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Thinking inside the box

By Charm agency

Advertising is a game of compromise. Deadlines, prescriptive briefs and tight timelines are all creative challenges expected in our trade and we are trained to work either within or around them. But while we talk about ‘thinking outside the square’, it’s often the confines of the square itself that spur on our creative processes. You only need to look at our local, pre-Lord of the Rings film industry, to see how working with limited budgets and resources can be a springboard for such amazing work. 

Agencies are collaborative businesses, but also adaptative ones. So, when our ways of working are challenged, we naturally look to other sources to draw inspiration. 

So now, as we find ourselves thrust into an unprecedented period of sustained isolation, it’s more important than ever to ensure we are providing building blocks rather than roadblocks for creative success. 

As suits, our responsibility is to create briefs that continue to ignite and inspire, but what about creatives? How do you take a process that is so reliant on team dynamics into a world that can vanish at the whiff of a poor WIFI connection? 

It was time for a Zoom coffee with Duncan, our Head of Creative at Charm. How, I asked, did he keep his creativity up, working in this new world of isolation? 

As a creative in lockdown the first thing that became apparent was my workspace. I decided the dining room table was the best spot. A nice big table, sunny and right in the thick of the family action. 

It sounded great in theory and I like to think of myself as being able to handle life’s little irritations. But even the slightest noise when I was in a Zoom meeting was enough to make me reconsider my choice. Then as soon as dinner time came, I was fighting for space with pens, paper and the back of an iMac staring at me. 

So upstairs I went to my son’s bedroom. I hadn’t taken much notice of it before, but I remembered there was a lock on his door, installed by the nutter that used to own the house. Now at least I was able to work in peace, in a nice light room with the soft breeze and just the birds chirping (and a lock on the door if things got really bad). 

If you’ve ever worked as a freelancer, you’ll have an advantage in lockdown. Working from home with the ability to not be distracted is key as is the need to keep busy, no matter what. 

Working in blocks, getting as much done as possible and not leaving things to the last minute. Staying in contact is also important, like giving feedback as soon as you can – all those little things that happen organically when working in an office. 

Of course, collaboration is a bit harder when concepting but if the brief is right one’s experience usually kicks in to help create something great. Coming up with a bunch of ideas before meeting the copywriter for an ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ works best. Knowing how your creative partner thinks and works is crucial as is being respectful of each other’s thoughts. Of course, that’s simply part of working in any creative team where casual over the shoulder chats can now be sorted out with a couple of What’s App messages. 

Duncan’s experience highlights the importance of having the right working environment and a respectful working relationship. What once seemed impossible can suddenly become the new normal, even if it involves a kid’s desk and a lock on the door. 

A colleague once told me, ‘When robots take over the world, creatives will be fine, because you can’t programme creativity. It’s stuff only the human brain can compute. You can’t put that into an algorithm.’ 

As recent experience shows, nothing in our future is certain, but it reminds us that even in a digital world, creativity is more art than science and it still needs to connect with the audience at an emotional level. 

So, as we look to the future, the best and most honest approach we can take for our clients is one of empathy. The acknowledgement and understanding that ultimately, we all face the same challenges. Coming out of lockdown our business objectives, creative process and strategic approach are more aligned than ever. This shows us that it must be true that being inside the box makes you better at thinking outside of it. 

This story was a Charm Team collaboration

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