The Morals of Designing for the Immoral


Once a year all of the major networks unveil their up-coming shows to advertisement investors and buyers. This is a multi-million dollar campaign and every network’s pride is at stake. It is called the “Upfront Presentations”. This is when all the writers, producers, actors, designers, investors as well as marketing and production get to show off their goods. My company, ABC, has a history of creating one of the best rating drama, comedy, and reality shows among the major networks. Through the past, my company has created very popular shows such as Lost, Alias, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, and much more.

You can imagine the pressures of our company pushing to create the next “big” show. Anxiety builds in our marketing and design departments. Once they expect to have a potential amazing show, we have to create an impressive design package that goes along with the pilot. The expectations from our VPs and executives trickle all the way down to the designers layering with anticipation and anxiety from everyone it passes. So all the designers in my department have to prove and present their design skills for this once-a-year, pride-staking upfront presentation. Simply said, this presentation is your image that reflects on the design level, standard and integrity of your complete performance. Chances of getting your design board picked for a show is one out of hundreds. Not only do I compete with my co-designers, but also major design vendors and top-rated design firms in the U.S.

Each year, this is when my anxiety kicks in. Panic and insomnia developed by pressure and stress.  What do I do? What can I do? For many years, I tried to self-help myself out of the upfront season, but there was only one that succeeded. Prayer. I pray like crazy. Without prayer, I can’t focus from my lack of sleep and negative emotions take over the best of me. My faith gets tested especially through this time and I’m always reminded of how it’s never by my skills, but always by His power and strength alone. Truth be told, it’s a crazy roller coaster of mixed emotions.

One year, I was assigned to design for a show called Scandal. Judging by the title, I was hesitant to read the script, but the more and more I read, it truly held up to its title. The main character was a women who was a mistress to the President and who happens to be a problem solver for politicians and high profile clients. Honestly, I was not happy to work on this show. In my disdain, I procrastinated designing for this show and chose to focus on other assigned shows. After one and a half month of working 60 hours and week plus weekends, I came to the realization that none of my designs were getting picked for all these other shows and there were only a couple of shows left that were still in approval stage. Of course, one of those shows left would have to be Scandal.

Somehow, the VPs and the executives at ABC were not approving any of the designs for Scandal which was projected to be the next big show. They were not willing to agree on any one design and kept rejecting what I thought were great boards. Even though I had initial concerns about the topics of the show, I realized that God could be presenting an opportunity in the oddest of places.

I began to pray every morning repenting of my stubborn reluctance despite Him trying to bless me and I felt a little like Jonah running from the people that God had meant him to serve! Despite the subject matter, I could see that God was creating an opportunity to use me in a way that I hadn’t considered or didn’t want to. Scandal was my Nineveh!

I asked God to lead me and I was ready to be obedient. I prayed for wisdom, faith and discernment and most of all that the VPs and executives find favor in my design. I looked through hundreds of designs already done for this show by everyone and had to refocus the design to something different.  I had to somehow find a clever approach that was not presented among the hundreds of design boards. I also really wanted to be smart with my designs and not have to lean on the more immoral aspects of what Scandal represented.

One morning, when it was down to the wire with one week left, I had an idea, it couldn’t be any simpler. The concept was the show’s logo printed on a piece of paper and running it through a paper shedder. I thought this was a simple and fresh design approach that was different from all the boards previously presented. Easy! Little did I know, this was going to be the most daunting design I would create!

Being oblivious to the world of paper shredders, I didn’t realize that the paper shredders changed from straight-line shred to crosscut shred. Big problem! With the paper shredding in every direction, no one would recognize the logo at all. I was getting desperate, so I decided to manually make a paper shredder. Cutting the paper by hand and crumbling it so it would look like it passed through the shredder. It was a long shot, but I showed my creative director and he showed indifference. He decided to present my board with 20 other new designs. The next day, I heard from my creative director that my board got picked for the show. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was so happy that the presentations and stress were over. God had answered my prayer and stretched my faith to another level.

Fast-forward four months, the graphic package is complete and we began promoting the show.  Millions of dollars were spent advertising on billboards, magazines, radios, theaters and commercials.  Scandal was scheduled for the fall. We received great responses from focal groups and the analyst and company were expecting 2.0 for the premiere episode. Beyond our expectation, Scandal blew through the roof with 3.2 and 8 million views the first night. Ratings took off and grew tremendously.

Even though I had been so opposed to working on these designs, God knew that this show was going to be a big hit and he wanted me to be part of that success. Through his favor, I had the opportunity to design something great in the networks top 10 TV shows. Realizing how God works in mysterious ways and not knowing the outcome, I am more affirmed that ever before that he can use our talents and our mustard seed faith to bring success in the most challenging of places. If we are faithful and continue to trust in God in our everyday lives and with our work we can break through from our insecurities and weaknesses and watch as God leads us to serve Him and receive the blessings he has waiting for us.