This post is the start to a series of simple guides and tips for existing creatives and/or those that would like to either be a creative or be more creative in their work. I hope to share some of my experiences in my quest to better myself and the creative teams that have worked for me. It is biased, because of my experience, towards the digital marketing side of business but I hope that most of the posts will be beneficial to anyone wishing to develop their creative flair in their jobs.
I’ve spent quite a fair bit of time being a digital creative, working in creative teams and running a creative agency and have learnt a lot along the way. When I talk at events or guest lecture, I normally theme my topic on enhancing general creativity in business, how to best formulate creative teams or how to run the creative process but I rarely talk about maximising an individuals creativity.
I am by no means the best creative out there and have always had to balance my time with the operational running of my business. That said, being the creative lead of a small self-owned creative agency has allowed me to take an agile approach to experimenting with the development of both my own and my creatives skills and understanding. Some things I’ve done clearly assist in making idea machines (not to devalue the humanistic element) whilst others don’t help so much.
The actual output of an individuals creative is 75% external factors such such as environment, process and team structure which is why I have in the past focused more on these parts. It means that a company looking to improve its creativity can make the biggest changes to output by just having a more systematic approach to how it runs its business. I will no doubt write more about these parts in the future but at present I want to focus specifically on how you, as a creative, can better your ability. I just wanted to point out the huge effect that any external elements have so you understand that as an individual you can only be at your best if your business is supporting you.
The thing is, you are are an individual and if you are an employee you are recruited on an individual basis. Despite what many say, there is a definite need for specialist creatives particularly in companies that have a strong consumer brand presence. Creative is either non-existent in a company, is supplied by internal teams or external agencies. Whether you work client side or agency side makes no difference as to your potential to be a good creative. The mis-conception that client staff are not as creative as agency staff is simply because of the external factors the company works them in. I’ve seen some of the best creatives I’ve known make the transition from agency to client side and then believe they’ve lost their creative flair solely based on the environment they work in. On the flip side I know some wonderful creatives that work client side that make a huge difference to the quality of output from the agencies they work with.
Creativity is a set of processes in our brain, formed through a combination of genetics and learnt behaviour. By the time we have finished school and are starting to think about a career direction, a lot of our creative ability has already been formed. Its true that we all have the inherent ability to be creative but it really depends on how you define the term. You could argue that someone buying items in a shop totalling £5.20 that then hands over £10.20 instead of just the £10 is creative as they are solving a personal problem in a creative way. I suppose I define it as a solution to a problem that is a lot more emotionally complex.
I’ll tag anything I write that might help in developing personal creativity into ‘Creative Guide’. They will include practical advice on learning resources, development approach etc…and some things can be used in an appraisal system you are currently working on with an employer and therefore be developed whilst on paid time.
The single most important thing in being a good creative is about keeping your passion alive for the subject. Its true that ‘what a young mind lacks in experience they make up for in passion.’ Its a skill in itself to keep that passion alive throughout your career particularly when you start getting into more managerial roles dealing with the managing of people and business operations. It goes without saying that the best creative is therefore one that is experienced with a retained passion for the subject.
I should also make it clear that whilst I have followed some of the academic side of creativity, at the end of the day I run a business. I’ve taken some good things from lectures, papers and books from academics but the advice I give will only be things I have found to be practical, have implemented myself and have been successful. Most of the the academics are too purist in their approach and when you come to make use of the strategies they discuss they are either too costly, time consuming or even detrimental in conceiving a good simple concept. When you start thinking too much about process rather than the problem you were originally trying to solve you are going backwards.
Anyway, I hope these simple guides help. Please leave questions, comments and share your own advice or tips from your experiences.