This is an old “This American Life” about the writing room at The Onion. I was reminded of it the other day at work. It is an excellent example of the creative process at work and a pretty funny behind-the-scenes look at one of the most consistently funny publications in the country.
"Inflatable Trans Ams and Stained Glass Backboards" or "Have An Idea That Forces You To Learn Something New"
I love to see side projects in someone’s portfolio. Granted, they need to be interesting and well-done too. Bad poetry doesn’t score many points. But good side projects show what you’re capable of with no restraints. How far you’ll go to make something cool. How big of an itch you have to just create something new in the world.
About six months ago, we hired this guy. His name is Guy. He’s a great advertising creative, but beyond that he has a whole life as an artist. He has two portfolios, one for advertising and one for his art. Here’s his art portfolio. For the inflatable Trans Am idea, he had no idea how to make inflatables. He just had the idea, then he started calling people to figure out how to make it happen. The end result is pretty bad-ass.
|Guy Overfelt, untitled
(his 1977 Smokey and The Bandit Trans AM as an inflatable) 1999, 2009
inflatable nylon and electric blower
54H X 204L X 84W inches
Another friend of mine recently started a side project (obsession) that required him to learn a new craft of his own. His name is Victor Solomon. I know him because he used to do some freelance editing and the occasional shooting for us. He had an idea to do basketball backboards made out of stained glass. A comment on the deification of athletes, the spiritual nature of sport, something like that.
When he had this idea, he knew absolutely nothing about stained glass other than that he liked how it looked. So he did some research and did an apprenticeship with some master stained glass dudes down in San Jose. It takes him around 100 hours to make a backboard, but man are these things cool. And as he’s just starting out, his craft is only going to get better.
See more of his backboards at literallyballin.com.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. The only ideas that matter are the ones you care about enough to actually bring into the world. Pick the hard ones–the ones that you don’t know how to make. Let your passion to see it realized be your fuel. Make yourself learn something. In the end, you’ll have created something in the world and in yourself.
A Short Lesson In Perspective
You may have seen this post from Linds Redding floating around. It’s gotten a fair amount of much-deserved press. It’s important, much more important than most of the stuff we post here. When you have 5 minutes, you should read it.
David Oakley’s Why Is Your Name Upside Down?
The Third Shoe
Yesterday I was having lunch with Tracy Urquhart, our awesome creative operations manager, and I was talking about being disappointed when creatives take my direction exactly and bring nothing else to the table.
Tracy said that one of her first jobs was selling shoes for Nine West. When a customer asked to see a shoe in a certain size, she would bring that shoe in the size the customer wanted. She’d also bring a second pair that was similar, maybe a slightly different model or different brand. Then she’d bring a third pair. Something else completely. Something surprising. Something the customer wasn’t asking for at all. But maybe–based on a hunch, something they said, maybe based on their style–something the customer would really love.
This is a perfect metaphor for what we should always be doing. Whether you’re addressing feedback from a creative director or client, bring what was asked for. But don’t stop there. Is there another way to do it? Maybe the direction was to emphasize a point more in the voiceover of a spot, but there’s a better way to solve that same issue visually. What other ways can you solve that specific problem?
But don’t stop there either. What else is there? How can you completely turn the problem on its head? What can you do that’s radical and surprising? What is your gut telling you? It may be completely wrong. That’s fine. You’ve already done what’s asked. But there’s a chance that third shoe just might just be more spectacular, more right than anything.
An Interview with Andrew LeVasseur, Head of Experience Design at VCU Brandcenter
At the VCU Brandcenter’s annual recruiter session, there’s a small group of tinkerers and builders and mad scientists who sit in the same room as art directors and copywriters, but kind of off to the side. Instead of ads, their tables are littered with drones and robots, hacked toys and games, tablets with app prototypes. Tangible things, things they’ve actually built. They are a new breed, a new creature in the industry. Until now, they’ve been called Creative Technologists.
I love talking to them about their work. I have a whole different set of questions than when I talk with the art directors and copywriters. Things like “What the hell is this?” “How’s it work?” “How did you make it?” “What’s this button do?” “Have you patented it?” And, usually in the back of my mind, “Wow, is this even advertising?”
This track—Creative Technology—has just been renamed Experience Design. We caught up with Andrew LeVasseur, the head of the Creative Technology/Experience Design track to get his take on VCU Brandcenter’s approach to technology and user experience, the future of the program and the reason for the name change.
What’s your role at the Brandcenter?
I joined the VCU Brandcenter as an adjunct in 2009 where I played a large role in establishing the Creative Technology track (a precursor to the Experience Design track). As head of the Experience Design track, I help shape the vision, curriculum and course content. As a professor, I teach multiple courses focused on strategy, design and technology.
While at the VCU Brandcenter, Experience Design Students will:
- · Study new and emerging user participation platforms like digital, social, mobile, and experiential (IoT).
- · Identify new and imaginative ways for brands to engage with users across platforms.
- · Design ads, interfaces, apps, wearables, robots, flying machines…things yet to be imagined.
- · Balance strategic, tactical and technical project demands to bring ideas to life in both form and function.
Here is the Fall 2015 Course List:
Semester 1: Business of Branding, Creative Thinking, User Experience Design, Physical Computing 1
Semester 2: Strategy & Design, User Participation Platforms, Visual Storytelling
Semester 3: Creating Gravitational Pull, Experimentation, Physical Computing 2
Semester 4: Innovation, Persuasion, Indivituation
Breadth and Depth. You’ve heard it before, but the industry requires talent that gets the big picture, but also brings something unique and differentiated to the creative exercise. We focus on developing talent that has strong foundation in concept and craft. Dependent on their unique ambition and interests, our students also develop an area of specialization while at the VCU Brandcenter. For some XDs, it is user-centered design and related UX disciplines (UI, IA, IxD, Front end-development). While others are passionate about concepting, designing, building and trialing new experiences that push the envelope of what is technologically possible. While other students are focused on the production of dynamic multimedia content for new environments. There are so many emerging opportunities out there, that we leave it up to our students to shape their own views and invent their own visions of the future.
See the portfolios of current Experience Design students and the current student showcase.
VCU Brandcenter launches Experience Design Track
Whenever I go to the VCU Brandcenter’s recruiter session, I get so inspired when I talk to the Creative Technologists. They make some crazy-cool stuff. Tangible, with real-world applications. To be honest, the thought has crossed my mind… “Dang, I should go back to school and learn to do what these cats are learning.”
So it’s exciting to hear the news that the CT track is evolving. It will now be called Experience Design. The curriculum concentrates on the conception, design, prototyping and building of brand experiences – pushing the envelope on what is technologically possible.
From the Brandcenter:
“We are experience designers. We dream things. We make things. We break things. And then, we do it again. We don’t define ourselves by the things that we make. We do define ourselves by how those things make others think and feel and act. That is why, on any given day you might find us making any number of things: ads, interfaces, apps, wearables, robots, flying machines, … whatever it takes.”
Last year’s students were in high demand. They will continue to be so as agencies and brands see their increased value. Students interned and were hired by companies like Coca-Cola, The Barbarian Group, BBH, The Martin Agency, AKQA, Deutsch LA, and R/GA, to name a few.
The track is run by Andrew Levasseur. Here’s what he has to say about it.
If you’re interested, here’s some more info. This is without a doubt where the industry is headed. It’s not surprising to see the school one step ahead.
Cris Carter on Stuart Scott
You probably saw the news a couple weeks ago that Stuart Scott, ESPN sports anchor, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Many moving and inspirational things were said about Stuart. He was indeed one-of-a-kind. You could see in the genuine reactions how much respect and love his colleagues had for him. One reaction that really struck me was Cris Carter’s. I can’t figure out how to imbed the video, but you can see it here, at about 5:10.
“He was a role model for me. He talked, on Sportscenter, like me and my friends talked. He did it his way and was great at it.”
That, for me, summed up why Stuart Scott was so revolutionary. Before Sportscenter, sports news was kind of like the other news. The guys on Sportscenter talked about sports like fans, like a bunch of guys just hanging out watching a game. They changed the way sports were covered everywhere. Scott, in particular, brought a unique voice. He wove hip-hop references into his coverage and connected with young people everywhere–urban African-American kids because he sounded like them and young white kids because he just sounded cool. Someone could have–probably did at some point–tell him that he wasn’t talking like a serious sportscaster. But he did it his way. He believed in his voice. That’s what made him great.
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry
Key elements of the creative process
“It’s all too easy to waste the energy we need for important creative objectives on unproductive or unfocused behaviors.” (e.g. constantly answering email) [p116] The opportunity cost of sitting in unproductive meetings or answering emails, dealing with politics and other BS has a huge opportunity cost. Which, smartly, Henry defines with this quote: “You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.” [p128]
“You are defined by what you say no to.” [p130]
“Fear of success is often more destructive than fear of failure because it’s masked in the guise of wisdom.” [p59]
“It’s great to stand on the shoulders of giants, but don’t let the giants sit on your shoulders.”
Said less poetically, “there is a form of oppression that emerges when we allow the work of our influences or competitors to drive our creating in an unhealthy way.” [p62]
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”
–Edward de Bono“Few things in life are less efficient than a group of people trying to write a sentence.” -Scott Adams (Dilbert)“Creativity is a natural extension of our energy.”
–Earl NightingaleAt the beginning of every season, Vince Lombardi would give a talk to his players. He would start that pep talk by holding the ball in the air and saying to the professional football players around him: “Gentlemen, this is a football!”
I was going to add something else to the title of this post, like “:Creative Genius” or “:Master of the Unexpected,” or “:God of Mt. Comedius,” but if you need more than “Bill Murray,” you should be kicked in the nuts.
I just finished this article about Murray in Rolling Stone. Please read it. My takeaway from it, broadly, is that the characteristics that make you a good creative person are the same characteristics that make you a good person. A fun, interesting person, at least.
In addition to some great stories, here are a few gems:
“Someone told me some secrets early on about living. You can do the very best you can when you’re very, very relaxed. And I realized the more fun I had, the better I did.”
“Wear your wisdom lightly, so insights come as punchlines.”
On his famously bizarre/amazing interactions with the strangers:
“My hope, always, is that it’s going to wake me up. I’m only connected for seconds, minutes a day, sometimes. And suddenly, you go, ‘Holy cow, I’ve been asleep for two days. I’ve been doing things, but I’m just out.’ If I see someone who’s out cold on their feet, I’m going to try to wake that person up. It’s what I’d want someone to do for me. Wake me the hell up and come back to the planet.”