To make exceptional creative work, we must defy conventions and accept the risk of failure. This was the main lesson shared at ‘Here London’ (run by publishing platform ‘It’s Nice That’) – a conference I had the pleasure of attending earlier this summer.
Whether a creative or a marketer (or both!), we must constantly challenge our ways of working, and adopt new ones. After all, the digital world changes too quickly to allow for complacency. To become stagnant in our work is to be left behind.
But how do we learn to think more creatively? This blog post shares some lessons from the conference that can help us do just that.
Don’t stick to conventions
Nalden - Cofounder of We Transfer
Nalden talked about unobtrusive advertising. Going against the normal cluttered ad space, they use beautiful full screen images with subtle branding on their loading pages.
Nalden also talked about his constant education saying:
‘The illiterate are not those who cannot read and write; we must learn, unlearn and relearn each day.’
Nalden - Cofounder of We Transfer
Mirko Borsche - Graphic Designer
It was the placement of his poster for Wagner’s opera Ring which threw convention out the window, adding a memorable twist. Depicting the letters R I N G with plentiful kerning, the poster was wrapped around pillars, completing a ring shape.
To challenge norms in our work, we must first establish what these are. What assumptions do we base our work on? Do these assumptions still hold true in today’s industry? Think about the norm and challenge it in every way imaginable – a different perspective will drive innovation.
Work with what you have
Agi and Sam - Fashion House
Managing to be creative with little money, Agi and Sam seek out innovative ways to print patterns on fabric at a small cost. Pattern printing on fine fabric was too costly so, refusing to stumble at this hurdle, they contacted sign printers and resolved to use a vinyl banner style fabric to showcase their work at a fraction of the cost. Similarly when they ran out of wadding for a jacket, Sam’s own duvet was sacrificed!
Be resourceful with what you have to get the job done. Want to start your own business but don’t have investors? Plenty of companies (including Distilled) begin in a front room or a garage. Fancy a new content team but not sure how to begin? Start small with just one writer with one piece of content. Maybe that writer is you.
Agi’s obsession with owls and collaborating with Luke Stephenson has led to some interesting product shots.
Collaborating is one way to make sure you challenge your own boundaries - enabling natural feedback and for another party to ask why. Feeling stagnant? Seek a fresh perspective.
There are many ways for marketers to collaborate in their work – it doesn’t have to involve lengthy meetings or presentations. Our creative team uses RealTimeBoard to give feedback on visual work, meanwhile the new ‘suggested edits’ feature on Google docs allows multiple users to each offer their opinion on a piece of writing without actually making changes.
Make a start
Marion Deuchars - Illustrator
The fear of the blank page is a very real thing for illustrators. It intensifies the pressure of where to start and makes the first mark seem terrifying until the fear of making a mistake becomes too much! As a solution, Marion sometimes works on top of old works or pages that already have a paint or ink mark on them.
So stop procrastinating about that difficult project, and find some way, any way, to make a start. It might not be right straight away, but beginning is the first hurdle.
Realise what you are good at and perfect it
Ewen Spencer - Photographer
Ewen’s talent lies in ‘making pictures’, as he charmingly calls it, of youth culture from the 90s garage scene to kids on mopeds in Italy.
This is what he is great at. So when he started taking quite average documentary-style photos in southern Italy, his agent asked why? He was trying to find a new avenue for his photography, but soon he had to admit that is wasn’t working out.
The key here is to explore new avenues but also be able to realise when it is not working, and to recognise where you do excel.
Don’t let the execution ruin your idea
Mirko Borsche - Graphic Designer
Although Mirko had a fantastic portfolio, I was less than sure about the style of 3D effects used to present the work on his show reel. For me this unnecessarily complex execution ruined the beauty of the pieces as stand alone objects. If you have a simple and beautiful idea, let that shine through alone, don’t over-embellish. Similarly, if your idea sucks then no amount of bells and whistles will hide that fact ultimately. You may as well recognise and cull bad ideas as early as possible.
Lernert & Sander - Creatives
Of course once in a while we do all fail and that’s okay as long as we learn from it. Many speakers showed high budget work for massive brands that had failed.
Lernert & Sander made two concepts for Selfridges.
1 - Shoes made out of everyday objects:
2 - Shoes made as cakes.
Needless to say this idea cannot be found online.
The creatives hadn’t worked closely with the set manufactures, meaning the final product for ‘shoes that looked like cakes’ was not to a high standard – crudely hacked foam and sub par model-making played a part. So amateur was the presentation, in fact, that Lernert & Sander offered to remove their names from the Selfridges window glass themselves!
If you are going to outsource, or collaborate make sure you can trust wholeheartedly that the quality of work will reflect your own standards.
It’s a good idea to have a clear set of goals and requirements right from the beginning. Write these down and share the document with the whole team, then review at various intervals throughout the execution.
Be an eccentric - people are buying into you as a brand
Eric Yahnker - Artist
I can imagine that speaking on the conference circuit for Eric, perhaps more than the other speakers, was of paramount importance to present himself as a brand. It is not just your work, but also you that your client is buying into.
Eric’s comedic presentation sort of made everything make sense, and the artwork in turn seem all the more valuable, especially given this is not exactly a safe choice of artwork for the living room wall.
In the online world, marketers shouldn’t be afraid to express their individuality. In fact, as certain markets start to saturate and we increasingly face competition from around the globe, it is important to find your niche and stand out from the rest.
Learn to tackle a bad brief
Christoph Niemann - Illustrator
When briefed by Google to create an animation for Chrome (at the time a new browser), that:
1 - Didn’t say what a browser was
2 - Didn’t mention that Chrome is better than any of the other browsers
...Christoph embraced the ambiguity and created this video
It is easy to let a bad brief start a project off on the wrong foot. Challenge it, get clarity, or simply identify what their audience really wants in order to find a fitting solution.
Overall, the conference was highly motivating. Most crucially, I was encouraged to not be afraid to try new approaches and to learn along the way.
So what about you? Seen any daring new creative works recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And for tips on researching creative ideas, swing over to this post from our graphic designer Vicke.