yucciestacheOk, so the “yuccie” termonology has been trending all over the internet since the article written by David Infente on Mashable two days ago. For years I’ve been hiring these guys as a creative director and teaching them at an Art college in Nashville. I think I can share a different perspective. Here’s what I see:

From the seat of the Graphic Design Coordinator at Nossi College of Art, I’ve seen the soon to be yuccie come in with a creative mind full of ideas with everything from traditional drawings and Photoshop renderings to graphics created from mobile apps. Still others are already creating timelines, scripting languages and path sequencing for animated graphics. I also see another creative type that’s a different breed altogether–the creative tech. They possess more of an inventor-like mind than that of a conceptual artist. He/she sees the world caught between reality and a more desired non realistic version that travels way faster than the generation right in front of them. Way faster.

SelfieWhen it comes to how they create, the ends don’t always justify the means. Their attention span is so short that they’re more comfortable creating multiple inventions at the same time without really finishing any of them. To them, the idea started is better than the idea finished. They’re deliberate procrastinators who are patient in their impatience to invent. Add to that the desire to develop a more interesting story around the process than the creative invention itself and you have the millennial designer who’s more creatively dangerous in the middle of creation than anything else.

Curriculums and degree options to satisfy the demand for creative tech skills in the creative industry are evolving fast. So fast most universities and colleges can’t stay on pace. The ones that are succeeding are winning the battle of “what you learned your freshman year will be outdated by the time you graduate”. That means evolving curriculums and degrees while the student is in the middle of their educational journey. Nossi even offers alumni the ability to audit future classes after graduation–for free!

From the Creative Director’s seat and with an ad agency perspective, everyone is trying to adapt to the yuccie’s lifestyle of convenience. Freelancing and flexible onsite hours for team collaboration is becoming the new norm. Continued professional education is also a must as technologies for consumers and brands are evolving rapidly. And just any job won’t do. It’s “the one they’ve been holding out for” and employers are racing to their best fishing holes to catch them.

 

techTo the millennial designer, being creative is the convenient sharing of ideas. Technology is so second nature that teaching them how to use their creative talents for anything other than narcissistically sharing with a selfie-stick is more about diversion than training. Keeping them focussed on how to use their creative story-telling inventions towards brands and employers that comfortably match their convenient technology savvy lifestyles will be the success of not just today’s companies, but newer ways to communicate brand messages for the future.

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It’s officially the start of a new year and with it comes a new occasion to leave yet another year behind, especially my struggles, failures and missed opportunities. However, forgetting my successes, triumphs and personal growth shouldn’t be part of what gets left behind. The new year brings new hope and a chance for reflection. Why did I fail? How did I succeed? Can I have confidence and peace with all of it moving forward?

Human nature compels me to focus on the worst aspects of myself. Why is it so hard to leave the shame and guilt of past mistakes where they belong–in the past? Or better, how can I forget the hurt that was caused by someone else?

I was reminded of these things from a letter that was written to my wife by a dear friend. She so perfectly stated the truth and reminded me that this validity can’t come from this world. The world doesn’t offer peace, only fear of myself and of others. I must look to my creator and savior for this understanding and wisdom. She writes:

“I promise you, there will come a day when you will have peace with the past. You’ll look at, bleed, scream, shake, mourn – and you will leave what makes no sense at the cross. And there will be a day when all of the sudden, you’ll feel so light, so free that it will scare you to be free of the moorings that have suffocated you. You will find God will rush into every crevice, every dip, and the lightness will become Light. And then, my dear girl – beware!!! Everything will look different, smell different / more alive, more vibrant.

And it will scare you enough that you may want to run back and try to shove all that junk back in there, because its safe and known to you. And you will have to look it square in the eye, and walk it back to the cross, where it belongs. Each time, you have to be valiant, because once you give it over to God, you have to keep returning it. It was a long time during which I would have to say “no. You don’t belong in my head anymore. You go back to the cross” to those sick, sorry, sad memories.

The day I realized I couldn’t even TRY to be wounded by that junk anymore was the day I understood God’s love.”

When I focus on my hurt, from myself or from others, I can’t grow, I can’t love, and I can’t even use my talents and skills to their potential. Why? Because I lose confidence, ambition and I fail to take risks that allow for progress. As a creative professional, this can be destructive. As a human being, this perspective leaves me with no hope.

Here’s what Paul, an apostle of Christ, says about this dilemma in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This means that at ANYTIME I can choose to be renewed in Christ–leaving my past failures and hurt at the foot of the cross. It, however, doesn’t mean that these things will go away, it simply means that I can have peace with it. “Here is a new heart, and a new spirit, and in them new light and life, new affections and desires, new delights and joys; here are new eyes to see with, new ears to hear with, new feet to walk, and new hands to work and act with…”–Gill’s exposition. Of course there’s some further understanding of this as it pertains to “living in Christ” and I encourage you to read about this and more. Continued readings can be found at BibleHub.com.

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Everyday I interact with students who are reinventing themselves. Many struggle with leaving who they were behind and can’t embrace who they are becoming. It is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight and you have to find some humility in the learning methodology. For some it happens quickly, for others it takes awhile. Yet sadly, I watch still others who never seem to put the effort into what it takes for this kind of growth. I teach the portfolio class for illustrators and designers during their last semester of Nossi College of Art. It is the most rewarding part of my job to see how these students overcame their fears and found confidence to start a new life as a creative professional. It reminds me of how the “student mentality” can achieve great things. We must all carry this same perspective if we are to be successful in life, in faith…in hope.

So, today I can apply this truth to my profession–my willingness to learn and teach others, my relationships, my responsibilities and obedience in Christ, and even how I value myself. I’m leaving 2013 behind and focusing on what 2014 may bring and that’s exciting and adventurous!  I’m supper pumped about starting off this new year! My hope is to embrace this truth and run, not walk, into 2014.

ChameleonCreativity is communication. Plain and simple. From the time cavemen painted on cave walls humans have been communicating to each other through the things we create. Try creating something without desiring a response and see what I mean. Better yet, create without the desired response and consider it even more.

Today’s graphic designers and art directors are faced with understanding how to communicate creatively in a world that has evolved through technology – allowing for cross-culture messaging in an array of new media vehicles. If there ever was a time to break down the walls of stereotyping, prejudices and empathetic sincerity it is now. Recently, AIGA and Adobe partnered to define the designer of tomorrow, specifically within the next two years. Their findings, through several years of research, are six major trends that will shape the designers of tomorrow. Basically, the development of visual, verbal and visceral communication is much deeper than mere design.

As an educator to college design students, the biggest challenge I face is convincing young creatives to abandon creative trends and develop a clear understanding of deeper communication strategies. “They must understand the social sciences and humanities in order to understand the content they are asked to communicate and they must understand how to work collaboratively with other knowledge and practice specialists.” – AIGA, Designer of 2015 Trends

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A chameleon blends in, finds safety in looking like its environment and doesn’t attract any attention. Finding the “unique” in design is nothing new. So slaying that Chameleon has been put to rest. However, in terms of today’s communication channels, jumping on the latest technologies designed for short attention spans and redundancy of content can be catastrophic to design without considering how to narrow your audience, design within a believable context, customize messaging that aligns with other social conversations and relying on engagement strategies based on cultural realities. In other words, media complacency has watered down creative executions and messaging into a pool of swirling color. Slaying that chameleon will take a deeper knowledge in design thinking than ever before.

Educators are speeding to offer the latest software and technology training without teaching the bigger understanding of how to use these new medias in a unique way. Just having an “app for that” is no longer the goal. Recommending creative solutions with these new resources, including possible considerations to product evolvement by designers, will be the key to success. Tackling creative issues within a bigger perspective outside the designer’s capabilities will now become their responsibility.

Just because a new technology is available to a designer’s creative strategic tool belt, doesn’t make it necessary. Discerning between what’s needed and what is not will be key. However, when it comes to today’s new design education practices, understanding the skills within these new capabilities will be imperative. For example: the creative development of print and e-medias will be essential to tomorrow’s designer. The creation of visual content is completely different with each user. Furthermore, adopting a “student mentality” will be the norm. Meaning, self-growth in continued education, wether on your own or within the confines of an educational institution, will be necessary to maintain continued success. In a recent article by Katia Colucci with The International Council of Communication Design, she states, “According to some experts the current half-life of personal knowledge is five years. In other words, in five years, half of our personal knowledge will be outdated. This means that to be competitive in future professional environments, we need to renew our knowledge by investing in continuous education.”

Slaying the creative chameleon has always been the challenge of graphic artists. Being unique and standing out from your surroundings is heresy to the existance of the chameleon. In contrast, it is essential to the survival of the designer. The term “cliche’ “ will now be applied to new technologies and how we use them to communicate in a transparent world.

To find out more about the future of graphic design, visit AIGA, AdobeThe Bureau of Labor Statistics or contact Bruce Stanley, Graphic Design Coordinator, Nossi College of Art.

SignupIn a world of “sign-ups”, it’s easy to disregard things we’ve already committed to. We rationalize why we had good intentions, but how life is crazy and things come up that keep us from fulfilling our obligations. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “making the reservation is the easy part. Anyone can make a reservation. Now, keeping the reservation…that’s the important part.” Seriously though, I feel this act of justified thinking is what’s tearing apart the fabric of social altruism.

And then there’s the difference between “showing up” and SHOWING UP. There’s a big disparity between physically present and actually being present. Some of us think we’re pretty good at faking this, but we aren’t really fooling anyone. It’s the polarity of selfish and selfless action that either contributes to the status quo or to change.

Time is precious. And that’s not a cliche’. It’s just the truth. So when it comes to committing to something, I’m hesitant to say yes. I think most of us are like this. We are all so busy doing our daily grind that we just can’t fit anything else in. But what if the talents and skills that we have and do so well could be put to better use? Say, the selfless concern for the well being of others.

The irony here is that getting involved in this way would actually bring purpose to my life. A real reason to why I’ve worked so hard to achieve success. To be able to help someone, something, some anything! Looking back, I think I’ve missed way to many opportunities like this. Life has a way of making us all selfish. There’s just not enough time to help everybody so I help no one…except myself.

Enter Designathon, 2010. A brainchild of Ian Rhet, founder of GeekforGood.net and Jessica Murray, founder of Nashville Social Media Club.

Designathon 2010

Their idea was to bring together creative professionals (geeks) for a common good for the city of Nashville. A way to give back to the city we love by volunteering our talents during a twenty four hour event for one needy non-profit. All they asked – sign up and show up. Physically. Mentally. Heartfully.

They asked me to join them as the Creative Director for the event. It was good timing too. I had just left my last job as the CD of a Nashville ad agency, and I was rethinking my whole career. After fifteen years in advertising I was already burned out and desperately needing creative inspiration. I had no idea what I was walking into. Honestly, I don’t think any of us did.

I’ve been involved in many crowd-sourcing events before. Mostly driven by egos, recognition and an attempt at attracting “real” clients post the event. Being physically, mentally and heartfully present wasn’t a requirement. Just follow the process, get the work done and go home.

Calling all

We recruited over thirty volunteers ranging from copywriters, graphic designers, web developers, marketing strategists, social media geeks and PR folk. The non-profit was a start-up to help stop generational incarceration. No name, no brand, no nothing but the passion of an ex convict who personally saw a need and wanted to desperately do something about it. Twenty four hours later a brand was born – Youth Turns. Complete with an estimated $80k worth of marketing deliverables. They had all they needed to start getting awareness, communicate with others about their mission, recruit volunteers, and get funding. The best part was they now had over thirty brand ambassadors to boot. People who signed up , showed up and by the end of twenty four hours, became a coalition of volunteers who found purpose in their lives. Helping others.

We realized we had created something special so we did it again in 2011 for Safe Haven, a refuge for homeless families in Nashville trying to get off the street and reestablished in society. Again, we achieved the same result. A different group of volunteers but the same result. Happy non-profit, happy volunteer hearts.

So when Ian asked me if I was up for it again in April, 2013, I didn’t hesitate. This time it was for a bigger challenge – helping the Tennessee Literacy Coalition (TLC), a state wide organization located in Nashville, trying to change the course of illiteracy for the entire state. July 13-14 was the date held for the third annual Designathon and again, the same result.

TN working 4

TN working 1TN working 2I’m still amazed at the amount of work that is accomplished in that twenty four hours. For TLC: A much needed updated website including SEO capabilities, the ablitiy to measure analytics, share content and most importantly, how to cultivate volunteers, donors and help learners find providers; PSA’s for tv, radio and outdoor ads; four testimonial videos; a blog site with enough sharable content for a month; marketing strategy; social media campaign, strategy and training; corporate giving collateral; press releases; news coverage; and once more, over thirty new brand ambassadors – geeks for good. Here are just a few examples of the work we did for TLC. To see the entire list, see here.

TN infographicTN Bus bench

I could go on and on about the benefits of this event and how I’ve personally witnessed the result of people selflessly giving up their time and talents to help others. I truly believe that the desire in our hearts to extend a helping hand to those in need was planted by our creator. And It’s my faith and trust in God and his call to us to help those in need that should be the only rationalization I need to sign-up and show-up.

My only wish is that Designathon could somehow be duplicated, multiplied and extended to the rest of the world. I guess that’s the basis of writing this blog. To hopefully inspire others to a new understanding of why we should be present for the things we should prioritize in our lives. Helping others.

Here are just a few of the heroes that were brave enough to take that leap of faith and signed-up to be part of something bigger than themselves. I’m proud to say that I know these folks – all twenty fours hours of them.

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mvpI’m often asked, “how do you come up with creative ideas?”. I usually answer, “It’s a process”. It’s true, understanding how ideas are cultivated and developed into great creative executions is why I also say, ”Creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an obligation”.

It’s this obligation that most people never learn to respect and incorporate into their creative personal and professional lives. Every great artist, designer or director of creativity uses some sort of process, bringing successful appreciation or effective results to what they create. But how much time did they spend getting there? Or, did they use the same methods every time to achieve their goals?

Author John Maxwell, author of, Talent is Never Enough, writes, “The key choices you make – apart from the natural talent you already have – will set you apart from others who have talent alone. Talent + right choices = a Talent-Plus Person.” If you have read this book, you’ll know that he is referring to a 16-step process to recognizing and behaving in a way that takes your talent to new a level of value. His steps are not just about cultivating ideas, they are about understanding your abilities and being in-tune with them to reach farther to achieve peak performance – a skill that takes an obligated attitude.

Sure, I have a process.  It’s a 9-step journey to uncovering insights and developing ideas. It is also a path to appreciating persuasion, respecting measurement and being in-tune to my creative balance – perspective and objectivity, including steps that allow for ideas to mature (incubate) and finally, understanding the difference between “execution” and “production” – there is a difference.

So if everyone uses a process, why is it that so few actually achieve greatness? It is this question that points to whether someone is seen as successful or valuable. Using a process can make you successful – just ask any ad agency. There have been many books written about process and the science of creativity. Removing subjectivity and adding a proven system for getting results differentiates one ad agency or designer from another.

It is when a creative person becomes so in-tune with their process that he or she pushes the aspects (the details) of that process to a commitment level more similar to an obsession than anything else. He becomes obligated to things like exploration, collaboration, measurement and the art of persuasion, thus becoming more valuable than others practicing the same process. Taking it to another level, this person incorporates balance in her life with other creative outlets of inspiration, helping to remove emotional bias and instilling clarity between their creative professional and personal life.

The difference between good to great shouldn’t be measured by success. Instead, greatness, associated with talent, should be valued by obligation and commitment.

“Creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an obligation.”

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 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.