- project fine art
- December 4, 2013
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If you are in the creative industry, then you are aware of the importance of turning your thoughts into action. Those people like myself who work as artists, marketers, designers and other creative positions are in a daily battle to figure out how to translate their ideas into a formidable plan of action to complete a project. We speak often of finding new ways to free our mind, and eliminate boundaries when we begin to work. I have heard countless times that eliminating boundaries will make you more creative, “the sky is the limit,” or “anything is possible.”
I am here to tell you this is not true. Being creative has nothing to do with planning and working smarter. You can be the most creative mind in the world – if you have no idea how to make your ideas come to life and set a proper plan to reach your final product- what good is your idea? Set boundaries, set limitations and create a plan for your projects.
Orson Welles said it best, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” Being creative is a gift that people wished they possess, but if you cannot properly channel that creativity into steps to execute a plan, you will find yourself just daydreaming about amazing fictional projects. If two cars are in a race and one car has brand new tires and the other car has tires that are completely bald, which car would you bet is going to win the race? That is how your planning should work. Don’t be the car with the bald tires – no direction, no traction, and no certainty on anything in the future. Work towards being the car with the new tires, gripping each turn, knowing where the finish line is. No car can drive without tires, and no project is complete without brainpower, but both become irrelevant if they cannot find traction and a starting point to work from. When planning out a project, here are a few tips on how you can set limitations to enhance a plan of action, yet still keep your creative freedom.
First, ask yourself “How can I simplify this problem?” This may not apply to some of your smaller scale projects, but for large projects that initially make you feel overwhelmed this question can be helpful. Simplifying the problem can be creating steps and deadlines along the way. In the creative industry we all know a finished project can take months or years with plenty of modifications along the way – so simplify your completed tasks by separating them into steps of priority. I worked for a beverage company while in college, and my boss assigned a research project to myself and 3 other employees with a deadline of 45 days. Looking at the email initially I remember thinking “this can take 6 months,” so it was time to figure out how to simplify these steps and work efficiently. I got together with my co-workers and we game planned how to separate each objective and prioritize our progress to ensure we met our 45-day deadline. One of the goals we had to complete was to get feedback from vendors in the local market. We noticed that this step was assigned towards the end of the project, and we all agreed if we did that step first and worked on the other goals in the meantime, the overall project would be more efficient. This turned out to be true. We called and emailed our list of vendors that we needed information from and gave them a heads up to what info we would need, who it needs to come from, and when we would be collecting it. When the time came to plug that information into our final report, every vendor was prepared to give us what we needed and the deadline was met. If we stuck with the original steps put in place, who knows how long those vendors would have needed to get us accurate feedback on our beverages. We sat down as a team to review the project, assigned tasks to each other, and made sure we set ourselves up to succeed. We were still creative, but we set boundaries and guidelines that we could follow to complete each task. Your project will become a puzzle; no one can put a puzzle together with one piece. It takes time, planning and fitting pieces together to reach your goal.
Secondly, can you create a mock up of your final product? If you’re a designer, can you sketch out what you want your website or app to look like? If you’re an artist, can you reference a piece of work you admire and find inspiration from it? If you’re a musician, are you looking for a particular sound you heard in another song for your next project? If you’re a marketer, is there a recent campaign that engaged consumers how you want to engage your consumers? The idea is to be able to see the final product, or as close as you can to it. Last year my friend Kevin was asking me for some advice on an e-commerce business he was starting up. He asked, “What do you think I should change right now?” Before diving into his business model I told him to change his business cards. I remember he looked at me and said “Business cards? Who cares about them?” I turned away for a second and then turned back around and approached him with his own business card- introducing myself as him. Then I asked, “Did that card support my strong introduction?” He said “Not really.” We began to cut up different shapes and different types of paper to see how each looked, and felt in your hand. An hour later my friend hated his plain rectangular business cards and opted to print on a thicker type of paper with a completely different shape. If I didn’t introduce myself to him with his own business card and mock up some alternative solutions, Kevin would still be handing out his old cards as we speak. As creative minds, we are always changing things and one idea leads to another – but the more you are able to see something, the better and more controlled your path and work habits will be to get to that point. If two salesman knock on your door selling an investment plan and one just tells you about his plan and the one tells you and shows you how it works – which plan are you more likely to invest in?
Third, use your resources. I am never a fan of ‘biting of more than you can chew.’ Sure, sometimes you take on projects that you think you can complete in a certain timeframe and unforeseen events happen that end up creating new deadlines. Sometimes you even take on projects thinking that you can complete them without any help, to only find out you need a lot of help! However, if this is an occurring theme in your work or at your company – that’s not good and there may be a direct correlation to how you complete tasks. If there is one element that I am willing to bet almost all creative people have –it’s a lot of acquaintances. People are drawn to us because we think a little differently, and create work that is unique – so use that power! Can you team up with someone in your company to complete a task? Can you hire or out source tasks from your clients to other people you know who do the work you cannot? Can you get inside information on other industries and how to complete projects you never have before? Can you ask another person you trust and see how they went about a similar project and saw success? I worked for a performance marketing company before finding a home at helium creative, and I remember I could not find any companies to run an offer that desperately needed some new traffic. I was in a conversation with another manager from a competitor and as a joke I said “Man I really wish I knew someone who could run this offer for me!” He asked what type of offer it was and then gave me six new contacts that would run it for me. I thought to myself, “All I had to do was ask?” Yes, all I did was asked one of my competitors and he helped my business. It’s funny because when we were younger people told us not to talk to strangers. When you are older it’s completely the opposite – talk to strangers and talk often. Think of your contacts as players on a professional sports team you own – except there are no roster limits! The more useful connections you have, the more information you can gain, the more business you can create, and the more opportunity will present itself.
Don’t be the car with bald tires, and don’t be the salesman with just a speech. Plan, set boundaries and develop personal limitations. Limiting your boundaries to complete a project has nothing to do with limiting your boundaries to think of a project. The more you can master this idea, the more you will execute projects that others are afraid of.
November 11, 2013
helium creative has been cranking out some pretty awesome Print pieces lately. October proved to be the month of catalogs, as we wrapped up the new Levinson Jewelers catalog, followed by InFlight Duty Free catalogs for American Airlines and Avianca Airlines. Our roots are in Print Design, so it is always a privilege to flex those muscles whenever we can [especially with such great clients]. Check out our portfolio to see additional Print pieces that we have recently created.
The Avianca catalog proved to be the most creatively driven. We conceptualized each section of the book as if it were from the perspective of a traveler going to a new city. We created identities for these people and asked ourselves, “What would be in this person’s travel bag if they were going to Bogota?” [Or Toronto, New York, etc.] The idea is that you can be anyone when you travel, create a new persona for yourself. So what are the essentials and how can we build from that? Each catalog section had it’s own traveler who was asking themself, “Who do I want to be today?” The result is a unique + engaging catalog that effectively sells product while telling a story.
November 11, 2013
November 11, 2013
Last week I found myself in a deep discussion with one of my good friends about college. While I have graduated and entered the workforce, he still has two semesters left. He mentioned something that seemed to resonate with me, “I don’t know if I really want to go into the business field. College has taught me that my interests may be in another industry even though I know I have a passion for business.”
His sentence got my mind boiling with analysis. How can someone have a passion for an industry, yet not want to do it for a living? After pondering about this statement even more, I came to the conclusion that perhaps my friend just does not comprehend the definition of passion. Passion derives from a root word that means, “to suffer.” Yes to suffer. Too many times when we hear passion we associate it with everything that makes us happy and complete. However, what passion really means is you have found something to fully devote yourself to and be willing to encounter those times of suffering to get to the ultimate finish line. The most successful people understand there is only one thing money cannot buy – time. We have such a minuscule period of time to be alive and put out our best work, that any great work you do on Earth will cost you something. The idea that my friend perceived passion as a task that only makes him happy, and is easy, disturbed me. That’s not passion, that’s choosing a scapegoat to get to a finish line quicker. When you choose or develop a passion it is because you are obsessed with the finish line. It doesn’t matter what stands in your way or how long it takes to get there, you will never stop on your journey because it is your passion.
After I explained this to my friend, he almost didn’t have anything else to say but “Yea, I mean, I guess you’re right.” We chatted about other things after that topic that were more relaxing and enjoyable and managed to muster up multiple laughs. When he left and we parted ways, I sat on my porch and began to think about my passions and how that translates into my daily routine. As much as I may have been able to shed light on my friend’s obscure analysis, you must practice what you preach.
I was able to tie passion into the word progress. Progress is what we do everyday, some people make more daily progress than others. The whole connection with passion and progress is- why do you make progress? Do you go to work everyday, or do your daily routine because you love it? Or is it what you have to do to pay the bills? Maybe it pays the bills, but you really love the attention and accolades from it and that’s why you do it everyday. Either way, we are all motivated by a category of three things: Revenue, Recognition and Progress. If you evaluate your daily routine and find that your motivation to do what you do is more to bring in revenue or get recognition, there is a great chance you have artificial or no passion for it at all. You must fall in love with the progress of your daily routine. Sure, we all must eat and keep a roof over our heads, but the day that revenue and recognition become more important then progress and passion, is the day we are acting for a different cause than what we love.
One of the best examples I can think of, someone who worked because they fell in love with their progress is Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. Martin had a rough upbringing as a kid and turned to football as an outlet to get away from problems at home. He quickly realized that not only did football keep his mind off his family problems, but also he was quite good – really good. Curtis went to college at the University of Pittsburgh where he continued to flourish as one of the nations’ best college running backs. When the NFL Draft Day came around, Curtis sat at his house with his family patiently waiting for the phone to ring. Soon it did, and on the other end was the Head Coach of the New England Patriots at the time, Bill Parcels. Parcels said “Curtis we want you to be a New England Patriot!” Martin accepted Parcels offer and said he couldn’t wait to be a part of his organization. As soon as Curtis hung up the phone he turned around to his family, who was jumping for joy thinking about brighter days ahead, and said these words: “Oh my God, I don’t want to play football.”
After all the long and grueling practices and hard work Curtis had put in to be drafted by an NFL team it all hit him at once when he got that phone call – he had only been playing football to escape family issues at home, it wasn’t his passion! Knowing that his true passion was to give back to his community and children going through rough times at home just like he did, one of Martin’s friends who was present at his house during the Bill Parcel’s call pulled him aside and said this, “Curtis, I know you may not want to play football, but maybe this is your chance. Your chance to be a leader and role model for those kids who are in need of someone to look up to and are going through what you did at home, looking for an outlet. You can be their hero Curtis.”
From that moment forward Curtis Martin was regarded as one of the hardest working players in the league. First one in and last one out everyday, always studying and practicing to get better. Every time he stepped on a football field Curtis wasn’t worried about his paycheck or his stats – all he cared about was setting a great example for those children watching him and looking up to his character. Curtis Martin was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
The conversation with my friend and Curtis Martin’s story have burned an distinct lesson in my mind to always follow your passion and make sure you are in love with your progress. Do I yell at drivers on I-95 on my way to work because their crappy driving is potentially making me late? Yes. Do I sit at my desk sometimes and take a deep breath and just wish I could curl back up into bed for 5 hours? Yes. Do I get overwhelmed sometimes when I already have a full schedule and 10 other things pop up that day that I know will make this week even longer? Yes. But who cares. Marketing is a passion of mine. And with passion comes that suffering. Are you willing to overcome these moments and keep your eyes on that finish line? Do you love what you do enough to say “I don’t care how bad these drivers are, or how much extra work I get today, I’m still going to get it done and make today the best possible day I can?” If not, you should consider re-evaluating your priorities and channel them into progress and passion.
Our time on Earth is so finite it seems pointless to be driven by materialistic things that make our pockets larger or head bigger. Do what you love because you love the road you travel to get to a final product. Love the progress of your work, and in the end you will have found your true passion.