“The company you started 20 minutes ago went out of business 8 minutes ago?”
Have you ever dealt with a company like this?
Apparently not in fire or in some catastrophe, rather the world ending isn’t factual at all. It’s figurative. The Mayans figured it out. The world isn’t going to blow up. 2012 simply marks the year we run out of creative things to say.
That’s right everybody, another Batman, another INDIANA JONES, another die hard, another James Bond, another Bad Boys, another The Expendables, another Wolverine Movie (oy), another Superman, another GI Joe Movie, another Men in Black, another Spider man, another Ghost Rider (totally serious), another Bourne ID Movie, another Star Trek, another Underworld, another IRobot, and another Resident Evil. At least Marvel is saving us time by putting the latest Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America sequels into one movie…The Avengers.
The thing that makes me kick myself the most of all? I can’t wait for most of these to come out. Sad.
Creativity is problem solving with style. Though not a swearing man, I’m always sorely tempted when I hear others say “I’m not creative” as though that self-diagnosis were an unwitting excuse to live short of one’s potential. One of the primary differences between humans and other animals is our ability to solve problems, to think and act creatively. Whether we realize it or not, our minds are instinctively wired to engineer creative solutions.
Whether you’re a writer, photographer, blogger, designer, programmer, parent, business owner, sales rep, etc., you perform acts of creativity every day — whether you realize it or not. Once you realize how often you solve problems and use creative means to accomplish that task, you’ll see that you’re every bit as creative as a classical artist, graphic designer, etc.
When we hire new employees we’re quick to tell them that they’re a problem solver first, and a graphic designer second, for example. Technical skills are great, but knowing how to use them to solve problems and generate creative solutions is greater.
Here are a few tips on developing your own creativity. They’re in no particular order and if practiced, can make a tremendous difference in fostering creativity.
* Be constantly observant of creative works. Look for it everywhere: on billboards, magazine ads, video games, commercials, movies, landscaping, interior design, furniture, wallpaper, music . . . everything!
* Be a student of EVERYTHING around you.
* Don’t consume and create at the same time – keep the processes separate.
* Know when to shut out the outside world.
* Start small. Sometimes the small and simple ideas give way to more significant breakthroughs.
* Scribble, sketch . . . throw spaghetti at the wall. Go with where your mind and heart is telling you to go, no matter how crappy things look at first.
* Don’t be afraid to start over. Often.
* Embrace criticism as an opportunity for growth.
* Teach others and you’ll learn.
* Turn your assumptions of how things “should be” upside-down, see things in new ways.
* Apply things in other fields to your field, in ways not done before.
* Explore a genre you’re not excited about. It could be a movie, book, music, art . . . whatever. Identify 10 things that make that piece work – write it down and post it where you’ll see it every day for at least a month.
* Keep a pocket journal with you at all times and write ideas or flashes of insight down immediately.
* Play. Ignore the social conventions that tell you as an adult you should be stiff and uninteresting.
* Play with kids. Don’t just watch them playing, get inside their world. See what they see, believe what they believe – and you’ll be reintroduced to your inner child; a person with no boundaries or conventions.
* Go outside and move! See new things, talk to new people.
* Get adequate sleep. Sleep debt kills creativity.
* Don’t force it. Relax and play, it will start to flow.
* Let your mind wander. Allow distractions, when you’re looking for inspiration.
* Know when and how to stop distractions when you create.
* Create when you’re excited.
* When you’re not, find something else to be excited about.
* Don’t be afraid to be stupid and silly.
* The quality of an idea is better than the size of it. “Big ideas” are deceptive and often illusory. Small, quality ideas are actionable and affect change in incremental ways. You’ll be surprised how one creative idea implemented will beget another creative solution.
* Constantly improve your work.
* When something is killing your creativity, get rid of it. Remember: feed the solution, starve the problem.
* Surround yourself with like-minded visionaries.
We were recently hired by company headquartered in Arizona to develop a series of storyboards for an upcoming marketing campaign. Ordinarily, this is done by creating a sequence of panels graphically showing scenes play by play. It’s an effective means of defining how shots will be framed, the motion of the camera, and so on. While there’s a place for traditional storyboards, that type of static medium tends to leave so much out. And because it’s inanimate, nuance, texture, and feeling cannot be adequately represented. And unless you’re working with a client who can see the product in their mind before its created, like movie producers, many clients can have a difficulty seeing the end product.
As we were working through this particular storyboard exercise, we decided to build our client a video prototype to help them catch the vision of what this project could become. What had the potential to be the standard white sheets of paper dressed with sketches and bullet points ended up becoming a video exploding with sound and color. As it turns out, this evening’s presentation was with our client’s board of directors who had planned on discussing our material and ideas. Not expecting a video prototype, the client was ecstatic with what they saw and felt that it articulated their message and tone perfectly. In fact, it served to do much more than show where we were headed – it gave the board members a clearer vision of the possibilities and consequently, stirred up a flurry of ideas and dialogue among themselves. You can’t really put a price on that type of exchange.
Prototypes are powerful tools. In this instance, our prototype was a storyboard in motion, and it was very effective. We’ve used them to secure business, raise venture capital, clarify a style or theme, test usability, prove the validity of an idea, and so much more. In many ways, prototypes are an exercise in foresight. They can take on a variety of forms depending on the nature of the project; whether they’re interactive, graphical, static, video or practical a solid prototype is an amplification of your vision.
We’ve found building prototypes a useful tool even in the initial brainstorming phase of a project. Early prototypes can help you feel your way around the creative landscape of possibilities. This isn’t to suggest that we fumble around blindly or tinker around recklessly; but rather, our experience in a broad spectrum of mediums allows us to almost instantly see solutions and ideas in our mind and prototypes are the means of translating them from thought to reality.
At M4, prototypes aren’t a means of flexing our creative muscles so much as a reflection of our understanding our client’s vision. It’s our way of saying “we understand” and is often a means of getting everyone centered on an idea or direction and usually the platform from which we move forward.