The subscription brochure has to be a top product – attractive and flawless – as it’s an important sales instrument. Every season, around 20% of all our tickets are sold in subscriptions. But the subscription brochure is far more than just a sales tool. It’s also the summary of ‘what’ the Dutch National Ballet amounts to in the new season. It’s our portfolio, with all the productions and programmes – our artistic sample sheet. And it’s our line-up, with outlines of all the dancers and staff of the Dutch National Ballet. Even the orchestra members are in it, even though Holland Symfonia is actually an independent organisation. But that sort of thing is sensitive. The brochure is like the annual family photo and everyone wants to be on it.
Producing the brochure is a tough job. First of all, the marketing department has to ensure they have received all the programme information from Ted. But he hasn’t always completely finalised the programming. The mixed bills, in particular, sometimes undergo changes at a very late stage of the proceedings. And this time, too, there were some last-minute changes – to the great chagrin of the designer, who had to readjust his carefully laid-out pages. Apart from the programmes, a lot of factual information has to be included and checked over. Is the dancers’ profile still right? If a dancer who’s just been promoted is left in last season’s lower rank, there are bound to be grumbles. Is the staff profile correct and complete? Have all the prices been stated correctly in the right place? No mistakes can be made there, as that would literally cost us money.
Not only does the brochure have to be flawless, it also has to look attractive. And this goal is perhaps even more arduous. Because what exactly is attractive? Moreover, the brochure has to look and ‘feel’ like the company itself: stylish but not pretentious, and aesthetic as well as accessible. It all sounds logical, but what exactly does it mean? What one person finds attractive, another finds rather ordinary. Use of colour, photo selection, page layout, size – they’re all issues that have to be considered afresh each time. And not just by the designer, as the marketing manager, artistic director and managing director have their own opinions as well. Precisely in a cultural organisation, where beauty and aesthetics are everyday matters, designers have no easy job of it.
So nobody won the discussion about the 50th anniversary logo. The feedback to the designer was “This isn’t it”. And he was asked to come up with some new ideas. So now, in the second round, the floor of my office is covered in sheets of paper with new 50th anniversary logos. Ted, Sandra and I circle them like vultures selecting their prey. Because today’s the day we have to choose, right before the deadline. In the end, we remove the papers one by one until one design remains on which we agree. “But then the designer still has to do the numbers of ‘50’ a bit differently”. We’ve agreed.
The brochure went to the printer’s on Friday. And the anniversary logo was given a prominent place in it. I’m satisfied. It’s turned out to be a great logo, even though it’s a compromise. Maybe even because it’s a compromise. Just because Ted and I couldn’t agree, the designer had to delve deep in his imagination. So you see – every cloud has a silver lining!