Lessons learned from SXSW

Recently at an American Advertising Federation Houston luncheon, Hugh Forrest, the interactive director of the ever-popular SXSW (South-by-South West) festival held each year in Austin, Texas, summed up lessons learned from the experience. While Hugh may be looking at these teachings from a SXSW perspective, they’re not exclusive to the festival.

They’re very applicable to life.

1.) If you try to innovate, you will inevitably fail.

2.) Failure breeds success.

3.) Turn weakness into strength.

4.) Patience. Patience. Patience.

Innovative thinking, let alone innovation, scares the heck out of people. It evokes change, and we all know what that means; the status quo is under attack. Attacking the various challenges inherent in putting on a wildly popular festival every year is risky business. You have to adapt, though. You have to appease, as best you can, your customers’ desires and needs.

If you’re lucky, innovation will lead to failure. Then, failure leads to success. Strange thinking, isn’t it.

Of course, we all need to learn from our failures, our mistakes. That’s the only way to realize some success.

In business, as in life, unpopular decisions are made.  They’re made for, hopefully, the good of the whole rather than the one.

Along the way, you discover different aspects of what makes you and your organization tick. There will always be areas (weaknesses) that need to be improved until you become quite good at them (strengths) or at least good enough to be acceptable.

Because of its popularity, SXSW has out grown Austin. You can still get tickets to go, but getting a hotel room is just about forgettable. Weakness. So, the event’s organizers are considering introducing a virtual element: Experiencing the festival from anywhere you happen to be. Strength.

You don’t have to be great at everything. Life doesn’t work that way. You must constantly improve, though, or else you’ll stagnate.

And in doing all of this, you gotta have patience, sometimes in rather large quantities.

As with any company or organization that tries to innovate, SXSW is continually learning . . . and growing . . . and failing . . . and succeeding . . . and learning . . . and, well, you get the drift.

Not a bad cycle to be in really.

Creativity Tip #98: Stupidity and Weirdness – Beware

Dealing with clients on all levels can be daunting. Requests made by them can at times make us think twice (if not more) regarding whether or not they’re serious. Alas, more times than not, they are.

The Creativity Tip here is to be on your toes with clients at all times. Keep your guard up, and never underestimate the power of weirdness – especially when it’s down right stupid. There are some “discussions” you’re not going to win.

I am a member of the Creativepool Network on LinkedIn. Below is an excerpt from a recent discussion with various creatives around the land talking about first-hand experiences of weird client requests.

 Warning: While humorous, remember, they are true. Sigh!            

“Could you do an actual LOGO instead of a font?” It was once said to me by a creative director.

“You make the logo as big as you can. (Now then) can you make the logo bigger”?

“They won’t allow us any more space. Can you make it look bigger without increasing the size?”

Client, after being asked for a payment for a month: “I am so sorry you need money so badly. If I can help you in any way, please let me know. I do not want you to go hungry!”

“Why do you want to reverse the type out of the background? Nobody will be able to read it backwards.”

“Why don’t we broadcast this commercial in black and white? That ‘ll save us a lot of money.”

“We want more but sadly the budget has been cut.” This was like going into a car showroom and saying, can I have that R8, but I’ll pay you for a TT. I wonder what the sales person would say?

On set for a TV spot, the client asks, “How come she isn’t wearing a red sweater? In the storyboard, the woman was wearing a red sweater.” 
We eventually lost the “it was an artist’s sketch in the storyboard” conversation, and got the woman a red sweater.

Can you make her younger?”

VP of Marketing demanding that our ad copy go from gutter to the very edge of the pub: “All this blank space! If we’re paying for it, we’re going to damn well use it!” 
 (We say) Then you’re paying for an ad that bleeds. It will cost more. 
”Bleeds? Cost more? You people are all full of BS.” 
And this from a VP of marketing.

An oldie but a goodie: “I’ll know it when I see it.”

A restaurant client would not allow the use of the word “savory” because he said it made him think of “unsavory characters.”

“We need a few more used condoms, I think.”

Blue logo request: “Can it be more blue?”

Anyone who’s ever worked for Coca Cola or Pepsi will have learned that Coke’s ice is ALWAYS grey and Pepsi’s is ALWAYS blue. Chrysler was like that with their Pentastar; it was always a certain shade of blue. “You don’t f#*k with the Pentastar,” I was once informed.

A name-brand winery commenting on a bill for rented ice cubes in an ad for their champagne: “Why should I pay for something I can’t see?”

From a client who didn’t understand why a low res photo would not work at a larger size on a spread: “Can you use the picture now? I opened the picture in Photoshop and made it bigger, so now it is the resolution you need.”

Remember, no matter how weird or stupid, take a breath and live to fight another day.

Free Food for your Brain

Positive or negative. Informational or educational. Funny or serious. What about relevant? Yes. Yes. Yes. Hopefully!

Always striving to be pertinent and at least some of the above, this blog offers up thoughtful (most of the time) and informative material which helps provide a different perspective on the world of creativity and innovation. Sometimes it’s a Creativity Tip; other times, not. Today is one of those times.

For the solopreneur or small business/agency operator, attending conferences and seminars has become increasingly more expensive than it used to be. Granted, the ability to meet with and talk to folks face to face remains valuable. But sometimes, you just can’t justify the cost or time away from the office.

While there are a variety of online webinars, very few, it seems, are free. One in particular has gotten my attention because they not only offer a variety of valuable content, but they also go into great detail when presenting it. I refer to CreativeLive. I also refer to free.

Disclaimer here: I am not employed by them nor am I being paid for this mention and endorsement. They’re a good, viable resource.

Abstract design made of human head and symbolic elements on the subject of human mind, consciousness, imagination, science and creativity

“Diversity of the Mind”
Thanks to iStock Photo

Their approach to sharing creative knowledge is not restricted to the elements of design or writing, for example; however, that is a focus for some of their topics.

Recently, I’ve listened to experts on web design, blogging, being “creative on demand,” and selected a few

other topics during a solid “themed week” of live presentations.

Usually, the presenter gives away for download some instructional information. They also make available several other pieces which reflect, in detail, what is covered during the live show. If you miss these usually all day events, they rebroadcast it afterwards.

If you want anytime access to the broadcast and those other materials offered, you have the option of purchasing the presentation, and we’re not talking about hundreds of bucks here. My two separate purchases ran $49 and $79. Can’t beat that.

Whether it’s CreativeLive or some other venue of online presentation, consider going this route when you feel the need for continuing education at your own pace.

You’ll not only save some cash, but enjoy some delicious morsels of brain food. Bon appetite!

Creativity Tip #103: Your Creativity Sandbox

Whether or not we create anything for a living, there are times we just don’t feel very creative. Mostly, we create because we have to do so, to earn that paycheck, to satisfy the client. Granted, there’s nothing that says we can’t be happy about it or we can’t enjoy the process.

What do we do, though, when our creative juices start drying up or when we’re in between “have-to projects”?

Have you ever created something or begun a creative project simply for the helluv it, because you just wanted to do it?

little girl playing in sandbox

Thanks to iStockPhoto

There are probably various names or descriptors for this mindset like “unnecessary creative,”   “creative play time,” etc. Whatever you call it is up to you. I refer to mine as my Creativity Sandbox.

The point is to start something that will occupy your mind in a new or different creative endeavor so you can keep your creative juices flowing. Set aside some time (and maybe a special place) and just start.

I started this blog because I wanted an outlet for writing and expressing myself in ways other than what I mainly do for clients. I’m exploring different software packages (Adobe Muse for Web design, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud), listening to online webinars (CreativeLive), reading anything I can get my hands on relative to innovation and creativity as well as totally unrelated topics that simply interest me.

Anything to keep the brain alive and curious. It takes time and diligence, and some weeks I have neither. But I don’t want the juices to stop flowing. And neither should you.

Spend some time in your Creativity Sandbox as often as you can.