Creative mediocrity is all around us and we deserve it! Technology has made it easy and the barrier to entry into design is low. Clients get what they pay for – superficial solutions without strategic thinking.
To do great work, you need great clients who are driven to make a difference to their brands (or their products’) success by pushing the parameters of the creative brief.
In commercial art or graphic design, the only way you can judge the work is against the brief. Getting the brief right is paramount to great work and fundamental to everything we do. Great work starts here, but it’s also where great work can end.
The brief is your bond with your client and the gateway to greatness. Great forward-thinking clients produce great work that has been the benchmark for success over generations – and across many disciplines.
It is the designer’s role to challenge, explore and be inquisitive. It is also the designer’s role to show a client what potential there is in the opportunity. To create great solutions that push the boundaries, and challenge the paradigm, you must first challenge the brief.
Working with the client in true partnership and collaboration can unlock greatness. If the brief does not allow the potential for great work, then re-write it to ensure you push creativity to the limits. Fortune favours the brave after all, and the bravest designers tend to be the most successful.
History has demonstrated success by an attitude of fearlessness. Some of the greatest world achievements in design have come from the determination to break the boundaries and create new rules. Where design meets engineering there are numerous examples of success by breaking the rules.
We all know about Steve Jobs and Apple – but in 1822, Charles Babbage had already conceptualised and developed the first automatic computing machine. The first Apple computer, the Apple 1 was made in 1976. Steve Jobs and Woz (Steve Wozniak) used family and friends to help solder the parts sitting at the kitchen table. “One garage, three friends and very humble beginnings.”
They believed in their revolutionary creation and stuck with it at all costs. Engineering innovation and creativity with an attitude of fearlessness have achieved greatness.
Alec Issigonis designed the car which would fondly become known as the ‘Mini.’ This ground-breaking design, with its front wheel drive and transverse engine, became the inspiration for almost all front wheel drive cars.
The radical idea of turning the engine sideways to make the car shorter and more compact has since influenced the cars of the future.
When Brunel designed the Clifton Suspension Bridge he was advised to include a central support, as apparently, “a single span bridge of such length could not be constructed”.
(To Brunel, it was a bit like asking a designer to put a bar code on the front of a bottle of Chanel No. 5.)
Great ideas expressed through ‘Fearless Creativity’ sometimes get lost in translation. Watered down by compromise, committee decision-making and an ‘It can’t be done mentality’. The result? Some great ideas never see the light of day.
A great idea can be described over the telephone or by a thumbnail sketch. Clients do understand big ideas, because as brand owners they are responsible for their brands success. So getting the brief right, by it being open and challenging is beneficial for client and consultant. True creativity explores every avenue for a client’s product or service.
So what is ‘Fearless Creativity?’ Uncompromising creativity at all costs? No! Being challenging, provoking and inquisitive, and always delivering the unexpected, Yes!
To produce great work takes time, but so does producing mediocre work. Great creativity is proactive, not reactive, and it’s the client relationship that’s the driver to doing your very best work.
With big FMCG or established brands, it is of course harder to change them, and the reality is that creative briefs are mostly about evolution and not revolution. When a new challenger brand threatens the comfort zone of an established brand, change is imminent. It is at this very point that the brand owner often reacts but this is reactive not proactive and it’s likely that the damage to the brand is already done.
Creative consultants who are fearless in their approach to new business sometimes spot this before the brand owners. Brand owners should be brave and fearless but not reckless, and they should be anticipating change.
The turning point of success is the fine line of an established brand ‘name’ as opposed to established brand ‘look’. The name is the equity and the visual the magnet. Look at any product category from cosmetics to wines and spirits and the marketplace is saturated. There’s almost unlimited choice in every sector with everyone attempting to own their territory within a category.
There is so much choice in these product categories that it is hard for the consumer to navigate them. Confusion can make them opt for the tried and tested big established brands or simply default to own label.
As the world’s marketplace becomes more saturated with brands competing to be seen and heard, to stand out from the crowd, the mundane and the shallow will not survive.
Brands that ‘feel safe’, may not stay safe in the long term, unless they are open to change. The longevity of a brand, unless it achieves iconic status, is no longer guaranteed in the fast moving consumer society of ‘I want it now’. A stark reality is that some brands are not moving at the same speed as consumers’ appetite for innovation and change.
“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” Will Rogers.