Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Three Factors Behind Great Creative Work

It used to be easy to distinguish between professional and amateur work. I'm talking design, writing, art, photography, film – heck, anything that you sell that you create for clients. The advent of digital cameras, fairly intuitive design programs and online publishing sites means the line between pros and wannabees has become blurred, especially for clients. Technologies allow for many more smaller at-home businesses and entrepreneurs, some of whom are truly excellent. But where everyone appears to be a Creative Director or worse, a Creative Guru, it becomes très confusing. What is professional work these days? In fact, it's quite easy to tell by the work itself.

To my mind there are three factors at play for top creative work: Skill, Play and Passion. The levels of each are set by the demands of the work at hand. Here is a brief explanation of what I mean by the graphic above:

Skill. Knowledge of how to get things done in a professional, time-efficient manner that will work effortlessly in all media is essential. Should the work be predictable, the client ends up with a boring piece. Is the individual just concerned with churning out the words or the logos or web pages and sending out an invoice? Or do they come back with what you asked to see but with a few more suggestions that they think may work better? If the artist is working totally under a stringent direction such as bosses, productivity and billings, we call that a lost opportunity, or slave labor. Great Creative Directors look to their artists and writers to use their brains.

Play. Having the nimbleness to consider different creative avenues of attack, all of which are plausible ideas, is the mark of an artist or writer who loves to explore, experiment and find new and innovative approaches. Seasoned professionals may not enjoy brainstorming with others but they certainly go through this process in their own brains. Without the benefit of experience, play without sophistication becomes simple and childish and therefore dumb. Gone wild, an overly playful artist enters the world of mindless drivel. Think rude noises and blowing Silly String out of your nose.

Passion. Often misunderstood, a passionate practitioner is one who gets goose pimples when they see a concept that sings. They spend their spare moments gaining insight about as many different things as they can. They look at bad work not to mock, but to figure out how it went so wrong. And they live and breathe the world of competition, breakthrough strategy and searching that one novel solution that will work harder to build the client's brand equity over all others. Passion without context allows for a prima donna look and feel, which is off-base and creates irrelevant results. There is nothing wrong with being a purist, passionate creative. Live your dreams but without an understanding of the science behind strategy you might want to keep your interests as a hobby.

Those without all three factors in their work needn't go beating themselves up. It's rare and takes many years of devotion to arrive at a stage where they begin overlapping. Finding clients who "get it" is key. Working with others and learning every day, finding mentors, refining your expertise and soaking in what else is happening in the industry is essential. Together, Skill and Play come together to create work that is just plain fun, sticks out from the crowd and provides a friendly image. Play and Passion leads to very interesting work with a remarkable energy that acts as a motivator to target audiences and Passion and Skill combine to evoke dynamic concept work that is smooth, functional and well-executed.

Combine all three and you've got that magic moment of genius.

6 comments:

  1. Rand, YOU are a genius. No, I'm not kidding. I think you are absolutely on target intellectually. Showing visually how the components of Skill, Play and Passion come together is a great way to illustrate the differences between a pro and an amateur. Ideally those enlightened by your explanation will become clients who "get it". Silly string helps. Thank you for putting some thought into this.

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  2. Thank you Kristy. I am humbled and you are very welcome.

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  3. Yup. Life is really good when we get to live in the "genius" spot with a client who gets it. Too bad we can't live there all the time!

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    1. I can't see your work ever being far away from that spot Linda. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Yes. this is why you were such an inspirational instructor, Rand, and I consider myself very fortunate to have studied under you. I've said it before I'll say it again: "Thank you"

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    1. The fact you survived is testament to your genius Mr. Sebastian. :)

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