Are we all, in fact, in a ‘Creative Industry’?

Creativity is often related almost exclusively with the so-called ‘arts’. When I say ‘creative industries’ you don’t think of a firm of solicitors do you? You’d probably think of a web design company, film company, animation studio, graphic design or music related business. Why is that?

With the concept of creativity we generally have to admit it must mean you have to actually ‘make’ something. I often use the broader term to ‘manifest’ something, i.e. the act of creation ‘brings something into existence’ something that wasn’t previously there.

This is clearly true of all the so-called ‘creative industries’. They use their creativity to manifest websites, films, animations, designs, pieces of music and so on.

But a baked bean factory ‘manifests’ something too, tins of baked beans. A car plant manifests something too, so too does a construction company. So why aren’t these firms labelled ‘creative industries’ as well?

Part of the reason is that in general, what they create, make or manifest is perceived as a commodity. So we may think the graphic designer or photographer is the artist, the ‘creative’, if you like, but the printer who actually makes their design into a printed artifact is not.

So it seems we have two stages here: creative conception (design, writing, making music etc) and the creative construction (printing, recording etc).

I would say it’s wrong to say that one was artistry and the other not. It would be wrong to say one was technical and the other not. Both types have specific skills and particular tools. You could even say both have particular talents. Compare a musician to the recording engineer for example. Are not both creative, one conceptually, one corporally.

We’ll think of the designer of the car as being creative of course but we don’t rate the construction and manufacture on a production line as being creative at all. We might give a little creative credit to the artisan who stitches the fabrics and leather by hand for the seats, but even that’ll be given a little grudgingly.

We often view craftspeople and artisans differently from artists as if the craftsperson makes repeated works, or makes money from what they make they’re somehow not ‘an artist’. They are of course both creative. The artist may be more of a creative conceptualist and the artisan more of a creative constructualist.

Let’s go back to business models and look at the next part of the chain within all industries; the service part. These are the vital parts of a business that make everything happen: sales, people and resources management, marketing, accounts and law. (Some of these are labelled as ‘professionals’ which is a bit outdated, and perhaps even patronising to both those who do it and those who don’t. There’s nothing un-professional about good sales or good design that’s better than a good accountant or good solicitor.)

These service based roles may not actively manifest an end creation by their own hands but they enable more end manifestations to happen. They enable the factory to mass produce goods. They enable the creation of increased wealth. They are necessary for scale. So why aren’t these service roles also labelled as creative? T

They should be. They are the Creative Continuators. They make the creativity of the artists and artisans go further and achieve more.

Here’s a summary of the component roles with our newly defined creative industries:

• The creative conceptualists

• The creative constructionists

• The creative continuationists

A modern example of a company within a previously designated non-creative industry yet is intrinsically linked with creativity is Apple Inc. They manufacture stuff. We can be gushingly romantic and point out that their products are often works or art (the original iMac from 1997 was actually exhibited as such).

But let’s face it, in reality they make mass manufactured stuff, no different to an attractive poster print, no different to a nice car, not really any different to a nice beaked bean tin.

But we do see that company in a different light. We do see them as a creative company, even if the computer, hi-fi or mobile communications industries that they work within are not ones we’d traditionally label as ‘creative industries’.

It’s because Apple have realised that they are indeed a creative industries business and that every part of that business contains highly creative people, whether they’re working in software development, manufacture, design, retail, marketing or whatever.

The big question is – does you business need to do the same?

What creative roles do you actually employ and do you treat them as such (or do you stick to the 19th Century industrialist model of management and worker drones?)

What role do YOU fulfill and where do you sit in the 21st Century’s ‘creative industries’?

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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Change, and not a moment too soon: How I started my own business 10 years ago

My first business card, front and back. The grey part was actually metallic silver.

I started my own business on 12th September 2001. That’s right, one day after 11th September 2001. On that fateful day I was flying back from the Caribbean after a two week holiday and had just landed at Heathrow when the first plane struck the North Tower. The next day I went back to work to find the company I worked for had gone bust (unrelated to 9/11). It was a very strange, unnerving and memorable couple of days.

I was creative director of a multimedia firm. Don’t let that title throw you, I wasn’t on the board and I had no insight into the accounts or general finances of the company. My job was mainly to manage and do the jobs in the studio. I did know, however, that the value of the work coming in couldn’t possibly cover the salaries going out, which had been propped up with loans secured against the boss’s house.

The company had been set up ten years earlier to build bespoke PC systems that were used for multimedia presentations. Most of that market had disappeared due to the advancement of PCs and the availability of straightforward software like Powerpoint which virtually did the job for you. Why spend thousands on a bespoke system when you could pay hundreds for an off-the-shelf one that was probably better?

As creative director, I saw my role as attempting to guide this outmoded offering into the much richer vein of design-led graphics. The company could easily pick up branding, print design and of course web design as well as still doing high-end multimedia such as CD-ROMS which were still in demand. My team created a new identity and marketing campaign along with a brilliant website, mostly due to the talents of Michael Reading (now running that I was sure could have attracted press attention, if not awards, had it been properly launched.

But the boss had put the brakes on. He just wasn’t comfortable with ‘creativity’ and ‘design’. He wasn’t comfortable with newer technology, especially things like the new Apple iBook that Michael has just bought and amazed us all by editing video on it. It was able to do exactly the same job that the bosses hot-wired custom-built three tonne editing suite could do, except that it was a lot faster and didn’t take up half the office. The boss would really rather be fiddling with PCs with their cases off and discussing servers over a pint of ale at lunchtime than creating better and more profitable ways of doing things. He was a great guy, but in the wrong role.

While I was on holiday I had come up with more marketing ideas and the concept of a ‘sub-brand’ that could be used to sell the new design portfolio without appearing to impact on the more traditional technical image the boss wanted to cling onto. I did a lot of thinking about creativity and how it can be used to solve our potential clients marketing and branding challenges and came up with ideas for names such as ‘Ideas Workshop’ and ‘Ding!’ (which I later put to good use).

So, although shocking, it wasn’t exactly a complete surprise that the company was no longer in business when I got back.

The next day I started my own company and began to put all the ideas I’d come up with into practice, except this time, for myself.

Many people have started their own business in this way: because they had to. Sometimes you need a kick in the teeth to actually take action and get on with things.

So why did that multimedia company fail? To an outsider it could have appeared to have everything going for it. All the ingredients were there (Except for clients of course.)

Inflexibility, stubbornness and fear of change were characteristics of the boss. He yearned for the good old days of 1990 when it was just him and his mate building custom PCs. He saw the market was moving, but couldn’t or didn’t want to follow it.

With all it’s imperfections, that business helped give birth to mine. To start with all I did was the exact opposite of what it did and hit the ground running with the rejected ideas I’d come up with that my gut instinct felt would work, and it did.

But all the time I was aware that it’s oh so easy to fall into the same trap that my old boss found himself in. He loved doing part of his business. But it became the part that no-one needed anymore. His business had become a comfortable slipper to wear, but the terrain outside had transformed into a rough and dangerous landscape.

Over the last decade, I’ve tried to keep my business flexible and in many ways it’s completely different to what I started doing on that day in 12th September 2001. My old boss has found his feet too, finding a role within a technology business where he can at last do what he does best.

So here’s to the next 10 years. Who knows what we’ll all be doing then!

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
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My New Website: Part 5 – My crazy design idea

From the starting point of wanting my website to look like a magazine, I thought about how I could take that idea further. I wanted to come across as unique so what approach would be unique? What if I made it look like a comic rather than a magazine? What if I found a way of breaking down the ‘grid’ structure that every website uses? The comic strips I love the most are by illustrators like Dave Gibbons (Marvel), Frank Bellamy (Dan Dare) and Chris Achilleos (Target Books). But the one that struck me most for inspiration was the work of Ron Turner in the 1960s TV21 comic. The way he broke up the panels to make them non-linear was the perfect visual metaphor for my message, to be reflected on my website.

I plotted out the essential content and started to work out the shapes that I’d use to display the various clickable areas that would visually show the visitor what the website was about.

You can see the sketches below.

The next phase was to get new photography. I wanted photos of me (after all, it’s me the website is selling) but since there was to be so many panels, the photos had to look interesting and dynamic, almost like shots from panels of a photo strip. Working with Haddon Davies at his studio, we came up with a large variety of shots that could be matched up with the uses I had in mind. What I didn’t want is a generic portrait shot, that would have been no use to me. We shot the images on white and black backgrounds to make it easier for me to cut the images out and apply them to a variety of backgrounds. We were also keen to avoid clichés where possible and yet get the balance right between interest, irreverence and professionalism. Everything about my brand needs to capture my uniqueness, and that obviously has to include the photography.

See what you make of the result:

My New Website: Part 2 – Website fashions

The new Doctor Who website impressed me. In many ways I found it refreshing and groundbreaking. The main reason, and the idea that I’d become besotted with implementing on my own site was this: it should no longer looked like a website. It should look more like a magazine.

BBC doctor who website

There are fashions in website of course, as there are in anything. Just a few years ago the trend was to have two or three columns of text, full of hot links to various pages. The classic and perfect version of this is the BBC news website. A great many new websites today are built with the pre-fab templates provided by sites such as WordPress. They follow this approach of blocks of text and navigation.

I watched with interest how the BBC would handle the re-branded television programme Doctor Who in March this year. That brand makes almost as much money from sales of the programme abroad and merchandise of every description as the rest of the BBCs output put together. They couldn’t afford to mess it up. The same was true of the new Doctor Who website.

It didn’t disappoint. Apart from the obvious changes of the new logo and the corporate colour changing from orange to blue, the changes on the website were actually quite dramatic. It ceased to follow the common ‘blocks of text’ format and instead used blocks of images and video. Here was something that you could take in at a glance and navigate without having to read much text until you were where you wanted to be. I loved that idea.

My own website revamp was long overdue. How did I know? Some key trusted individuals had pointed out that what I do onstage, how I behave in person and the essence of who I am is clear and strong. That part of my branding was good. But when they saw my website (the structure of which was now three years old) was underwhelming. The excitement and uniqueness just wasn’t present. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with it. And that’s the point. It was, ok. It was ‘good enough’. It ‘did the job’. But it wasn’t me. I’d moved on and left it behind. Something had to be done. Fast.

Find out what here.

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Speaker on Design and Branding at the AEO Conference

Ayd Instone AEO conference speaker creativity branding design

I spoke on Visual Intelligence – the secrets of creative design at the Association of Exhibition Organisers at London Olympia in January. The talk was about how businesses need to understand and commission creative design. As usual I encapsulated part of the message in a new song.

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The Apple of Your i

Is the iPod the best mp3 player around? Possibly, it’s certainly outselling all the others put together, controling over 70% of the market. Interesting that it has the least features of all its competitors. So what’s going on? Anyone who owns an iPod or an Apple Mac knows. Apple products appeal emotionally and asthetically. Other manufacturers seem to ‘over design’ and over complicate things. This is why Apple is doing so well at the moment; their products appeal to the right brain directives of wholeness, meaning and empathy.

According to Steve Jobs, Aple CEO and co-founder, one major reason for the iPod’s success was its relative simplicity.

“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products—they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried make something much more holistic and simple.”

Jobs was asked if he was worried about Microsoft’s new media player (Zune) and its “community” features:

“In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.”

Proving that the best solution is usually the simplest. Always ask yourself, ‘what am I trying to achieve here?’ In the case Steve mentions above you want to share your music to get connected with someone. The idea isn’t to prove wireless technology. Some companies seem to have lost awareness of the benefits in their race to prove how good their features are. Not Apple, and the sales figures speak for themselves.

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But is it Art?

So many people use the concept of creativity interchangeably with art. But creativity is not art. Art is one of the uses of creativity. When asked to make a list of highly creative works, people might list the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony or Milton’s Paradise Lost. These are all recognised works of art but only a small subset of human creativity. Inventions, solving social problems to form civilisation, engaging in business and finance and the exploration of the natural world all require and utilise creativity.

Here’s my definition of creativity:

perception + decision + action = creativity.

It’s about taking action on an idea that has been formed from observation and decision. So invention, problem solving, scientific discovery and art all fit in the subset of creativity. But what is this thing called art, especially in a modern world where the likes of Damien Hirst present half a cow in formaldehyde.

One dictionary definition of art states it is the product of human creative skill appreciated primarily for its beauty or emotive power. Well that takes care of paintings, music and books. But what about dead cows? Is Hirst being extra creative by bending the boundaries of what’s acceptable? If the dead cow is lying in a field or hanging up in an abattoir it certainly isn’t a work of art. But if a human makes a choice, a decision to do something particular with it and then actually follows through and acts on it, then it can claim to be art. So art has to have human intervention.

The action required to make something art is the act of putting it in a ‘frame’ of some description. In effect by pointing it out as art it becomes art. A buttercup can’t be art when it’s in a field, or even when it’s picked. But if it’s pressed and displayed, it’s had the injection of human interaction then perhaps it can become art. A sunset cannot be art, no mater how beautiful or awe inspiring. A photograph or painting of it can.

My Apple Mac computer is an aesthetically pleasing thing. Is it a work of art? I would say no, it is not. Neither is a Range Rover. However they are both wonderful pieces of design. But place either one of them in an art gallery (as they both have been) and they become works of art in that moment.

Design is applied art. Both the Mac and the Range Rover have function as well as aesthetic properties. They have both form and function. Good design is described as something where the form follows the function. That’s why people regard the iPod as good design. It is small, it has a screen and a click-wheel interface; it is simple. There are no features on its form that are extraneous to its designed function; it has no ‘go faster stripes’. Its casing is not aerodynamically streamlined like some of its competitors because its function is not to fly through the air but to be held in the hand and put in the pocket. Its form follows that function.

Art, on the other hand, has no function, or if it has, the function is removed once it becomes the art; the Range Rover is a luxury 4×4 off road vehicle which becomes an exhibit, a sculpture, when placed behind the guide ropes in the gallery.

So by our definition here, art requires human intervention. This means that computers cannot create art and neither can chimps or elephants. If they do produce a painting or piece of music it is not art until the point that a human puts it on a pedestal or in a frame and defines it as such. A dog might think that it has forged a wonderful helical sculpture from its own scented abdominal putty on the pavement but it is actually a pile of poo.

Can a computer or an animal really be creative? I would argue that, for now, a computer cannot. The current processors in all our modern computers work by carrying out a single process one at a time and processing them in a sequential, logical order. This is how the left hemisphere of the human brain works. A computer can only run a program that it has been given. A program can even have a random factor entered into it, but it is still a program, written by a human. It is still the human being creative. It’s a bit like loading a paintbrush with paint and shaking it at a canvas which gives an interesting stipple effect. No-one would think it was the brush that created the painting. It was the combination of the laws of the behaviour of liquids and gravity set in motion by the hand of the artist.

There are a few documented examples of apes fashioning simple tools, or learning to wash their food where one individual finds a better way of doing something and the rest adopt it. There is no proof however that any animal has ever created a work of art, that is a creation that has no function, only form. There are many beautiful animal creations but they all have a clear functional purpose.

There is an argument that mankind’s ‘art’, that is pure form, is actually a recent phenomenon. Ancient art from cave paintings, inscriptions in Egypt though to Renaissance paintings all had a function, to either capture history or to inspire religious or spiritual feelings. Perhaps human art began as a communion with the gods, with the ancestors or with the future. Perhaps only in the modern, materialistic age has art become cut off from the sacred.

But there will always be the sacred in all art and in all creative endeavor. By creating we mimic the work of the great Creator, adding something new to the universe, lifting ourselves up from instinct and survival to become, potentially god-like and eternal.

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