Why Curbing Creativity Matters

Fearlosophies | Why Curbing Creativity Matters

Fearless creativity? Surely that was Paris St Germain versus Barcelona – a rollickingly good Champions League tie ending in a heart-breaking last minute draw. The talent and skill of outstanding players on both sides reached new heights of flicks, kicks and dramatic dives. Breathtaking stuff!

There was fearlessness too in the design of Barca’s away strip, though the level of creativity is questionable. It must have taken a courageous soul to kit La Liga’s finest out like citrus cocktails, orange fading from the shoulders into yellow shorts. It was a far cry from the classic red and blue striped home kit in which Messi, Fabregas and friends claimed a narrow victory against their French rivals in the return match at the Nou Camp last night.

But then that’s design for you - and design is invariably about compromise. So just as every sports designer has to take account of the sales potential for replica kits and the prominence of sponsors’ logos, designers of all disciplines are often hampered by visual strictures laid down by the client. You can hear ‘the logo needs to be bigger’ resounding round the boardroom as a great, groundbreaking idea, revealing the arrogance that underlies most brands.

For arrogance though read lack of confidence. Clients are notoriously risk-averse and won’t give fearless creativity full rein.  When they do, it’s memorable. Take the legendary Winsor & Newton ink packs art-directed by Michael Peters in the 1970s or the Hovis famous ‘baked bean’ bread wrappers of 2001, designed by Williams Murray Hamm.

Examples are easier to find in 3D design than in branding, where marketers generally hold sway. The Olympic Cauldron by Heatherwick Studio is a case in point, as is the Clapham Library in London, designed by architect Studio Egret West to resemble the books the building contains.  Both are nominated in the prestigious Designs of the Year award bestowed by the Design Museum, where only pretty remarkable stuff gets a showing.

But if marketers can be short-sighted, and driven only by the promise of immediate sales, so clients for bigger projects can lose their nerve when faced with an idea that demands a genuine leap of faith. It takes a hugely enlightened client to give the go-ahead when major investment is at stake. Thomas Heatherwick’s cheeky charm and unswerving passion undoubtedly go as far as the amazing creativity exuded by him and his team in getting their work approved.

So, it’s lack of confidence that too often holds a client back from achieving something great. You have to wonder if it’s all their fault though. Do designers lack confidence in their talents too? Almost certainly. How many designers really challenge clients and give credence to fearless creativity? How many are prepared to go beyond a design tweak to create something that goes way beyond mere competence?

There's work to be done on both sides if design is to allow clients to reach their potential.  It’s about trust and understanding built through collaboration to achieve shared goals.

Talking of goals, the Man of the Match in that Paris St Germain/Barca tie was surely goalie Salvatore Sirigu. To carry a vibrant cerise strip off with aplomb and still only let two in surely takes a footballer with nerves of steel.