn’t something that should be done gleefully. It’s not a chant. That’s just mean. Mike is taking an unfortunate last resort and reducing it to something to shout out reflexively at the first sign of difficulty. I’m sure he doesn’t mean any harm by it, but in my opinion it’s not a helpful way to approach the topic.
Mike takes valid points and from them creates an inexcusably vitriolic atmosphere. Frankly, if he has problems with his employees as commonly as would be necessitated by having given this presentation, he should probs consider better screening so as to avoid later disappointment, rather than bitching about his bad experiences later.
Really interesting piece Eli, nice to see you exploring some other topics.
I'm all for re-enforcing the need for designers to create clear value for their clients and always be able to explain their rationale. I'm also behind anything that dispels the designer = artists myth.
But honestly, would anyone really want to work for Mr Monterio? Isn't morale important too, and developing budding talent?
I always thought he's a good speaker but to me he shows all the signs of being difficult to work with.
Chefs over the world strive to work with Gordon Ramsay and he makes Monterio look like a puppy. It would probably be difficult to start, but would ultimately make you much better at what you do to work with people like them.
I really wouldn't like to work in the design equivalent of Gordon Ramsey's kitchen.
No matter how talented you are, there is no excuse for unprofessional behaviour that is verging on bullying.
I'm not a Gordon Ramsey guru, but his early (English) shows seemed to indicate a passion for excellence and getting that passion into whoever he was critiquing at the time.
Then the shows became more popular, his insults seemed more motivated for ratings and artificial drama was created just because.
In short, Ramsey appears to have become more focused on the money that confrontation allowed and less on creating the passion needed for the cook/chef/business owner to succeed at their core competency.
Did Monterio go through a similar evolution?
Ha ha, yes they've both become parodies of themselves in an attempt to further their celebrity status.
To be fair, he quite often works exclusively with bad cooks on TV.
I haven't seen his shows lately though.
Worth noting the tone of his American shows are completely different to the tone of his UK shows.
UK ones were about pulling failing businesses back from the brink, US ones are about laughing at incompetents and drama.
Gordon Ramsey has a fleet of highly successful restaurants and 21 Michelin Stars, despite chef being his second career.
Monterio has one popular talk (F-you pay me) and a studio that hasn't produced any work of note (in their own opinion) in the past 9 months and the last work listed on their site is some low level bird charity that I highly doubt netted the studio more than £50K.
Ramsey's methods are justified by his results. If this talk were given by someone of comparable talent and success maybe it would be worth listening to, unfortunately it's being given by someone who's speaking talents surpass his managerial, business and design talents by a very wide margin.
What should be the take home from this is take advice from people who have actually proven to be worth listening to, not someone who is just putting on a clown-like performance to live up to his angry hard ass conference persona.
Many have argued that Monteiro is not the design equivalent of the food world's Gordon Ramsay and that therefore he has no place to lecture. I don't condone that sort of ad hominem attack. Monteiro could be Gordon Ramsay or he could be a no name (he's not), but you should judge the validity of his arguments based on their substance.
Mashup vid on point
Designers were never given a voice at the table before. Designers have been taking orders from the management. Designers ass was on the line when they reasoned with the management. These days, handful of ego-less managements have given designers a voice at the table. But it's not easy for those designers whose minds and mouth were shut to suddenly come out and speak. It would take time for some designers to get back on track. Yelling fire 'em doesn't solve what Mike has set out to accomplish. Simply sounds immature. What's Mike's goal? To enable designers to sell their work, right? Then put together a strategic plan on how management across the globe should empower designers to have a voice at the table, otherwise the management should fire itself.
Has Monteiro ever wondered why his studio has seen such a drop of client enquiries? When I go to http://muledesign.com, I don't see any outstanding design work. Even worse, if I were a non-designer and potential customer, I'd be wondering whether this was the website of a design firm after all.
Huh, they really have taken a strange direction with their site. It looked a lot different when I visited it a few months ago.
It is a particularly schlocky way to present this information, in my opinion, but otherwise Monteiro's deconstruction of the stereotype is valid.
That said, I've rarely come across the kind of working experienced designer that would persistently violate more than a few of these rules, because they really are contrary to the tenets of professional design (as suggested) and wouldn't make for a very sustainable career.
First, I gotta say: hell, yes.
I'm happy to hear that the work of designers and artists are being further polarized and the identity of a designer is being arranged into a standard of quality work.
Unfortunately, I still run into the problem of employers not understanding these concepts. I think too many people still recognize designers as pixel-pushing monkeys. The problem with that is that the designers you should fire end up being the ones that stay on because they make things look pretty and just try to do what makes the management happy rather than what's best for the user. So, until that mentality is also changed, we are still going to have some struggles.
While I love an extreme strong approach to presenting and getting your messages out there, it still has to originate from a place of empathy and caring, whereas Mike’s instead seems rooted in pride and contempt, bitterness even.
The greatest, most effective leaders are genuinely kindhearted people. They won't bring that negative, judgemental energy into their environment not only because they actually respect and value the people in it, but because it's simply not in their nature. They're just better people than that.
I idolized him when I was young/inexperienced, but slowly realized he'd become an awful example of leadership for this field. Yes he's had a good influence before, but these days his negative impact is exceeding his positive contributions.
Great article. Thanks Eli
Very odd presentation. I get where Mike was coming from but maybe the execution is what leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The chanting and excitement of yelling "fire them" seems very sophomoric for such a seasoned industry veteran.
Needless to say, we all make mistakes and have rough times. Maybe this video was during the depression time? https://medium.com/@monteiro/this-is-about-the-time-i-chose-not-to-die-3c2cc97cf769
I have never heard of Mike Monterio before watching the vids. He does have great points but also seems like he would be a crazy douchebag boss.
Where is their client portfolio? I would be weary of working with them as a potential client. It looks like all talk.