Tag Archives: creativity

What William Morris teaches us about creativity

OK, so I have quoted William Morris before.

He was ahead of his time – and behind the times – in lots of ways. A lot like the rest of us.

But I was recalling the ‘useful and beautiful’ quote the other day and was looking at other things he said and came across a few things we should all bear in mind as we go about our work. Apologies for these quotes being out of context and for using them for my own ends…

Let’s start with ‘useful and beautiful’.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

In my previous article, I thought this was a good rule of thumb for content strategy. It’s very powerful. Keeping things useful and beautiful is a simple approach. It means you have to understand what’s useful and beautiful to your target audience, which takes a bit of work. Simple is often quite difficult to achieve.

“A good way to rid one’s self of a sense of discomfort is to do something. That uneasy, dissatisfied feeling is actual force vibrating out of order; it may be turned to practical account by giving proper expression to its creative character.”

We are all creative people. Our creativity is not exactly stifled but definitely stalled by the distractions of life. For me, I will play with my iPhone or watch rotten TV and then feel sorry for myself when I could have been doing something. Do something and feel better. Protestant work ethic perhaps, perhaps it’s just human nature to need to make things, express ourselves.

“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created.”

Let’s make stuff and be remembered!

“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

This is a must for all planners/strategists as well as creative people in general. It’s people watching, reading lots of different genres, watching films and popular TV shows… Exploring cereal packets and inspecting shopping malls.  Life is rich. You don’t have to go far to be an explorer and learn from your travels.

“Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization.”

This is a sticky one. I work in a very modern industry. But I don’t like lots of things about it. I’m keen to change it. We all have the power in us to make things better, turn that hate into positive change.

“Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.”

This is so true. ‘Why are we doing this?’ ‘Why will this solve the business problem?’ are the two most empowering questions creative and strategists can ask. So ask them, people!

“It is the childlike part of us that produces works of the imagination. When we were children time passed so slow with us that we seemed to have time for everything.”

The creative adult is the child who survived, as someone else paraphrased later. (i.e. me.) I miss those days which lasted forever and I did drawings and wrote stories and made up interminable structureless plays. But time is just the same. I might have more things to do than I did then but I can still make time.  We all can.


1 Comment

Filed under Work

Why I am tired of the big idea debate

You’ve heard it before.  ‘The big idea is dead.’  ‘It’s all about lots of little ideas now.’

I just read yet another article about it and felt that it was time to say something again.

I am of the impression that we work from ‘brand platforms’ – sets of values and messages which they use to connect with their audiences, and that we can use these platforms as means of creating work based around ideas of all different sizes.  (Whatever ‘size’ means.  I think it means that a big idea can do lots of things, whereas a smaller one doesn’t go as far.)

However, the debate about the big idea still goes on.  I believe that this is because there is a wee backlash going on.  This is based on traditional planning vs the new planning.  People like me who have made the transition from making above the line campaigns in agencies where TV was the pinnacle, to digitally led agencies where we can do whatever is best for our clients because we have every channel at our disposal.

Because planning in digital seems so different, we feel the need to redefine what we do.  However, after doing this myself for a while, I now feel it is a complete waste of time.  What I do now is essentially the same as it has always been:

  • understand the audience
  • identify insights
  • agree what we want people to understand about the brand
  • agree what we want people to do with the brand
  • come up with good ideas about how we can make that happen

I’ve been criticised on the blog for this in the past.  And that criticism was fair, so I had a go at trying to explain why I wasn’t totally old school about it.

Big ideas are sexy.  They take ages to come up with.  Wouldn’t we all like to come up with one now and again?  On the other hand, lots of little ideas can be greater than the sum of its parts.  Horses for courses.  It’s up to us to work with our clients to do what is best for their brand.

I’d really like if the big idea debate could just die, rather than the big idea.

Rather than go on about it any more I’d suggest reading the following articles and making up your own mind.  (And then let me know what you think. Or don’t bother.  If you don’t reply I will assume you are getting on with having good ideas.)


The big idea is dead:

Think small

Why small matters

The big idea is dead

Rethinking the big idea

The elusive big idea

Simple ideas, well executed

Why it’s time to move away from the big idea


The big idea isn’t dead:

The big idea isn’t dead, it’s just smashed up into millions of pieces

Why size matters, big ideas aren’t dead, and ‘think small’ is dangerous advice

The big idea is alive and well

The big idea ain’t dead

Are big ideas dead?  Here’s one to watch out for


Leave a comment

Filed under Work

Nothing is unthinkable

I came across Will Burns’ post Nothing is Unthinkable via Neil Perkin’s blog post of the month feature today. (If you aren’t familiar with this regular feature, it is definitely worth following, and participating in, and looking back at, if you like reading clever people saying clever stuff…)

I really like this article because it fits nicely with all the thinking I have been doing recently about ideas, where ideas come from, and how to get good ones. It focuses around how someone said ‘There are no new ideas’ and deflated everyone’s enthusiasm.

Apparently (according to Brainyquote, that bastion of useful less ful information) the quote is originally attributed to Audre Lorde, who I had never really heard of. Perhaps because I don’t like poetry. Anyway, she actually said

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.

which is quite a bit more positive than the colleague in Burns’ article. And it is also quite true.

Burns says it’s important to remember that two old ideas can make a new idea – this ties in nicely with the Steven Johnson stuff about half hunches. This is also true.

Can two seemingly opposing ideas both be true? What I think is this. Whether they’re old ideas or new ideas, as long, as Audre Lorde says, they’re presented and packaged in a new way, or applied in a category they’ve not been applied before, and so on, they are ‘new enough’.

More importantly, who cares if the idea’s truly ‘new’? It’s much more important to maintain a positive and encouraging atmosphere so that people can get on with bumping their ideas up against other ideas to make better ideas.

I’m not necessarily saying planners/strategists have to be cheerleaders – it’s just as important to be realistic and critical – but the role of the strategist is to work out ways of keeping everyone engaged – not just the target audience – but creatives, design team, account management, your SEM team, and even the client.

This is best done with lots of interesting ways of approaching the problem, of making whatever brand/product/service you are working on seem essential to human existence, of making solving that problem a challenge people want to conquer.

It’s not life and death in marketing, it’s meant to be fun. We’re coming up with new ways to sell stuff, in hopefully creative ways.

That’s pretty much it, actually.

Leave a comment

Filed under Work