Personal growth

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The title of this post sums up what many creatives today are feeling–their careers are being challenged by the unrealistic pace of technology and the ability to keep up. Having worked in the advertising industry for 18 years, I graduated college with a BFA majoring in graphic design. At that time, Apple was becoming the industry standard for designers and Adobe was just getting started as the go-to software company. My classmates and I were learning the very first versions of Photoshop, Illustrator and, Quark Express (not an Adobe product), because InDesign didn’t exist and its predecessor, Pagemaker, was a weak competitor. To give today’s designers a clue of what I’m talking about, Photoshop hadn’t even introduced layers yet.

Skip forward 10 years, 2005, the iPhone still had two more years before it’s introduction and websites were still considered untraditional media. Everything was mostly print and a designer’s life was moving at realistic pace. Learning new trends and adapting to software changes are part of a graphic designer’s job. However, today’s changing pace has tripled since the two generations prior. What use to take 10 years to radically change the industry and advertising media platforms, now takes 2-3 years.

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Since the introduction of the iPhone and it’s multi-touch screen, 6 years ago, and the iPad, 3 years ago this April, we have seen a dramatic shift in how consumers access information and how they engage with advertising. Terms like engagement strategies, mobile, interactive and integration now fill the brainstorming rooms of many ad agencies and now even classrooms within college environments.

So what does all this mean? What’s my point? Because what I’m saying isn’t news to anyone. And mostly to those I’m addressing–graphic designers, art directors and creatives alike. Well, it means that we are going to start seeing people infiltrate our industry that may not have had that much experience nor traditional training. However, they are use to the pace of change and will typically be more comfortable with the technology as a user. Their expectation of an ever changing world will be more aligned with the pace of the industry. Watch out old schoolers!

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Key take aways:

1. Be honest about your current capabilities. Are they up to par? Or better, are they above par?

2. Make a plan to adjust your capabilities based on your honest answer to the above question. A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Set goals that will help you accomplish your new growth.

3. Create a list of possible scenarios that will help to accomplish meeting these goals. For example:

     a. Workshops, seminars, conventions, or summits

     b. Online/offline learning – tutorials, textbooks, etc.

     c. Take some night classes at a local art college that will help you be more marketable (this might be dependent upon where your honest answer lies to your current capabilities.

4. Take the necessary steps (commit) to personally growing yourself to reach your desired goals.

5. Repeat steps 1-4. Let’s face it, this is your career and it will require ongoing personal growth. It will continue at a faster pace and will increase in the future.

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As the Graphic Design Coordinator of a local art college here in Nashville, Nossi College of Art, I am very aware of these changes and the challenge to not only change curriculum to meet the industry demands, but to find quality instructors who are capable of teaching our students. Even accreditation standards are having to reinvent how they look at qualified professors/instructors coming into the education system.

When I attended college in the early 90’s, the only real focus was creativity. I didn’t have many instructional courses that centered on learning technology. Today, there are just as many instruction courses within our curriculum as there are courses that utilize learning towards application and strategic execution. Of course, there will always be, and for good reason, the fundamentals of design, color, composition, and the history of art to be reckoned with as a young creative student. However, today’s graduating credit hours are packed with technical learning that almost trumps creativity. Creativity will always be the priority of the college in which I am an educator. The day this becomes obsolete will be the day I resign as a teacher of design. And I think I share this concern with many others in the education business.

So, what’s the good news? It’s that we now have an array of new opportunities to be clever, consistent and transparent (real) in design thinking and communicating a brand’s message in unique ways. Grass roots is being replaced with gorilla and multi-media is being replaced with media channels or integrated campaigns. And a campaign’s length is now much shorter and its name is being replaced with words like experiment and beta testing.

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This is very exciting times for creatives. Students are now teaching instructors new ways of interacting with the technology they have been using since childhood. Which makes for some very engaging classroom learning situations where students feel it’s less of a structured learning environment then a shared learning experience based on relevance. To think that my 3 year old grandson will probably never play a CD or DVD and will never use a “land line” telephone are becoming real. Wait, did I say, “land line”? Replace that with keyboard.

As a designer, being challenged at a faster rate falls in line with what should be our motivation for new thinking and adaptability to what gets us excited–the changing ways to create and communicate. This does come with a price. However, the name of it isn’t anything new. It’s called personal growth. How we define this term is however new. Personal growth may have been something you did occasionally within your workweek. And to some, this is still something they don’t do or, unfortunately, their company doesn’t aspire to. Today, personal growth will become a much more robust ingredient to business culture. Workshops, seminars, conventions, which are seeing huge industry growth, and, yes, even going back to school, will be the new standard.

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At Nossi College of Art, we introduced one of the first Interactive Graphic Design programs as a two year associates degree. And if you are a returning student, you already have a degree in this field of study and you can apply existing credit hours to fundamental learning, you can earn that degree in less time. We are seeing adult professionals coming back to school to invest in their careers either on their own or with the encouragement by their current company. With flexible night courses they don’t even have to leave their current employer. We even allow our alumni to return and retake courses with new technical learning for FREE! The college also invests in other shorter term commitments, like a new 6 week social media sympossium offered this spring to the Nashville community. Including well known industry leading professional speakers each week.

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It is exciting times we live in. Fear can kill any new endeavor, especially a creative one. The key is wether you are continually investing in your personal growth as a designer with the pace of the industry, which is totally based on the increased speed of technology that consumers are engageing. Don’t get left behind. Your talents are still valuable. How you use them, based on new technologies, will be the new standard.

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Courageously Creative

December 4, 2012

Courage

So if fear kills creativity, then what must we possess to get past it? As a teacher of creativity, I see everyday this dilemma with students. Building confidence takes time, however we can have courage to move forward, taking risks even in the face of possible failure. The benefits are: we continue to grow our creative abilities; gain experiences through these awkward circumstances; develop processes that we can trust. That said it’s always healthy to be a little afraid or intimidated with every creative endeavor.

Being humble is the first step. In fact understanding this leads to parallels with other self help programs. Having a willingness to learn, asking for help or to seek outside influence can be the difference between being left behind or evolving with the flow of the creative world. These compared with the three benefits outlined above will be the path to success in overcoming fear and finding courage to be at our creative best.

As with any challenge that we strive to pursue, there is an opportunity for growth. Early in the learning process we face hurdles in process, technique and the mechanics of software education in today’s digital creative world. These fundamentals will be a huge asset to anyone that continues to take risks and tries to achieve new skills and abilities.

The cliché’ “once bit twice shy” comes to mind when referring to the second benefit of taking risks and just taking action in the midst of fear. If we are to move past fearful execution, then we need to achieve familiar experiences that provide more comfortable situations. Each experience will help us the next time we approach either the same circumstance or a new one. Building confidence to overcome our fear by past successes in the same situation.

Lastly, the place we want to end up after taking risks and dealing with fear is a new confidence and trust in our capabilities. Newly learned skills and experiences will have an impact on how we feel about our ability to succeed in the face of fear. The knowledge that a familiar process, many times proving successful, can safely guide us through unfamiliar territory. What was once frightening is now just part of the cultivation of new ideas and creative opportunities.

Once we are comfortable to collaborate, share strengths with other creatives, not to mention being influenced by others that we can learn from in our industry, our humility transforms into an attitude of gratitude and appreciation for scary challenges that we have learned are actually an opportunity for beneficial growth. If we can embrace that fear, combined with confidence in sound practices, is just part of something better to come. We can then be more comfortable with our own creative talents, strengths and passion and be of great value to others earlier on in the courageously creative learning process.

Here is an interesting infographic that showcases the “10 doubting thoughts that can cripple creativity”

I’m doing it afraid!

November 30, 2012

afraid

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Fear kills everything – creativity, ambition, passion, purpose…everything! I’ve written about how fear effects creativity, however, this post is about the other.

It has been almost a year since my last post. Funny, that sounded like a confession to a priest. I could give you an excuse, like I’ve been busy with so many projects, that I’ve had some life changes or that I had writers block. The truth is that I just procrastinated until a year went by – mostly because I was afraid to write something new.  I’ve also had a lot of personal change in my life and have been trying to find the confidence I once had as a writer. Today, I’m doing it afraid.

One of the changes in my life, in the last year especially, is that I have a new relationship with God. Joyce Myers, a Christian evangelist, taught me this phrase, “do it afraid”. It seems to have had a real impact in many areas of my life. Her perspective is that whatever it is that I’m afraid of isn’t worth keeping me from what I should be doing. What’s the worst that can happen? Will I die? No. Will I get embarrassed? Maybe – still won’t die. Will I get a chance at growth and a new experience even if I fail? Yes. Will I have missed that opportunity if I didn’t try? Yes.

I turned 47 this year. My youngest child is no longer a teenager, I’m going through a divorce – for the second time and I bought my first pair of reading glasses just a week ago. Truth is I needed those about three years ago. I’m now a grandfather and for some reason decided to get eight tattoos making up an entire sleeve on my left arm – ok that part is pretty cool. And I finally decided to do something about my PTSD I developed from the Army and my experiences in war, a lot of stuff to be afraid of right?

Here’s my point. There were times I felt like giving up. There were many times I wasn’t sure what I was doing anymore. Even still, times I questioned my confidence in the things I’ve always trusted. Until the day that phrase entered my life. “Do it afraid”. At first it was just a quiet voice in the back of my mind, but it has been growing louder over this last year. Today I choose to listen to it. I’m doing it afraid!

So what does that mean? And how has it already helped me? It means I’m surrendering my fear and taking the risk of failing with the hope that there will be some personal growth and change. Yes, CHANGE. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results each time. I’ve been stuck in that cycle too long and I’m willing to venture into the fearful unknown for the sake of change. It’s already working. Mostly because when you have to surrender to something, it works best if you surrender it to something bigger than yourself. I choose God for this purpose. The difference is nothing short of a miracle.

I’m sharing this with you because it has been a fear of mine to present myself to the world in a different way than I present myself to God. In essence I’ve created two different people to live the same life and that hasn’t worked out so well. It has been killing my spirit. Thus, preventing me from change. Acceptance can be a fearful thing – mostly because honesty can be brutal. Today I’m doing it afraid.

The benefits are already being revealed. Each day I become less afraid of things that use to keep me from growing, learning from others and defining integrity I thought I could never obtain. Not to mention, my creative abilities and passion for life are more flavorful, more meaningful, and more purposeful. John Maxwell says, “ talent is NEVER enough”. He outlines 16 different principles that help to form a more purpose driven life. Still, fear can keep you from implementing even just one of them. Today I’m doing it afraid.

To many of us go through life fearful of trying something new, different or unknown. I’m halfway through my life and I refuse to behave this way any longer. Today I’m doing it afraid.

Hire me, I dare you.

January 25, 2012

To be quite honest, I need to be creative. It’s like food for me and I’m definitely an overeater. So give me a project, challenge me, I dare you!

When I first realized I had an affinity for creativity I was 10 years old. I decided I was good enough to draw the illustration of the month in the comic book magazine–I think it was the duck with the cowboy hat, you know the ads for art school. “If you’re good enough”, it said, “you could be accepted to art school”.

At 10 years old I just wanted to be “good enough”. So I started with my first draft and went to my father, the draftsman, for my first critique. “Need to straighten up that line there, and fix that smudge here”, he said. After 10 attempts at satisfying my dad, I gave up. I thought, artists can’t make anyone happy–they’re never good enough.

Getting my BFA in graphic design and minor in print making after my four year stint in the, “Be all you can be” Army, I was ready to be creatively challenged in a career in advertising. I realized that my drive for success was just as ego driven as my need to be “good enough”. My father’s push became my influence for acceptance through accomplishment. I was a sponge for knowledge. If I didn’t know how to do something, I found someone who did and pushed them to my standards–the birth of my art direction years.

After four agencies and rising to a senior level art director, I was enjoying working with some of the most talented people in the Nashville market and beyond. With brands like Jack Daniels, Purity, Singer, Presbyterian USA, The NFL, The NHL and Nortel, the diversity of creative executions became my passion. I realized everyday at work was an opportunity for creating something new–even better, something unique and effective. Now that was acceptance, accomplishment…”good enough”.

My last challenge was becoming a Creative Director at one of the hottest shops in Nashville. However, it was during this time that I realized my true zeal for creativity–giving it away. As a leader of creative teams, my mission was no longer being good enough, it became making you “even better”. Thus the revelation of my real gift from my creator, a teacher. Sure, I succeeded in all the normal responsibilities as an agency leader: planning, hiring, presentations, planning, estimating, planning, did say planning already? It was the time I was able to spend with other creatives that I longed for each day. It was also during this time in my career that I explored teaching at local art colleges. What started with one class here and there became many, then portfolio reviews, lectures and workshops. Even writing creative projects/promts for author Robin Landan’s “Take a line for a walk”. I couldn’t get enough of it.

What I realized was that my desire to be good enough was only actualized by others acceptance. My value became helping people find hope…in themselves. What I didn’t realize was that this was also a curse. The opportunities for me to create on my own, something I found great joy in, was replaced with a selfless passion for helping others accomplish, visualize or just to understand something they couldn’t before. To inspire others meant I couldn’t inspire myself. I thought.

Alas, to live another day. The real joy of life. One more day to do something different. To forget everything you were doing and gain a new perspective. God actually tells us we can became an entirely new person than we were just a second ago. All it takes is a different perspective and faith in the action of believing in something bigger than yourself. BECAUSE, it’s not really about me. It’s about something else. Something even better than good enough.

Today I lead the graphic design program at Nossi College of Art. It’s the best job I could ever imagine. I get inspired everyday by young creative minds grasping to find their “good enough” and for me to reveal to them the “even better”.

I’m also involved with branding and planning as the brand manager with our ad agency. However, I still long for that next project when I can have one more opportunity to do something unique, something amazing. Funny thing is, it can be anything, a logo, a billboard, a radio or tv spot. I love it all. I even do it for free sometimes. The flexibility and expectation of this job is to stay current in my profession. The school’s philosophy in this way allows for relevant teaching and current perspectives within the curriculum and classroom expectations.

Please look through my portfolio pages and if you like what you see, hire me for a project, I’m hungry!



After 17 years in the advertising agency business I’ve realized a vital key aspect of success. I have to give up my own ideas for the opportunity of a better one. Beyond my own self delusional compulsion to “do it right” lies a possible idea at the edge of darkness ready to be birthed. There’s only one thing stopping it. Me.

Yes, I still believe that I’m good at what I do. Yes I am a perfectionist. And no I don’t think that an idea should set sail just to give some irrelevant ignorant conception a chance. However, the opportunity should exist within a creative process that allows for new thoughts and challenges to exist. True collaboration starts with no one owning anything.

To the extent of how this process can be done effectively is the slight difference between obligation and responsibility. Obligation is the commonality shared by those who are devoted to the PROCESS to solve the creative challenge. Responsibility is the ego centric bologna that has ruined the conservative agency model and any other creative educational methodology since. Surrendering the ownership of both obligation and responsibility is how you win.

In fact, this is exactly how crowdsourcing done correctly can be successful. I’ve completed many of these events as a Creative Director and to this day am involved with non profit crowdsourcing projects with 30 plus talented people each time. All within a 30 hour timespan from start to finish. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.

Today I’m an educator. I’m obligated to the process of putting the right teachers in classrooms and to the curriculums that are relevant to the creative industries we send our students out to conquer. Does this make me, our teachers and our students immune to the conundrum of the fore mentioned plague? Of course not. Why because there still exists the ego. Do I still suffer from it? Yes. The truth is in the fact that I want the reward of claiming the responsibility of the idea so I can claim the acceptance of others in a world littered with finger pointing.

Here’s the real truth. In order to be accepted by others, to claim respect, integrity and honor, I have to give up being responsible for it all. I have to surrender the burden of taking it all on myself. When I share the obligation AND the responsibility with others then we all win. We’re all moving together in the same direction. And that also means we all share in the reward together.

This effort takes real commitment by everyone. Those involved can’t just “do their part” and expect the results to be successful. It takes dedication, trust and…passion. Yes passion. Because without giving a shit, there’s no real effort. In the end the weakest links pull apart the strongest chain. However, those that are crazy enough to say it can be done, are usually the ones that get it done.

You might say, that sounds like utopia. And you might be right. But utopia might just be the idea on the edge of darkness, just waiting to be birthed.

Bruce Stanley is a Creative Director and the Graphic Design Coordinator at Nossi College of Art. His belief in the ability to control your creative destiny is why he enjoys sharing his expertise and experiences with others. You can reach him though his blog, caretocreate.com, twitter, @bsimage or at bruce@nossi.edu.

I find it fascinating how many people who call themselves “creatives” spend a lot of effort defending their ownership of creativity and subsequently, their value within it. After spending two decades of creative education and professional experience from a BFA in Graphic Design to Designer, Art Director, Creative Director and Creative Educator, I’ve realized the approach of defending the subjectivity of the creative process and who has the rights to it is futile.

It seems that the evolution of creative ideation and collaboration has some running scared. The concept of joining forces with the consumer, client and the “suits” of an agency to develop strategies and medias designed to communicate in new ways is arguably the sign of the creative apocalypse. It also appears that the ability to conceive ideas and execute and evoke engaging conversations with consumers to uncover honest brands with believable products are only left for a gifted few.

Now, before I get shunned from the creative community, let me clarify. I’m not talking about the creative capabilities of talented artists trained and educated to execute and produce these ideas with the latest technologic tools of the trade – that can be victoriously argued. I’m simply suggesting that today it is time to evolve the belief that creativity, the use of imagination, isn’t for everyone. Creativity can be birthed from anywhere by anyone. I’m not saying that it will be, but that it CAN be – the idea that opportunities presented are possible.

To prove this is a global issue, about a month ago an article, who’s author will remain anonymous, was posted on an online creative professional community called Linkedin titled, “Should we have Creative Departments in the 21st century? Our Creative Director, would kill me if he read this, but surely the whole agency (including client and consumer) is creative now?” Started by a CEO of a London based ad agency. It’s also important to note that the Creative Director mentioned here is quite possibly the alter ego of the CEO and author of this article. After 203 comments, it was enough to warrant me writing this new post.

I think it’s worth sharing a few of those comments, who’s authors will also be anonymous, to frame the calamity that presents us. The conversations between these Creative Directors, CEOs, Writers, Designers, Account Execs and at times clients epitomizes the idea that ownership of creativity and it’s process is in fact coveted. First, a few who are really defensive:

“Asking a questions like that in this forum is really only going to start an argument in my opinion. Most creatives do so much more than generate just ‘ideas’ – the same ideas that you go on to take the plaudits for in meetings and in the end sell to clients to create revenue. Have a little more respect for others trades and skills and they might have a little more for yours.” –Anonymous Creative Director

Who says Client and Consumer are creative, the Client and Consumer? If Client and Consumer are creative why stop at the creative department lets just close the doors and all walk away! Advertising need not exist, your talking about an entirely new industry which basically sounds a bit like a dictatorship to me. Client “Lets make that logo even bigger now that we’ve increase the headline and body copy it’s getting a bit lost.” Mac Operator “Oh what a brilliant idea, how creative you are, lets not worry about your USP the logos much more important.” I’ve got a better idea, lets loose all the suits.” –Anonymous Creative Director

“The idea that “everyone is a creative” is just a further devaluation of what creatives do. There is a lot of that going on. Acct execs who are creative are a blessing. Acct execs who think they’re CREATIVES are not. I have respect for any and all co-workers who do their job, let me do mine and understand that we’re all pulling oars on the same galley.” Anonymous Art Director/Writer

“Funny how people always admire to be creative, I don’t blame them we are lucky! I would hate it if I was a suit man, and I would hate it more if I don’t create. After all what’s in and idea if it is not executed and polished by the creative people. Would you let anybody operate on you other than a professional Surgeon? Enough said, let’s all work together and be happy. Amen.”–Anonymous Creative Director

And now a few post from those who are trying to suggest a new perspective:

“Only if all other departments involving passion, study, and intensity continue to exist, then, for the sake of fairness if for no other, of course we should(get rid of the creative dept.). That’s the cool part! And everyone is certainly creative. That’s the coolest part!” Anonymous Designer/Illustrator

“The ability to work as a team and respect everyones ability to contribute within their area of expertise is the key answer to this question. At all levels, in all departments. Yes, lord knows even accountants can be “creative”. See it for what it is and let it breathe.”–Anonymous Creative Director

“Why do these barriers and pigeonholes exist? I’m CEO of our agency but i’ve always seen my role as listening out for the germ of an idea in everyday conversation, perhaps in a brainstorm, that can form the basis of a great campaign. Because these throwaway comments come from real people, if they’re used as the basis for a creative campaign, they’re much more likely to mean something to the people they’re aimed at, precisely because they’re from real experience and not an advertising cliche or formula thought up and developed in a room where an art director faces a copywriter. Ideas can come from anywhere and now can be spread by almost anything. We’re all creative and my advice is: use your ears. The answer you’re looking for is being spoken somewhere right now”–Anonymous CEO of ad agency and author of the original post

On a final note, I would like to include this comment:

“PS Crowd-sourcing is the lazy man’s/woman’s answer to creative development. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked Americans what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” – Anonymous President of an ad agency

This last statement I think is the most fearful of all. It also has some validity in claiming that fear. Crowdsourcing is a new term on an old idea…brainstorming. The only difference is that the later is more believably trustworthy. Why? Because it is consistently controlled more effectively based on years of an experienced process. The wrongful thinking that crowdsourcing can save time and money is also why it is a threat to creatives everywhere. On the contrary, this process can actually be done successfully. The trick is the answer to this entire blog post’s debate.

I agree that everyone has the potential to be creative. AND we should always allow for that creativity, especially when it comes to engagement and communication strategies with mobile, guerilla and social initiatives. However, not everyone that has a creative idea can make great decisions on what to do with them. Creative leaders bridge planning and strategy into creative executions with their teams. Experience pays off in this area.

What assets do designers and creative writers have that can benefit the agency? Adhering to the science of a creative process, understanding composition and design is a learned skill. Not to mention the countless hours of time spent using the tools of a creative artist/designer. If you aren’t confident with your value within the creative process, it might mean you need to focus on some personal growth and change that perspective.

It’s the idea that everyone has the “potential to be creative” is what we have to be open to. You never know where a great idea will be birthed. Claiming ownership to “creativity” in that sense is a missed opportunity. I admit, this takes a special environment free of egos and respect to the talents of everyone to do their specific jobs aligned with their skill-sets.

Today’s conversations about brands are bigger than ads and scripts. Embracing today’s social technology and the evolving contributing personalities that will develop and collaborate with trained creative professionals is the key to new generations of consumers who will embrace brands that are transparent and honest about their products and services. Am I suggesting an advertising and marketing utopia? Not really, it’s the way we should have been doing it all along. Is this kind of change to much to ask? Will our creative ownership continue to be threatened by change and new ideals and the need to control outcomes that were never meant to be controlled by anyone in the first place? Yes. This isn’t a new argument, but hopefully it is a new perspective.


Growth comes from sharing

November 11, 2010



Twice in one year I’ve camped out at Cadillac Ranch in downtown Nashville for two session presentations at PodCamp and BarCamp. These conferences are held in cities all over the nation and are coordinated and presented by locals covering trends in marketing and technology. Pod Camp was held back in July and more recently, BarCamp in October. You may remember an earlier post on crowdsourcing and how I was asked to be the Creative Director for 30 talented folks helping out a non-profit called YouthTurns. Well, Ian Rhett, from Civic Actions, presented the case study for the event at this year’s BarCamp and asked if I would join him in discussing our success.



It was a good turnout and as expected there were some questions as to how to successfully execute a crowdsourcing event, especially one lasting only 30 hours. Guests included a few of the 30 people who helped execute the function and in typical Ian Rhett fashion, he involved them in the conversation.

The best news came after the 30 minute session was over. Andy Dixon, the founder of YouthTurns, was approached by a representative for TED and asked if he would be interested in speaking at one of their conferences. I think that just put the icing on our case study.

You can read more about the crowdsourcing event in the Creative Director’s section of this website. It gives a complete breakdown of the hours and what the deliverables were – pretty powerful.

Oh, I have to note the brands that sponsored the BarCamp event, at least one of them anyway. Sprint did a good job engaging the attendees with a location van outside the event with product demos and giveaways. Here’s one such giveaway that I thought was pretty cool. A usb wristband – 1G even.