How I can be a better creative for my clients.
There’s an annual, travelling, creative conference based in Australia called Semi Permanent. It’s a two–day session of talks from leading national and international creatives. The range of creatives, diverse – in the recent September Melbourne conference, we heard from designers, illustrators, photographers, creative agencies, publishers, artists, an architecture/interior firm and even a tattooist!
I attend Semi Permanent as I feel the format allows for speakers to present their work freely, making it a very personal presentation. I find this enables the speaker to gently remind or speak a compelling truth, at some point in their session. It may be in the form of their attitude towards their work; the creative values & beliefs they live by; the drive undertaken to get things just right; the hindsight in chaotic mistakes made along the way. The insightful, little pearls of wisdom is what I clutch to – as a solo professional I’m eager to empathise with these speakers and ensure I’m on the right path.
So how can I apply these insights practically and aim to be a better creative? What did 2012’s set of speakers leave me thinking about?
1. I can experiment / keep trying new things
Micheal Leon – an experience designer based in Portland, who’s design chops include the skate division of Nike, and his own skate company Stacks – struck me as a man with amazing and fearless talents. From the extensive work in his presentation I gathered they’re to be contributed to the ceaseless curiosity that leads him to be constantly experimenting with his art, personally and professionally. Through the process of making things on a constant, seemingly daily basis, his explorations meld and cross over into his personal and client projects, oozing with free flowing creative thinking, a trait any good creative desires.
2. I should do what i know best / get involved in the things i love
A familiar pattern returned this year from the majority of the individual artists who spoke. On discussing how they got their start in their field of expertise, it was clear they spent their time within these fields on a personal and passionate level. Michael Leon, a teenager who loved skating; started combining his passion with art when he made his first skateboard designs.
Illustrator Beci Orpin, a lover of fashion and textiles began her career working within the fashion industry; her list of illustration clients now also reflect this beginning. It seems the more immersed you are on a personal level in a passion / hobby, the more you can bring to the table as a creative. What I’ve grown up with and know best is music and the arts; time to clean out those ears and explore some new music, dust off my party shoes and head to the theatres.
Reminder: Live, Breathe and Feed from the arts!
3. I can find and listen to all involved
Studio Round, one of my favourite design studios based in Melbourne, work with an impressive bunch of clients in the cultural and corporate sectors. They showed us a case study of the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, and explained the strategic work they did upfront on the rebrand of the museum. They revealed that in order to create a more succinct and successful branding outcome it is better practice to listen to people involved from the project at all it’s different levels. Not only were the directors involved, but people from all aspects of the museum, as well as the community were interviewed.
Word maps were compiled and broken down to find the common threads between the many differing groups of people. From these common word threads a sound, more authentic picture of the brand immersed. It was clear that collating further information beyond the directors, equated to a more holistic brand experience for the museum’s audience.
4. I can further develop my own voice through experience
Brooklyn based street photographer, Boogie, was another stand–out speaker. He shared stories of his past experience and there was one very poignant point he made about the importance of finding your own voice. Today with the internet at our fingertips it is very easy to get caught up in what other creatives are doing. While it may be beneficial from an inspirational perspective, it may also have a negative impact if you’re not self–aware; over-saturation of ideas seeping into your own “voice” can leave you looking uninspired.
Boogie grew up in war–torn Belgrade where he had no internet and no books. His photography, an observational street style was born out of the experiences of his environment. I think unplugging and removing yourself from the work of others every now and then can be a positive move – time to switch off the net and find alternate streams of inspiration – through experiences!
5. I can create stories for brands, rather than advertisements
Ignition Creative are a creative agency specialising in entertainment, based in Santa Monica. Their talk focused on the shift in advertising, to brand storytelling. They started with why advertising is struggling and made some great points – today there is increased choice, disruptive technologies and a behavioural shift that encourages consumer participance rather than observation.
If we look at what’s popular in entertainment – it’s solid storytelling that cuts through – storytelling is the most powerful form of communication – humans are captivated by other peoples stories and are moved by emotion. So, instead of advertising at an audience, we should be creating whole brand story systems to tap into that desire for emotional connection. By creating a story, we can connect to an audience and engage on a much more meaningful, authentic level.
6. In the future i must be flexible
Audience participation was also highlighted by Ignition Creative. Through creating a solid brand system that involves the use of online and offline techniques, we as creatives can involve an audience more effectively. In essence as a creative, I should be broadening my definition of design to include creating whole brand systems – taking advantage also of new technologies and methods of storytelling to connect with today’s audiences who prefer their input. I need to be willing to rethink, relearn and recommit to acquire new skills in order to achieve this.
Studio Round also touched on this theme, that the future for a creative is about being able to adapt your role to fit with your client and their audience’s needs. Be open to problem solving a brief in non–traditional ways. Projects are a commissioning of ideas – we as creatives need to be flexible in our approach to problem solving a brief with bigger concepts than ourselves and our current capabilities. Collaboration among clients and other creatives will be / is key to innovative solutions.