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No Geniuses


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Slaying "Creative" Myths to Achieve Breakthrough

Slaying "Creative" Myths to Achieve Breakthrough

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  • 1. No GeniusesSlaying “Creative” Myths to Achieve BreakthroughFriday, October 28Atlantic Internet ConferenceHalifax, NS
  • 2. Introduction
  • 3. Who I am• Help people communicate• Hardcore pragmatist• Or: Opinionated prick• Really love making good stuff
  • 4. smashLAB is:
  • 5. An agency located in Vancouver
  • 6. Approaching 12th year of operations
  • 7. 8 full-time staff members
  • 8. List of long-standing clients
  • 9. We work in five areas• Consulting and Planning• User Experience Design• Digital Storytelling• Web Technology• Online Marketing
  • 10. Focused on:• Tailoring appropriate solutions• Finding/leveraging pivotal kernels• Making design that seems obvious
  • 11. Today’s talk• Most times I tend to be more general• I almost always avoid “show and tell”• This topic feels a little different• It needs some applied reference material• Therefore, I’ll bring our agency into the discussion
  • 12. What we’ll go over today• Present the creative problem• Consider how it works in our studios/agencies• Propose an alternate approach• Share some examples• Lay out the ground rules
  • 13. The Creative Problem
  • 14. The mythology of inspiration• Artist toils in solitude• Stares at blank page for countless hours• Resorts to debaucherous activity• Achieves inspiration; stumbles upon brilliant idea• Creates “genius” work in a flurry of activity• Saves the day, gets rich (and laid a lot)• Repeats process as requiredPhoto: psflannery
  • 15. This fallacy perpetuates beliefs like:• A lucky few are innately creative• These people should be afforded different rules• To create, they must feel inspired• Random behaviour leads to the best results• Applying process limits possibilities• The biggie: Original ideas existPhoto: Galleri Beck-Fischer
  • 16. We really like these stories• “Geniuses don’t even have to work at it!”• “One big idea and the world will come running!”• “All you need is one hit in the App Store!”Photo: rick forgo
  • 17. Let’s consider the actual stories Picasso: Created over 50,000 works in his lifetime Post-its: Took over 10 years to gain any traction Angry Birds: Was Rovio’s 52nd release
  • 18. I’d argue that...• Anyone can learn how to apply creative methods• Creatives need to be able to explain themselves• Inspiration does not hit you like a lightning bolt• Random behaviour leads to wasted time/opportunity• Process helps us understand and repeat success• All ideas are linked and perpetually mutatePhoto: D.H. Parks
  • 19. In the Creative Agency
  • 20. These same sorts of notions plague creative shops• Clients don’t really understand what we do• We think our visuals should speak for themselves• Our excitement for ideas often blinds us• Many feel that process constrains us• Look outside for inspiration, instead of investigatingPhoto: Toxi
  • 21. The way agencies tend to approach creative• A job is sold with great big promises• Everyone makes fun of the old creative• The creatives get really excited• Start looking at award annuals• Work like crazy on a batch of ideas• Get the work polished and “unveil” itPhoto: TonZ
  • 22. This can result in• Surprise—the client who didn’t expect this• Letdown—it turns out we didn’t “pin the tail”• Awkwardness—no one wants to say what needs to be said• Constipation—few know what to do nextPhoto: storyvillegirl
  • 23. Suddenly, the thrill is gone• Conversations become increasingly stressed• Everyone gets defensive and looks for someone to blame• Discussions become subjective and personal• It becomes a battle of will, instead of a collaborative effortPhoto: Hialean
  • 24. And in the end,• Both parties are complaining about the other• Work gets watered down, Frankensteined, or otherwise killed• Creatives contemplate becoming postal workers• Clients go looking for someone else...• …and the process is quite likely repeatedPhoto: bknittle
  • 25. It needn’t be this way!
  • 26. Another Approach
  • 27. Ask: why does creative so often go off the rails?• Confusing the creative as the be-all-end-all• Look outward for “inspiration”• Go off in far too many directions• Afford subjective opinion too much credence• Ask for feedback way too latePhoto: Snap Man
  • 28. So, at smashLAB we reworked our process to:
  • 29. Get really hardcore about strategy• Took increasingly more time for planning• Led us to look for problems instead of ideas• Went to great lengths to document these findings• Believe there needs to be a rationale for everything
  • 30. Examine our clients far more closely• Said: screw award annuals and what our peers are doing• Let’s really talk more to our clients• We need to drive them crazy with all of our questions• We need to know them intimately...• ...we need to see what they’ve been missing all this time
  • 31. Focus on a single target (the Inverted Pyramid)• We never present three approaches• Start with broad strokes and get our thinking rock solid• Collectively agree on a plan before acting• Then move on to an iterative approach• Present steps early and often; make changes in waves• Incidentally, we’re fine with (almost) limitless revisions
  • 32. Take greater control of the engagement• Creatives tend to act a little weak-kneed at times• They desperately want to please• This can lead them to follow, when they should tell• We remain professionals, who guide the process• This means some things bend, and some don’t
  • 33. Ask for real—and regular—input• We ask questions all the time• and push our clients to poke holes in our thinking• I encourage them to yell at us• It also requires changing the nature of the discussion:• “How does it feel?” becomes, “Does it work?”
  • 34. This works because it:• Puts creative in its place (behind directives and strategy)• Is informed by the client, not our personal biases• Allows us to gain agility by committing to one path• Makes all parties concentrate on what matters• Takes surprise out of the equation
  • 35. Examples
  • 36. Let’s look...• These are from a variety of clients• I’ll present the client, challenge, landscape, insight, solution• I’ll do my very best to keep these brief
  • 37. ThoughtFarmer• Growing intranet provider focused on social• Limited visibility amongst larger players• Competitors are fighting a features game• Research tells us most don’t understand what it is• Concentrate on tangible value in an accessible way
  • 38. ThoughtFarmer: Identity (Cards)
  • 39. ThoughtFarmer: Identity (Folder and letterhead)
  • 40. ThoughtFarmer: Identity (Garments)
  • 41. ThoughtFarmer: Website
  • 42. Ascent• Small helicopter/aerospace company with lots of experience• Needs credibility amongst clients/government bodies• Many, many happy helicopters with floppy roters• I don’t want to die• Focus on solidity instead of fun
  • 43. Ascent: Identity System (Labels)
  • 44. Ascent: Identity System (Stationery)
  • 45. Ascent: Website: Homepage
  • 46. Ascent: Website (Services)
  • 47. Vancouver Specialist Program• Need to find connect with those who influence travel• Agents are busy, and training is often quite boring• Collection of text-heavy, exam-focused programs• Make the testing secondary to encourage retention• A rich, visual experience with high completion rates
  • 48. VSP: Website (Home)
  • 49. VSP: Website (Module)
  • 50. VSP: Website (Section)
  • 51. VSP: Website (Communiti)
  • 52. Observations• Each of these projects started with questions• We never tried to think “out of the box”• Instead, we concentrated on solving the problem• Each time, the solution was highly distinct• And the finished solution really “fit” each client
  • 53. Rules for Doing It
  • 54. Think like a communicator instead of an artistPhoto: Marc Wathieu
  • 55. All stakeholders must be present for strategyPhoto: Fen Oswin
  • 56. Forget about being clever—strategy must leadPhoto: Robert Couse-Baker
  • 57. Understand the landscape, but don’tbe beholden to itPhoto: Mollivan Jon
  • 58. Cast aside all subjective impulses (those don’t count)Photo: Kevin H.
  • 59. Ask for—and be—brutally honestPhoto: anslatadams
  • 60. Every concern must be openly discussedand addressedPhoto: oskay
  • 61. But, the patient is never allowed to be the doctorPhoto: webMD
  • 62. Q&A