I’m extremely excited to announce the launch of a new category here on colourliving, which I hope will provide some inspiration and insight for many of you. Much has been written about The Creative Process, which in its purest form is simply a way of solving a problem. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Creativity and its process, contrary to popular belief, is not just reserved for artists and designers. I believe that everyone can benefit from learning and understanding the numerous ways of the creative process. Over the next year or so i will invite people to share their own personal creative processes with us.
I am hugely delighted to introduce my first guest contributor, Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi. Richard also writes the UK’s most influential advertising blog adliterate, radiacal thinking for the brand advice business, a most stimulating read indeed!
Although i originally asked Richard whether i could pinch a post he wrote on his blog, entitled a decade of Moleskines (utterly great read & fun vine clip), he very generously and kindly wrote an entirely new post for us. I’ll shut up now and hand you straight over to Richard!!
Forgive me but I find the idea of articulating my creative process a little strange. You see I am a strategist in an advertising agency – a planner as we are known.
One of the more bizarre aspects of advertising is the division of labour that we have created within agency life, in which we have separated the doers (account handlers or suits as they are charmingly known), the thinkers (us planners) and the creators (the creative teams). The planners decide what should be done and how, the creatives come up with the ideas and the suits make the client’s coffee.
So the thing is I don’t actually create anything tangible, I merely produce ideas, approaches and thinking that others turn into amazing stuff that engages the world – or certainly big chunks of the UK. From the Royal Wedding spoof for T-Mobile and the Hank Marvin work for Fridge Raiders to the Kevin Bacon ads for the launch of EE – Britain’s first 4G network operator. Rather sadly my creative canvas is not the silver screen or the colour scheme but really Microsoft Word and Powerpoint.
If there is creativity it is in the process of connecting and combining ideas, thoughts and facts together to solve problems and act as a creative springboard for others – something that they can get their teeth stuck into and create magic from.
This goes something like this.
Me: EE is a brand new quintessentially British brand (unlike the Euro-trash O2 and Vodafone) that puts you at the centre of and connects you to your whole digital life not just your mobile one.
Them: Launch EE with Hollywood A-lister Kevin Bacon, known for being connected to everyone everywhere and have him display an un-nerving degree of insight into the minutiae of British cultural life while dramatizing that everyone is connected to everything.
Anyway I thought I’d share some of the things I hold dear in creating these solutions – they may inspire you or they may make you go ‘duh, tell me something I don’t know’, either way by now I should have sufficiently managed your expectations to get away with it. There are nine because ten is too convenient.
1. Read weird-shit
I don’t read business books and I try to avoid the very many books that people write about brands, advertising and communications – unless they are of ground breaking importance. Rather I try and consume random stuff that interests me and that might provide a lateral spark that helps solve a problem. Ask yourself how much inspiration you are taking from the world you already inhabit and are deeply familiar with rather from other places. Right now I’m reading a book on Heatherwick Studios work over the past 30 years (the designers of the 2012 Olympic Cauldron), couldn’t be further from my day job, couldn’t be more helpful.
2. See the things others don’t or can’t see
Creativity is often thought to involve breath-taking moments of genius in which the most unusual and potent idea pops into your mind and away you go. That doesn’t happen with me. Most of the time I am exposed to exactly the same stimulus as other people its just I am on the look out and listening for thoughts that others have ignored because they don’t see their significance. And the thing that will help you most in this endeavour is point three.
3. Focus on what is interesting and not what is right
In my own world I have turned this into a bit of a cliché. But it is based on the thought that our education system and professional lives encourage us to find the right answer not the most interesting one. This is not to say that you don’t want the answer to be right but that if you look for something interesting it might also be right. Whereas, if you look for something right it will never be interesting. I helped launch Sky+ in the UK by ignoring all the functional benefits of hard disk recording and the ability to pause and rewind live TV and instead positioned it as your very own TV channel – this just seemed rather more interesting.
4. Go there
I find that the more that your thinking is unpalatable the better it is. Ok, let’s start that in a different place. I believe in radicalism as an approach to problem solving, by which I mean searching for the real root cause of that problem and not settling for superficial solutions. In order to really penetrate the inner workings of why people do the things they do and think the things they think you have to have a bit of a strong stomach because human motivations are base to say the least. I heard great quote recently that we live in a time of prehistoric urges, medieval institutions and god-like technology, when we are thinking about harnessing the tech to improve the institutions its as well to remember the real urges we are driven by.
5. Be amused by the world
One of my favourite creative outlets is Twitter right now. It’s a brilliant way to capture the serendipity of life and forces you into the discipline of offering up in as economical and potent way as possible. Thoughts that would have previously crossed your mind (like why are all those men lined up outside Victoria’s Secret on New Bond Street too embarrassed to join their wives and girlfriends inside – maybe they need to reduce the taboo around lingerie for men) can now find full expression in a tweetpic and a pithy observation. The point is that I am all for things that help us enjoy the idiosyncrasies of the World around us, for in those moments are locked real insight about people’s lives.
6. Everything can give you an answer
I have a little trick if the solutions are slow in coming. I ask everything that I come across to help me. This isn’t some ask the universe bullshit, its about interrogating random stimulus like tube ads, street signs, shop fascias, half forgotten books, children’s toys, you know any old shit. Last year I got an idea for repositioning a bank brand from some words on the fascia of Pret a Manger, now that’s random.
7. Think visually as well as conceptually
This seems obvious for a design readership but what I’m talking about here is visualising conceptual ideas not visualising actual solutions. I find that people are far better at getting their heads around new thinking if they can see it rather than simply read it so my life is full of Venn diagrams, triangles, wedges and visual metaphors. These are the true tools of the conceptual creative.
8. Find your creative routine
This is something I learnt from my girlfriend and blogger Annie of insideology a little while ago and wrote about recently on my own blog. Creative routines are the things you do to force your mind into a creative place because your mind associates that routine (place, pen, lighting, smell, etc.) with producing something of worth. Because I work in my office, at home, in meeting rooms and at clients, for me it’s my Moleskine and Montblanc pen. Not in themselves aids to creativity but mnemonics for my mind to be creative.
9. Use all your life
I remember a story about a famous commercials director most celebrated for his Levis ads of the 80s and 90s. He was once asked by a client why his day rate was so astronomical, they couldn’t see how a day of anyone’s time could be that valuable and with good reason. His response was that in that day of work they were benefiting from every experience he had ever had in the thing that he would create for them, something Picasso is also believed to have said about the cost of a sketch dashed off in five minutes. In other words they weren’t buying a day or a five minutes, they were buying a life. You and your life to date should always be your greatest source of inspiration and insight.
Wow, thank you Richard, what great points. As a conceptual thinker i already practice some of these but definitely struggle with radical thinking (4). I often catch myself staying a little safe and will now attempt to change this.
What do you think of Richard’s creative process? Do you resonate with any points in particular? Do share!
Thank you Richard for taking time out of your very busy schedule. It’s much appreciated! See you all on Thursday.