The importance of getting things utterly wrong – Ben Priest, Adam & Eve / DDB
The first lecture of the final day at the festival was by Ben Priest, who shared some stories about mistakes he has made and what he has learned from them throughout his career.
The first mistake he shared was a story about from the early days of Adam & Eve (Bens agency) he told us how at first, they would pitch for anything that moves, regardless of who the client or what the brief, which resulted in what he said to be an embarrassingly low quality of work that they were producing at first. It was not until they started choosing which job they were going to pitch for and started caring for the work they were creating more that things started to pick up and the quality of their work increased. ‘Look after the work, then everything will be fine.’ – B.P.
Priest explained how anyone can ‘get lucky’, meaning anyone can do an amazing piece of work as a one off, the real challenge as a designer or a studio is to produce a constant great quality of work, to really make you stand out.
After sharing a few stories about projects, him and his team had worked on in the past, such as the John Lewis penguin add of 2014, and the Google + Front Row campaign, Priest explained how teams in the industry have changed over the years. It very much used to be a pyramid formation of roles, everything ultimately being approved by one person at the top (usually a male designer), with everything having to be filtered up and down the chain of command to get anything done, with the people at the lower end of the pyramid not really mixing and communicating as much with the people higher up towards the top. Whereas now days everyone in the team needs to be much more of an all-rounder, bouncing questions and ideas between everyone with more of an even level of command being carried out… which is a much more efficient way or working as a creative team, which I have also noticed during my year in industry.
Even when working in a team there will be a conflict in opinions at times on what should run and what should, however Priest was explaining how in hindsight with all creative ideas, and ideas in general you can’t always have everyone saying fuck it its brilliant, there is always going to be someone who says you shouldn’t have done that. Which no doubt everyone will be on both sides of that at times.
One other story Priest was telling us about was an advert he had worked on for Harvey Nichols’ Reward App campaign, where they had put together clips of people shoplifting from the store with pixilated faces, which they had spent hours of going through footage to put together. However, when they pitched it to Harvey Nichols they were a bit underwhelmed and wanted something different. However, Priest decided to not give up on the idea and keep going, to which they then ended up with a fantastic add with brilliantly animated cartoon faces over the top of the shoplifters, totally changing the feel of the campaign. So, making mistakes don’t matter… just don’t give up on the idea, keep going, improve it, think about it from a different angle and push it as far as you can. To which you could end up with something that really works like this. The link to the video is bellow the screenshot image and I would definitely recommend a watch, it is very funny and a very good campaign.
Take away liner: Creativity is full of making mistakes.
What makes a good idea and four and a half other irritating questions – Arif Haq, Freuds
Arif Haq went from being a suit, to a client, to a creative giving him a relatively unique view on the creative industry. He shared with us the answer to ‘four and a half’ questions to what creativity is, or rather what ‘good creativity’ is, leading is straight into the first 2 questions…
- What is ‘good’? …and
- What is ‘creativity’?
Ans.Work that delivers an unfair competitive advantageby defeating cognitive familiarity with original thinking, flawlessly executed. [As a side note; flawlessly executed does not necessarily mean big budget, rather perfectly appropriate delivery.]
- How do you scale it?
Haq explained that his opinion is that creativity is the opposite to efficiency, that if you want something to work perfectly it is relevant what it looks like, but if you want something creative then be prepared for it not to work as well.
- I disagree, I think that good design has got to work very efficiently while being as creative as possible – that is what good design is, is it not?
Haq explains that the hardest task in the creative industry falls not to those who come up with new ideas, but to those who risk their careers in approving them. The ones risking their careers on the creativity are the clients, as they are the ones that are actually effected, their brand, their image is what is on the line to what you are creating for them.
Oh sh*t… what now?: Honest advice for new Graphic Designers – Craig Oldham
“They bear their marks, their imperfections, and bring to mind the past that made them” – Jun’ichiro Tanizaki
Craig Oldham has been recognised as one of the most influential designers working in the UK, and after his refreshingly down to earth talk I can see why.
He began sharing his story of education, and people in his life (in particular his family) that influenced him, and who didn’t. Oldham also shared his values as not only a creative but as a person and how important it is to practice them. He highlighted how important it is to be honest and tell people what you think and what your opinion is, if something is shit, say its shit, form an argument! – don’t just like things because people around you like it and say it is good… if you don’t think it’s good tell them, say why.
Oldham explained how a lot of people in the creative industry get very arrogant can be very vane. He said he had come across a lot of people in his career that thought they were better than all the other non-creatives, with an attitude of ‘oh you don’t know anything about design, I’m a designer, I know best’ which he reassuringly says that is simply bollocks. No one is better than anyone else. He shared this quote from his book which was very relevant;
‘I believe that all designers are creative (or God) but you don’t have to be a designer to be creative (of God)’ – C.O.
Finally, Oldham shared a few pages of his new book ‘Oh Sh*t What Now?’ (which I purchased at the festival) with us. One page was from a section where he was explaining how if you were ‘interested in design’ you were always told to be looking around, gathering information, compilation and sympathy. Whereas he said that was incorrect, what you should do is not just be looking, but take observations by questioning something you see… why is it that colour, why is it there, why this, why that. Instead of gathering information, gather knowledge… ALWAYS IMPROVE, he talked about how so many people once they get out of university and land their first job they put their feet up, thinking they have ‘done/made it’, which is ridiculous, keep pushing yourself, keep the momentum going, always keep learning. Finally, empathy, experience it for yourself, if you are designing for something, experience it so you really know what you are designing for.
At the end of the day, we as designers are communicators. Clients come to us because they don’t know how to get their message from to their audience, so we help them communicate it. One thing Oldham mentioned which is worth remembering in projects is that ‘You don’t have to like the work, for it to work’. To finish up, I am just going to share a few quotes from Oldham’s presentation that I found to be insightful;
‘You must define creativity. Understand what you value as a good designer and why. Then you’ll know what it takes to achieve it’ – C.O.
‘I have gathered a bunch of other men’s flowers, and all that is mine is the cord that binds them.’ – Michel De Montaigne
‘Bravery is rarer than talent’ – C.O.
‘You are nothing without your opinions’ – C.O.
Take away liner: Have an opinion, AND SPEEK IT!
Image 1: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/07/13/harvey-nichols-deters-would-be-shoplifters-freebies-app