Creativity is a commodity that we buy and sell; it enables clients to frame what we do for them and helps identify a product of value that we create — at least for a short time. What we design as new today becomes quickly old by tomorrow. It feels like we continue to churn out stuff from a default position, following and repeating the same steps as before. I believe routine leads to failure because this is where the position of default lives.
The way in which we produce creative work can’t follow the same old rules because creativity is evolving. It is now moving towards establishing a longer-term relationship with the client (beyond being merely transactional) to the place of a meaningful, lasting friendship. This relationship is characterised by us building and making stuff together, by way of the client embracing true creative freedom in order to create with us (not us for them), through true collaboration and shared ownership.
Therefore, the agency mind-set must move forward from being one of elitism to one of being prepared to instigate good things (and, in so doing, making the choice to walk away from the step-and-repeat mode). There’s a sense of creative elitism about the way things are currently, and we are compelled to accept this because of the post-industrial model within which we live and work. Clients are people too, and we forget this sometimes in the busy world of agency versus client, timelines and costings.
Creativity and design should inspire us to, once again, become childlike, with the freedom to break things, draw outside the lines and question when someone says “This is not how it is ‘supposed’ to be done”. Moreover, we all remember the phrase “Stop running around and sit still!” The default position of children is one of happiness, unlike our position as adults. We need more childlike and creative spontaneity in the corporate workplace to drive innovation away from cultures that penalise people when they ‘play’. Why is being an adult so serious? Are we just repeating the model handed down to us from the generation before? It appears to be so.
Every creative journey must begin from an unwritten page, which is why I do not like to meet clients at their offices because this is not where adults ‘play’, but instead, ask them to meet me for a walk in the park or to go for an ice-cream — why not? We use neutral places to encourage clients to express their ideas early on, enabling them to jump into the creative process unhindered by whom they think they are, or by what defines them.
It is important to question why processes are so formal and regimented when it comes to relationships and design. Why we so self-important and protective? It’s also important to get to know a client first and identify whether we share the same values, because it is this which ultimately benefits our relationship and shared journey. Let’s encourage one another to be spontaneous, creative and joyful…who knows what innovations we will dream up together?
The creative process does not ‘do’ formal well — it never has. The word design means nothing of real value on its own, but is instead dependent on a person’s willingness and courage to explore brave new horizons — something that is not self-serving, but is beneficial to all. As designers, we have always questioned it…the subtle suffocation of competitive working, done in the old, repetitive way. It is clear that the sharing of ideas and building of authentic, professional relationships is not perceived as being healthy.
I see clients as equals and partners in each playful interaction, as part of the wider process of building value together. In so doing, we begin a quiet revolution through joined-up, creative thought. The old ways are not working, or at the very least, are not interesting enough anymore. Design needs thinking, planning and engagement — entirely different from the default, drifting-along, ‘this is the way it is’ thoughtlessness, within which the client has no role to play. Because, when it comes to making a creative contribution, clients are ‘someone’ too.