The playground we play in

In this weekly piece, I often talk about my business and how I ensure it is constantly evolving, shedding its skin through the years, to find itself — I continually evolve it as the landscape around me changes, and to ensure it exists towards serving my personal purpose. 

Taking the time to reflect on this is key when driving a business strategy and it had me looking at what it is, that each of us do as creative practitioners in a creative industry.

In the creative industry many of us provide services to clients, some of us create products whilst others do a blend of both. 

We use our creativity to help businesses scale, organisations work in better ways, discover their true selves and sometimes we might even build something that can be inhabited, experienced or corrects a wrong.

We as creative leaders, are creators, architects, designers, technologists, makers and strategists. Some of us managers, owners and entrepreneurs. Others employees, freelancers and travellers.

We are paid to be creative, to invent, evolve and use our creativity for good.

Yet, we can't let all of this get to our head — but in some cases I've seen that it does. Throughout my career, I remember feeling that I have a set of unique, creative talents. I remember believing that when a brief was put in front of me that this was the only permission I needed to 'be creative'.

I could 'run with it' and do what I pleased.

I often heard in the various studios I worked in, that creative people could interpret briefs in their own way and they had the license to do so. I often heard that art directors and writers needed free rein over the brand and I was once scolded for asking a creative team to work within the parameters of time, budget and brand.

I often meet creative people who want to 'express themselves' in my business... 

(I'll leave that one alone.)

So, as I dwell on our industry, the work I do within it, and the landscape shifting underneath it all, I'm reminded of an interview with famed Graphic Designer Michael Bierut who spoke about his vocation as a Designer

"Clients are the different between design and art."

This has stayed with me for a long time. 

Design, or for the better part of it, and the endeavour within creative industry, is not art. There is artfulness within it, and once completed can be admired as a work of art, but art it is not.

There are parameters of which we have to work in and if we don't respect them, continually complain about them or fight against them, we'll be stuck in a vicious unhealthy cycle. 

These parameters form fence-posts and guard-rails around our creativity whether we like it or not:

  • A client is paying us to do something for them.

  • We have to do something in a given amount of time.

  • An employer is paying us to execute on something.

  • There are funds that we can't spend and there are other funds which we can.

  • There are tools which we have at our disposal and there are other tools which we do not.

  • There are skills at hand, and there are skills that can be purchased.

  • A team exists to help us.

This is the playground we play in.

These are the boundaries accepted as normal.

If we take them for granted, ignore them or continually scoff at them, we've lost the game before it's started.

The trick I've found is to see them, acknowledge these boundaries for what they are and then realise the power we have to change them, accept them or simply leave and step outside them and find a new playground to play in.

See you next week.

PS: Thank you for reading this weekly journal — if you enjoy reading each week, the greatest thing you can do as a way of thank you is to share your favourite article from the archive across your social channels.