This is a common situation for me; when I make presentations to brand folks, there is an air of anticipation in the room as people wait for me to be funny.
I love hearing about the creative processes behind famous works of art. And in any creative process there are obviously first, second, third (maybe even thirtieth) versions potentially bearing little resemblance to the final product. Yet these versions reflect the trials, learnings, and flashes of inspiration necessary to advance the creative process.
If you don’t mind me asking, what do you do with the early versions of your creative efforts?
I know people who, for any number of reasons, immediately discard early creative incarnations. Others hang on to them for nostalgia or the possibility of later re-mining them for pieces, parts, or perhaps new inspiration.
Probably not surprisingly, I’m in the latter group. To me, you never know when an image, video clip, or written passage could take on new life or provide needed inspiration in a different situation.
Want an example?
For months, I’ve had a half-completed draft of a piece similar to yesterday’s post on not naming things too soon. It was centered on the Flip Mino name, talking about how nobody knew what a Mino was, so the name provided a tremendous amount of flexibility for what Flip wanted the product to become. I never finished the post, but it’s stayed in my online file of blogging scraps. Keeping it top of mind allowed it to be combined with The Beatles piece and become a more compelling treatment of a similar idea.
Here’s my advice: maintain an inspiration file full of unfinished work and exploit it for scraps you can mash up into something distinctive and cool at the appointed time. - Mike Brown
Though The Beatles “Abbey Road” album was recorded 40 years ago, I recently heard a program called “Pop Go the Beatles” about its creation. Told through stories and alternative takes of the album’s classic songs, it was so inspiring it spawned posts for today, Wednesday, and Friday this week.
During an early recording of “Something,” George Harrison hadn’t finished the lyrics. John Lennon advised him to sing nonsense words until figuring out what the actual lyrics should be. One specific suggestion was “attracts me like a cauliflower” during the passage that eventually became “attracts me like no other lover.”
This is great advice. Using nonsense words keeps a writer from becoming enchanted with work that’s “almost there,” but isn’t really on the mark. Nonsense words will get worked on and replaced; “almost there” work might make it all the way to the marketplace, however, if the creator is easily satisfied or downright lazy.
This lesson can extend to developing projects, programs, products, and services. There’s typically a rush to name any of these. Someone picks a rough description that’s close and all of a sudden, the name starts to influence decisions and development steps that should be addressed independently of an early, potentially limiting, and often haphazardly chosen moniker.
Here’s an alternative approach: Pick a code name or some combination of nonsense letters and numbers to describe your effort while it’s in development. Then when the time is appropriate to give it a real name, you won’t have constrained its creation unnecessarily or be challenged by walking away from a now familiar (read “comfortable”) name that might ultimately limit its true potential for success. - Mike Brown
Here’s my annual advice for fireworks viewing: if you have a place to do it, watch fireworks from the highest vantage point you can. We discovered this one year at the top of the Kansas City Hyatt in its revolving restaurant. Forty some stories up, the downtown fireworks looked like Star Wars special effects; the bursts appeared to be coming right at us. Another benefit to really elevated viewing is seeing multiple fireworks displays at one time in various parts of the city.
Another really cool vantage point requiring a little more planning is to be in a plane the evening of July Fourth. Flying back from a NASCAR race in Daytona one year offered the opportunity to see fireworks from the Southeast to the Midwest.
Last year, however, we learned of a cool new vantage point. We were invited to a private party where they essentially shoot professional grade fireworks. While seeing them explode up high is cool, seeing fireworks of this caliber go off 100 feet away was unbelievable.
And even cooler, we’re planning to go to the party again this year with the hope of shooting Monday’s Brainzenning video!
All this is a great reminder – constantly seek out ways to change your vantage point to be able to see familiar things in new and exciting ways!
In the past few weeks, the guest Brainzooming bloggers have ranged half way around the world, from Australia, Chicago, and the UK. This week’s guest post comes from right here in Kansas City.
John Storey of bottlegreen* is an experienced designer I’ve known for several years. I tweeted him recently and asked if he’d like to contribute a designer’s perspective to Brainzooming. Happily, he agreed and shares his personal approach today on finding inspiration:
Where do you find your inspiration?
Much ado has been made on this subject. Supposedly tried and true methods (work, work more, and if still not enough…work harder) may get you there sometimes, but not likely, and definitely not every time. I’ve found that usually when I stop thinking about a solution, it happens. Weird? Nah, I’ve gotten used to it, and it really works! Ha, ha…I know…doesn’t everybody’s method “really work?”
After carefully reading/digesting all the available materials (e.g. creative brief, company manifesto, notes from the marketing director’s child), I usually go mow the lawn, take a walk, or go to my favorite coffee shop to people watch and find a way to relax. My brain then has a chance to catch up with all the information I’ve taken in and can really wrap around the content. I can then think holistically about the project versus only on how I’m going to make this 4-panel brochure different than all other 4-panel brochures I’ve worked on in the past.
If you’re thinking conceptually and allow yourself to “drift,” you can figure out the logistics later. Often you’ll also come up with an alternative production technique that will actually separate this piece from all of the others too. When you allow yourself to be in the consumer’s point-of-view (instead of your heady point-of-view), it can produce very results-oriented work.
It’s also handy to have access to pen and paper to quickly sketch or write an idea when it hits (although your partner might not fully appreciate your little notebooks all over the house, car, bedside, etc.). Sketch quickly, just jotting down the raw ideas…then revisit and explore/refine. When inspiration strikes, you’ll feel it in your bones. It’s quite a rush…and you’ll fill pages quickly so keep going as long as you can in one sitting.
So, go on…relax and do something for yourself or your family – cook dinner, smell the flowers, play with your children – and you’ll see…just when you least expect it…when you actually stop thinking of a solution…BAM! Flood gates will open, barriers will cease to exist, and the creativity will flow.
At least that’s how it works for me. Tried and true. - John Storey
Times, standards, and expectations all change. As we near July Fourth, let’s use a Founding Father to illustrate. Here’s a Thomas Jefferson quote someone tweeted several weeks ago:
Great quote, wonderful language, very true statement.
Do you get the meaning from each version? Yes.
Is the Twitter version as elegant as Jefferson’s original? Absolutely not.
The key is understanding the setting, your audience, and their expectations to make sure you are using exactly the right number of words to get your point across.