You say you’re not creative?

October 28, 2009

Owen skull&crossbonesWhether I’m talking with people about my work in advertising, or the painting I do for my own pleasure, the conversation often reaches the same point. In one way or another, people will tell me that they’re not creative at all.

It would be really easy to get on my soapbox at this point and talk about how pretty much all of us start off as creative kids, drawing and writing imaginative stories. But somehow we often lose that “skill.” Whether it’s our educational system, or kids’ peer groups, a lot of kids don’t stick with it. And like anything, if you’re not doing it often, you get rusty and that rust leads to a further lack of confidence.

Dead crowWhoops, what am I doing way up here? I must step down.

Anyway, I firmly believe that is not just about imagination, it’s about seeing — really observing — what is around you all day, everyday. There’s a beauty that we just don’t see — or worse, we take it for granted.  To really see it, you need to give your eye practice. You need to see in compositional terms. And one great way to do that is just to take a lot of photographs.

Grace blurI do. On the right side are pictures I’ve taken of my kids (I do this a lot because, well, they’re my kids. But also because I tend to paint portraits, so I like to look at how light plays across faces.) The crow was just a bit of road kill that I saw riding my bike home from work one day. I think it was worth getting off my bike for. You don’t need any good reason to take pictures. Take lots of them.

Which leads me to something that Seattle photographer Chase Jarvis is doing.  He’s taken the expression “the best camera is the one that’s with you” and turned it into a great iPhone app (the best “camera” iPhone app in my opinion, and I’ve used a lot of them), a book, and a web-based photography community.

Here’s Chase explaining it himself. Read more on his blog post.

I couldn’t have said it better myself (though I tried).

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Better books. Please.

May 15, 2008

I sat down with a young guy recently to review his book. He’d gone to a good, graduate level creative school.  I liked him.  Turns out we had some commonalities in our life and background.

But nothing about his portfolio of work excited me.  It looked like so many others I see.  There were spec print ads that used quirky visual solutions – but not in a very sophisticated way.  There were the out-of-home guerilla-ish ideas.  Books these days are often so formulaic, it’s unbelievable.

So, as nicely as I could, I asked him if he ever did digital work – anything on the Web.  “Oh, yeah, I love that stuff.  But I’ve been told to keep that stuff out of my book because it will just typecast me.  I’ll get stuck just being a “Web guy.”  Typecast?  The fastest way to be typecast is to show work that’s not reflective of our current reality and where the world is headed.  This guy should get a refund on his tuition because his professors gave him such profoundly bad advice.

A creative book is, after all, simply a means of showing a prospective employer how you think.  How you solve problems.  What kind of intelligence and insight you bring to a creative challenge.  I suppose it does level the playing field to some degree when all books have essentially the same kinds of work.  Then it’s all about the quality of the ideas – the creative thought – rather than how it’s delivered.

Except that’s presuming that how and where you tell a story – and in what combinations – isn’t nearly as important as what you say.  I know there are agencies out there whose go-to media continues to be TV, print and radio.  At DDB in Seattle, our world is very different.  And we need to see candidates who reflect a new way of tackling the world.  How do they think about sight, sound and motion in a digital age?  How will we consume information a year from now? What about social media?  What about surrounding your audience rather than using a single media in hopes of snagging them?  Imagination in the delivery of ideas is a lot about what creativity is these days.  It’s what makes campaigns greater than the sum of the individual executions.

Well, if your book is tradition bound, it’s going to be tough to excite us.  Some of the people I’ve been most excited about hiring recently are those people who clearly understand communications in this digital age, but also have the knowledge, desire and skill to ideate in traditional media.   They know how to bring it all together.  To surround an idea.

Without those skills, a candidate isn’t likely to find a job here.

PS  I’m not just talking about creatives, etiher.  The same is true if you plan to be a great planner, media strategist, or account person.  It’s a new day.