The non-creative creative.

My chum and MD Phil Bartlett recently sent an all staffer round that I thought would be great as a guest spot on this humble blog.

Plus, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and this plugs a gap nicely. Enjoy!

As a “non-creative”, how do I approach the gnarly subject of judging someone else’s creative work? My first Creative Director, Mike Walker (a mentor for the first few years of my career in advertising) once described the feeling of a creative showing their work as being as close to doing the Full Monty as he was ever likely to get, and I’m always conscious that in giving a creative brief I’m giving someone a blank sheet of paper (metaphorically and literally) and asking them to come up with stuff I can’t come up with myself.

So I’ve always been extremely respectful of the creative process, and particularly the “creative review” where a load of people who aren’t trained in judging creative work are expected to say something clever about creative work. The two following ideas pretty much sum up how I’ve approached things…

1) What are you looking at?
This is about looking beyond the obvious creative ideas, and the effect that this has, on us and of course on our clients. I came across the idea in a blog by I read recently from Seth Godin, in which he says:
“If no one says, “huh, I don’t get it,” you’ve built the obvious, not the elegant. Elegant takes a moment to get. Obvious is a trap, the last resort of an artist who can’t think clearly about what to do next”
So don’t worry if you don’t “get it” at first, or (shock horror) that your client might not “get it” straight away. Perhaps you’re looking at something elegant, rather than something obvious.

[BTW – if you don’t get Seth Godin’s blog, you should – find it here – it’s always informative and often inspirational.]

2) What to say next
The second point is related to the first, and it’s about looking at creative work, and starting with a positive approach and a desire to love it.
Especially when you’re looking at something which isn’t obvious and takes a moment to get (and, let’s be honest, feel under pressure to say something clever) it’s much easier to be negative – to say “hmm, I don’t like that bit” – than it is to say “huh, I don’t get it”.
In this situation I rely on the Anthony Burrill approach that I had on my wall at Saatchi and McCann and at our old CDM office in Hammersmith and now (because our “enviable views over The Shard, St Pauls and the Thames” mean we’re more glass than wall) is on my wall at home, which simply says:


It’s how I’ve always tried to look at creative work, and it allows me to be positive and inquisitive at the same time. Because more often than not the fact that you don’t get it straight away is actually the whole point.

Now, after this sojourn into the world of blogs and creative freedom of thought, please allow me to flip back to my Managing Director persona and simply ask that you stop reading blogs, get back to work and get your bloody timesheets up to date.


Thanks Phil, more from me next week Blag fans.

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