Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category
30th May 09
Posted by Ben Malbon & Heidi Hackemer
I’ve just finished an awesome article in ‘New York’ magazine by Sam Anderson called ‘In Defense of Distraction‘. I say finished. I mean barely finished. I’ve been reading it for four days.
The truth is, it took me waaaaay too long to read the piece. Not because it’s not a really top quality dissection of the attention crash, its causes, and ramifications – it is – but because almost every sentence I read contained a phrase, name, concept or idea that I wanted to get more information about. I barely finished a single sentence in one go. I spent more time on Google than on the New York magazine site.
My colleague Heidi (@uberblond) also took a crack at it. In her desperate attempt to not meander off into conceptual undergrowth, she opened a new tab with a Google search every time a thought hit her. At the end of the article, she had racked up almost twenty tabs of where her mind wanted to go. It turned out we both struggled to finish what is a really excellent, highly readable article on a subject we’re both really into. Not good. Some would say pathetic.
In Anderson’s piece, David Meyer, one of the world’s leading experts on multitasking & cognition describes this phenomenon in bald, almost harrowing terms. He sees our distraction “as a full-blown epidemic—a cognitive plague that has the potential to wipe out an entire generation of focused and productive thought.”
This struck a chord with us, although we were both barely paying enough attention to the piece first time around to register the thought. Only when we compared notes did we recall skim-reading that quote as our bit-addled brains struggled to process thousands of concurrent potential search terms at once. Our mutually pathetic attempt at pointed concentration got both of us thinking: if two averagely-smart people can barely concentrate on something that *really* interests us, what does that mean about our ability to think creatively? Hmmmm . . .
Well we haven’t got any smart answers to that one, but fortunately, as we both took so long to finish the piece, in the meantime something on this theme snuck in and offered an interesting counter-argument. A recent piece in Wired magazine by David Allen, ‘How to be creative amid chaos‘, proposes using the disordered reality of over-stimulation, continuous partial attention and multi-tasking as a liberating force that can feed, not stifle, creativity. Allen muses on how, perhaps, the skill of the next generation might lie on mastering how to extract meaning from this cacophony. He cites the example of Evan Taubenfeld, a guitarist and producer in a rock band.
He was telling me how he’s learned to produce an album most effectively. Some of the best ideas for his songs happen while he and his band are working on another one. Now he has a whiteboard in the studio. They’ll be in the middle of one thing, suddenly get inspired about something else, and stop to capture it. Evan said it’s chaotic, but once the band got used to it and trusted the process, they were way more productive and more creative than ever. Before he realised the power of capturing thoughts as they occur, and building in just the kind of structures that he needed to foster and support the process, he experienced lots of wasted and frustrated energy, with much less output. Trying to exert the “discipline” of staying focused on one song at a time stifled his creativity. The coolest thing about the new process, he said, was that making music was fun again.
We thought this was cool, and inspiring. And we’re now less worried about not finishing pieces we start. Far from trying to install some form of order around the cacophony, maybe we should jump into it? Maybe we resist order and accept that it’s from within that craziness that we might craft and find creativity?
You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. (Nietzsche)
27th May 09
11th May 09If data visualisation is the new rock and roll, Elvis has (just) left the building. Aaron Koblin played to an enthralled audience of BBH-ers this afternoon, blew our minds and incredibly kindly agreed to be interviewed by Labs afterwards.
Our interview to follow soon, but to whet your appetite, a quick download of our (and your) key questions for the rock star of the data visualisation world.Balancing immediacy and intrigue: A frequent criticism of data visualisation is that while often extremely beautiful, sometimes it doesn’t make the information contained any clearer-it can sometimes even seem to obfuscate in the name of art. Should great data visualisation simplify or should it embrace complexity and reward exploration? Should it be reductive or expansive in intent?Where left brain meets right brain: When embarking on a project, which comes first, the data or the technique? How critical a role does software play? Do the themes and memes recurring in data visualisation reflect the artists’ preoccupations or the data sets available?Proliferation versus privacy: One of the key enablers of data visualisation is the phenomenal explosion in the amounts of data we now generate everywhere we go. We live in a golden age of open-ness around personal data but will we reach a tipping point where we reclaim our personal privacies? Or will we opt in to share anonymised data for the common good?The power of synesthesia: Some of the most compelling data visualisation projects are those which express one medium-almost one sense- by means of another. Visually representing dance or music, aurally representing data sets-what is it we find so compelling about this “synesthetic” effect?
Crowd-sourcing versus the wisdom of the crowd: Koblin’s recent work experiments with crowd-sourcing but suggests an ambivalence about the process. While a central theme of data visualisation is the wisdom of the crowd, how does it skew the data if the crowd knows it’s being watched? Is the unconscious wisdom of the crowd purer and more compelling or is conscious collaboration of the masses the future? How important is the role of the curator in that process?
Answers – or at least compelling and considered answers – on a blogpost near you shortly….
21st April 09
If the past couple of weeks have seen some of the industry’s finest minds crystallise why there isn’t more great work in the interactive space, then from here on in – inevitably, I guess – this debate is going to need to shift on its axis slightly and focus on the trickier task of finding tangible solutions.
The good news is that there already appear to be some answers emerging, all with the potential to lead somewhere interesting and worth recording. I’m going to approach this pretty organically and see where it goes. Please feel free to jump in, disagree, debate, add your own suggestions etc.
First up, a theme that may seem controversial to some: the wholesale reinvention of a (sometimes much maligned) skill, the art of storytelling.
Ben’s second post caught my attention with the observation that “there’s currently much less of a culture of developing narrative or storytelling on the web” and this got me thinking.
Part of the issue behind this, I would hazard a guess, is the fact story telling as a skill has come to be associated with the old school mores of broadcast advertising. By way of illustration, in his NMA column last week Mark Cridge talked about the need for a creative director to be comfortable with the idea of curation, rather than control. A thought that made complete sense – no question. His piece then went on to conclude “If these are the skills that are going to be important from now on, which type of creative director would you rather work with: a big budget brand storyteller obsessed with control, or one more comfortable with the ebb and flow of the interactive world?”
Reading this, you’d be forgiven for thinking storytelling no longer has a place or is badly in need of rehab. In truth, and I am going to nail my colours to the mast here, it’s never had the potential to be more relevant or exciting.
(For full post click below)
20th April 09
In eager anticipation of the new Terminator film, I’ve done a little poking around into what’s happening in the world of robots.
The main action in this area is clearly in Asia. And while Korea pushes ahead with plans to build robot parks, even going so far as to introduce legislation for a robot code of ethics to “Prevent Android Abuse and Protect Humans,” it’s the Japanese who appear to be in the quickest sprint to building a creepy robo-future.
Due to strict immigration laws and a quickly aging population (its expected that 1/3 of its citizenry will be over 60 by 2050) the country is racing to realize a day when robots can provide care for their elderly, clean homes and provide administrative office tasks. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is actively involved in supporting the development of intelligent robots and hopes to introduce many of the models in development into the marketplace by 2015.
Here’s a cross-sample of what’s in store…
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Paro is the “World’s most therapeutic robot.” It uses an array of sensors to respond to audible, visual, and tactile stimulation. Each Paro attains a unique personality of sorts due to its ability to be trained to execute (or refrain from) specific actions. Pet Paro and he knows he is being rewarded for good behaviour, smack him and he will do his best not to repeat that behaviour. (For full post click below)
17th April 09
One of the most enduringly brilliant things about working in a creative business is that, for the most part, it remains a complete mystery as to how the creative mind actually develops thinking and ideas. Much as many have tried to bring science, objectivity and rationality to advertising and marketing over the years, most would agree that the majority of breakthrough creativity somehow seems to defy rules, not follow them. It all still seems – on balance – to be more art than science. And long may that continue (in fact, I’m trying to write something up right now on the emerging battle between art and the algorithm).
I’ve been talking to Glenn Griffin (SMU-Dallas) and Deborah Morrison (U. Oregon) about this theme. These guys are professors who teach aspiring creatives and study creativity. Their latest project is a book that will showcase drawings of the creative process by some of the ad industry’s best, including BBH New York’s very own ECD Kevin Roddy (see his drawing, below), Alex Bogusky, David Baldwin, David Kennedy, Nancy Rice, Luke Sullivan and many others.
The drawings reveal so much about each individual’s pathway to ideas and constitute a unique archive of the brain power that fuels the business. Just skimming through the early submissions from some fairly legendary creatives I was struck by both just how different they were from each other (some drawn, some cartoon, many mixing images and copy), but also how simple they were.
The book, tentatively titled Pure Process, is set for publication in Summer 2010 by How Books. Glenn and Deborah are still looking for last-minute submissions from anyone who wants to play.
Interested? You can contact them direct at email@example.com
10th April 09
From the latter crowd I keep hearing this analogy that using Crowdspring is akin to outsourcing (complete with images of dank foreign sweatshops). If were going to trade in metaphors, I would counter by labeling this crowd protectionist. (Picture angry immigration opponents rallying to protect US jobs they probably don’t want in the first place.)
This isn’t outsourcing and this isn’t bootlegging. This is simply about an expanded marketplace. And as long as your product is best-in-market, you’ll always have best-in-market work at your door.
One last thing I need to note as some are accusing us of being exploitive and that bothers me greatly. (MORE BELOW)
8th April 09
(NOTE: This post is an attempt to capture some of the emerging themes resulting from an earlier and original post on the subject – see http://bit.ly/iZf7 for original post . . . probably worth going there first if you’ve landed here and want to contribute)
Some great, insightful and provocative replies to the earlier question around the perceived paucity of great work in interactive.
First off, I found it fascinating that – to date at least – no one’s responded with a great list of knockout creative, or, in fact, with any knockout creative. This would suggest that there is indeed a problem and that it’s not just perception. Please correct me if I’m wrong here. I’m reassured that various folks who ‘know their shit’ have commented here, and I’m certain they would have picked out the gems had I missed them in my haste to make the point.
Second, what we have emerging is a really very useful list of factors that, together, explain why we’re not yet seeing consistently great work, and in particular strong enduring campaigns, in the interactive space. Factors cited by contributors will be familiar to many, and include the following, which are reported not as fact but as supposition, at least at this stage:
1. SPEED – Our lack of speed in responding to the changing landscape, a blight suffered by agencies of both old & new skools, digital & analogue, hampers creative innovation.
2. ENDURANCE – We suffer a particular weakness at creating . . . (more)
6th April 09
There’s a debate that, if not quite raging, is certainly simmering about the perceived lack of breakthrough creativity in digital brand advertising (for example: http://bit.ly/14HeCe). I think everyone would agree that great work does exist. But maybe just not enough of it. So why the paucity?
Well let’s get one thing out of the way right away. It’s almost certainly the case (please argue with me if you think this is not true) that the percentage of “great work” in interactive is no less than that on any other canvas. Great work is rarer than a Texan in a Smart Car. Full-stop. But there seem some quite specific reasons why there’s not a whole load of stunningly great creative in interactive.
So, a few linked observations about why this might be the case.
One, as an industry, it seems as if marketing is mesmerized by the (very welcome) potential efficiencies & measurability of digital and that this can lead to blindness when it comes to the creative opportunities. The talk is frequently of driving costs down through zero wastage, or improving efficiency (all good of course), and less often about increasing engagement, forging deeper links with consumers over time, storytelling across screens, and so on. How far away are we from work of the quality and ambition of Aaron Koblin or Jonathan Harris in what we produce for clients? To some extent, even average digital work can be more accountable than much of the work produced for the offline world, and sometimes that accountability can veil what is actually remarkably humdrum work. Here one’s reminded of the John Banham quote: In business we tend to value most highly that which we can measure most precisely. Traditional agencies are, in particular, often in the position of knowing they need to produce both more effective and more emotive interactive work, but not knowing remotely how to develop it.
Two, we probably need to stop looking at digital creativity as somehow different . . . (more) Read full post