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Creative Networking in London

Martin MALii-Karlsson has put together a great list of creative networking events in London. I met Martin at the CIDA Creative Business Club (link in his post) a few months ago and we’ve kept in touch. He’s a charming guy with a really interesting take on creative business and he’s really getting into his stride with his blog – you should have a look at it.

And check out his events list – ‘networking’ is an awful word, conjuring up images of people in shiny suits pushing business cards at you – but having been to several of the events on his list, I can assure you they are usually a lot of fun and you can make some good contacts. The fact I know Martin is proof that they work!

110+ Resources for Creative Minds at Skelliwag

110 Resources for Creative Minds
Hats off to Skelliewag for posting a great list of 110+ Resources for Creative Minds.

I’m slightly biased as she has kindly included my 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block, but I think it’s an excellent collection. It includes some of my favourite posts by such luminaries as Seth Godin on Real Creativity, Darren Rowse on How to Be a More Creative Blogger, Tim Ferriss on Doing the Impossible, Brian Clark on How to Write Remarkably Creative Content, Hugh MacLeod on How to Be Creative, Chris Pearson on How to Find Your Creative Zen, Ze Frank on his own creative process, John Maeda on the Laws of Simplicity. There’s also a superb Wiki of Creativity Techniques A to Z and plenty more links that are new to me, like the wonderful Moleskine Project.

Creative Links – Giving Feedback on Creative Work

Giving feedback on creative work has been a hot topic here over the last few weeks. To wrap up the subject (for now) here are the links to my recent feedback posts plus a selection of other people’s words of wisdom on the subject.

The posts in my informal mini-series:

Tom Fishburne has some great cartoons in his ‘Brand Camp’ series, including the painfully funny 8 Types of Bad Creative Critics which appears at the top of the Brand Camp page on his site.

Ben at Noisy Decent Graphics posed a tricky question…

We see lots of students and junior designers here, people who’ve only been in the industry for a year or three. Students, graduates and freelancers.

Some of them are very good. Some of them are OK. Some of them are bad. Some of them are bloody awful. And there is the problem. Should we tell the awful ones they are awful? Should we tell the truth?

…which prompted plenty of entertaining comments.

Scamp looks at things from the other side of the fence, i.e. when and how do you present your creative work for criticism:

It concerns the age-old question… “when do you go in?” Do you wait until you have an idea that you would die on a sword for before you go in and see your creative director? Or do you go in when you have four or five ideas you like, and rely on him to pick the best one out – after all, “that’s his job”? Or do you go in with ‘just a few thoughts’, and aim to work with him on turning one of them into something good?

And Paul Colman gives the view from the client’s side of the fence (it’s triangular, trust me) in this thoughtful post about Evaluating and feeding back to creative work. Gavin Heaton at Servant of Chaos followed this up with his thoughts and an excellent Creative review checklist based on Paul’s post, to download and read through prior to giving feedback.

If you need to gather and co-ordinate feedback from different members of your project team, Tim Shih and his team at ReviewBasics have put together a comprehensive suite of tools for reviewing designs, documents, videos and other types of content. Digital content and distributed work teams are becoming more and more crucial to creative work these days, so this kind of tool could be invaluable for keeping projects on track and capturing (if not necessarily actioning) everyone’s feedback.

On the other hand, if you’ve had enough of all this creativity, Scott Berkun’s Idea Killers will be just the job for weeding out those irritating new shoots of inspiration.

EDIT: Scott Berkun has brought his article to my attention about How to give and receive criticism. It’s an excellent read, I particularly like his four fundamental assumptions of bad critics:

  1. There is one universal and objective measure of how good and bad anything is.
  2. That the critic is in sole possession of the skill for making these measurements.
  3. Anyone that doesn’t possess this skill (including the creator of the work) is an idiot and should be ridiculed.
  4. That valid criticisms can and should always be resolved.

Well, there it is. If you know of a good piece of writing about giving feedback on creativity (your own or someone else’s) please post the link in the comments.

Creative Links 13.8.07

I’ve discovered an excellent blog called New Music Strategies, which has a lively and well-argued point of view on the new realities of the music business. A good introduction is author Andrew Dubber’s e-book 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online, which is also available as a free printed booklet.

Daniel Schutzsmith has a new issue of Graphic Define online, with a great selection of guest authors writing about ‘the business of running a design studio’ (most of which will apply to any creative business). On a similar theme the Creative Review blog has a great piece called Running A Design Studio: The Boring Stuff, by Build partner Nicky Place.

I’m finding The Ideafeed an excellent source of new stories and publications about the creative industries. Maybe you will too.

Andrew at Northern Planner shares some tips on Using research and information to write a great creative brief – worth reading for anyone on the giving or receiving end of a creative brief.

Steve Roesler has an insightful series on Fear of Success, which in my experience is surprisingly common among creative professionals (and also applies to Organizations).

If you’re wondering what could possibly be scary about success, have a read of Marcus Brown’s unforgettable post The Show Off. I’m pleased to say Marcus retains his creative enthusiasm, in a mind-boggling new project The Ides of March. If you have a business problem, send it to Marcus and he’ll come up with an idea to help you solve it – if you like the idea, you pay what you think it’s worth (yes, really), if not he posts it on the Ides of March. I had the pleasure of meeting Marcus at the Interesting conference in June – he’s charming and obviously very bright, so I’m looking forward to following his creative thinking high wire act.

Juliana Frasson Xavier is a Brazilian planner who’s been making the most of her time in London by interviewing some of the luminaries of the UK advertising scene and posting her findings on John Grant’s Brand Tarot blog. She asked her interviewees about the thought processes they use to approach creative and business challenges – a fascinating topic, especially considering her interviewees include Phil Teer, Creative Director of St Luke’s, Richard Huntingdon of Adliterate, and Russell Davies of Russell Davies.

Finally thanks to Steve at Creative Generalist for this sighting of the rare species of Poet Managers:

Poetry speaks to many C.E.O.’s. “I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers,” says Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries, a $3 billion producer of sound systems for luxury cars, theaters and airports. Mr. Harman maintains a library in each of his three homes, in Washington, Los Angeles and Aspen, Colo. “Poets are our original systems thinkers,” he said. “They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”

Creative Links 24.5.07

Looks like I gave the Creative Links feature the kiss of death back in February when I rashly promised to do it every week. Sorry about that – one of the pitfalls of enthusiasm. I’ll start doing it again as an occasional feature and see how it goes – hopefully a natural rhythm will emerge…

Dan Brodnitz is compiling a terrific series of interviews with artists at Conversations about Creativity. Interviewees so far include a painter (James Warren Perry), a poet (Bob Holman), a dancer (Natalie Marrone), a musician (John Coulton) and the inimitable Ze Frank. Under the heading ‘Working artists share what works’, the interviews provide fascinating insights into the creative process. I particularly like the way Dan seems to be deliberately covering a wide range of creative disciplines, so that the common themes (and differences) can emerge. If you like Wishful Thinking, you’ll love these.

I enthused about Darren Rowse’s Problogger in my piece about blogging for creatives – he’s recently written a good series on creativity, including 5 Ways to Enhance Your Creativity, How to Be a More Creative Blogger, and 9 Attitudes of Highly Creative People.

One site I should have included in my list of good blogs by creatives is David Airey’s Creative Design – a superb example of how to market yourself as a freelance creative, and full of good advice for creating and improving your blog. Unsurprisingly, it also looks great.

Spread the Word have alerted me to their upcoming course Urban Bloggers – run by poet Karen McCarthy it aims “to improve your writing across all media by using the blog as an interactive space to enrich the creative process”. With the emphasis on creative writing, it looks like a refreshing alternative to blogging as a business tool. I’ve heard good things about Spread the Word from other sources and it looks like they have a great range of writing courses lined up for the summer.

Deb Khan is on a roll at Creative Inspiration, with some good stuff about creativity and culture. I feel at home on a blog that has no qualms about mixing football and opera. And even the great Seth has paid a visit, showing he’s not completely allergic to comments. Deb is just as charming in person and she’s doing some really interesting work around creativity.

That’s all for this ‘week’. If you’re hungry for more creativity links you can always subscribe to my del.icio.us creativity bookmarks

Creative Links – 16 February 2007

Introducing the new, slimmed-down, weekly(ish) version of Creative Links

Hats off to A Consuming Experience for bringing to my attention a series of podcasts of business advice for artists and creatives, produced by the Enterprise Centre for the Creative Arts in London. They include How to Handle Clients and Commissions, How to Make a Name for Yourself and the irresistibly-titled How to Cook the Books.

I’m going to try to resist including Noisy Decent Graphics in every creative links post – basically you should read the whole thing if you’ve got any interest in design, creativity or the business of running a studio. But I’ll just draw your attention to Cruel to be kind? about how to give feedback on terrible creative work – plenty of good suggestions in the comments. And a thought-provoking series about Sustainability in graphic design, where lots of questions are asked and we learn that “wedes don’t really have complicated messages that need to be communicated across several territories”.

The same goes for Creating Passionate Users and Russell Davies – both consistently excellent, so I won’t post every week, just remember that Quantity equals quality and whatever you do Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company.

I had the pleasure of coffee with Johnnie Moore yesterday – as engaging and inspiring in person as he is on his blog, which is hardly surprising from someone who has written 117 posts about authenticity. He writes about an eclectic mix of interesting things, including More Media and Less Stuff?, Alphabet and Goddess and The Popcorn of Therapy.

Bestseller Interviews has a collection of links entitled How to Conquer Writer’s Block – The Ultimate Guide. I know what you’re thinking – “How can it be the ultimate guide if it doesn’t include Mark’s 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block?” – but it’s a fantastic collection so let’s not split hairs.

And if you’ve ever wondered How TV shows get made, TV Grouting reveals all.

That’s all folks, have nice weekends. I’ve got a fascinating weekend ahead of me – will tell you about it next week.

Creative Links – January

OK I might have made a mistake by promising to do Creative Links on a monthly basis – there are simply too many good creativity posts. Or maybe it’s like buying a new car – as soon as you decide on the model you want, you see it everywhere. In the interests of keeping up and keeping things fresh I’ll have a go at doing Creative Links weekly from now on. But first here’s the edited highlights of what I found in January, sorted into categories to keep it manageable.

Where do ideas come from?
Scamp takes issue with a piece of research that claims Where Ideas Come From is other people. Beeker claims it’s ethical to Steal Well, and Faris, true to his motto that Talent Imitates, Genius Steals, Couldn’t Resist the joys of plagiarism. Neither could I – here’s the picture he doubtless nicked from someone else:


If you’re looking for a balanced view, Doc Searls weighs up the pros and cons of disclosing your ideas vs keeping them secret in his post 10 Ideas About Ideas (via Creative Generalist); while Brian Lee advocates a middle way between plagiarism and the pressure to be original, reminding us that Creativity Is A Communal Act.

Tortured Artists
It may just be wishful thinking but I don’t see why artists shouldn’t enjoy themselves (and their work) as much as anyone else. I’m glad to learn that at least Douglas Eby agrees with me, in this great post on Pain and Suffering and the Artist.

Creative Partners
The subject of torture brings us neatly to relationships. Scamp continued his excellent series of Tips for Creatives with Finding the Right Partner and How to Have a Good Relationship with Your Partner – useful advice interlarded with (for me) flashbacks to my days as a couples therapist.

As a fan of creative synaesthesia and inter-disciplinary creativity I was pleased to see Mark Hancock catch the synaesthesia bug when he ventured out of the advertising world and spent time with videogame creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Noisy Decent Graphics did a brilliant piece on What I see when I listen and Russell played around with Electroplankton, which looks a bit like an online, affordable version of the Reactable.

Creative Flow
Speaking of altered states of consciousness, Steve Pavlina wrote a great description of My Experience of Creativity, prompting my inner Creativity Trainspotter to tick off Csikszentmihalyi’s Nine Elements of Creative Flow – can you spot them all? Steve followed up that post with 7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creativity.

Adliterate hosted a cracking debate on the question Is Blogging Killing Planning? I’m not a planner so I’m not qualified to answer the question, but reading through the comments on that post and judging from the general quality of blogs in the plannersphere, I have to say planning is doing wonders for blogging.

Creative Collaboration
Staying with planning for a moment, John Grant argues the case for Planning as Mediation – between the (potentially conflicting) interests of the client, creatives and customer. Simon Darwell-Taylor bemoans the lack of inter-disciplinary communication in ‘the typical ad agency’, as opposed to the more collaborative approach of TV production. Yet the grass is always greener – Richard Wilson has started a wonderfully dour blog called TV Grouting, where he says:

TV and the internet don’t seem to me to be natural partners. The internet is based on the principle of sharing information and ideas and making everything cheaper. TV is about owning and jealously guarding ideas and extracting as much money as possible from them

He contrasts this sad state of affairs with the world of advertising, where planners like Russell are ‘willing to share their ideas ‘with any number of people who might be prepared to nick them’. (As if they would…)

So what can we conclude about creative collaboration?

  • Creative people need to share to be creative
  • Creative people get scared of sharing because someone might steal their creativity
  • Creative people sometimes need someone around to get them to share a bit more
  • Creative sharing looks terrific fun from a distance, it’s a bit messier close up.

For the pitfalls of creative collaboration, see Kathy Sierra’s brilliant The Dumbness of Crowds.

Creative Think
It’s almost impossible to single out individual pieces by Roger von Oech, they are all so consistently and variously creative, you might as well pick some at random – which is exactly what you can do if you click his picture on the Creative Think homepage. A couple of blog posts that stood out for me in January were Set A Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices, countering the received wisdom that creativity is all about freedom from constraints; and his invocation of the God Janus to usher in the New Year by thinking something different.

Enterprising Blogging
Hugh McLeod knows a fair bit about blogging and being an entrepreneur, his random thoughts on the subjects are more memorable than most people’s considered musings.


Making a Living as an Artist
The online opportunities for creative producers can be bewildering – Jonathan Bailey clarifies the strategic options available in an excellent post on The New Content Economy.

Delve into the voluminous archives of Liz Strauss’ blogs and you’ll see she’s no stranger to Unblanking the blank screen so it’s worth listening to what she’s got to say about it. She’s got loads more great posts on writing, but 10 Ways to Start a Blog Post should keep you going for a while.

For What Not to Write, look at Claudinho’s post about 20 Words Most Used in Press Conferences. ‘Best of breed’ anyone?

And just when you’re relieved that the words are finally starting to flow, up pops killjoy Brian Clark to tell you Why Creativity Can Kill Your Copy. Brian’s a master of the headline that draws you in – admit it, you’re itching to know what’s so bad about creativity, aren’t you?

Creative Links – December

I’m going to make Creative Links a monthly feature, highlighting posts about creativity and related matters that are inspiring, interesting, useful or preferably all three.

Here’s what I found in December:

Procrastination is a classic way to block creativity, so if that’s your Achilles heel, read Kathy Sierra’s Creativity on Speed, on the excellent Creating Passionate Users.

One of the best ways to be truly creative–breakthrough creative–is to be forced to go fast. Really, really, really fast. From the brain’s perspective, it makes sense that extreme speed can unlock creativity. When forced to come up with something under extreme time constraints, we’re forced to rely on the more intuitive, subconscious parts of our brain. The time pressure can help suppress the logical/rational/critical parts of your brain.

Kathy Sierra’s trailer is one of the creative workspaces featured in Alexander Kjerulf’s gorgeously-illustrated list of 10 Seeeeeriously Cool Workplaces. Other featured offices include Pixar, Mindlab in Copenhagen, Volkswagen in Dresden, and of course the Googleplex.

It was great to get a Christmas present from Design Observer when they linked to my enthusiasm post in their ‘Observed’ column. I can’t imagine them getting quite so excited about a link back from me, but Michael McDonough’s Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School is worth reading (even if you didn’t miss out on the top 10 by not going to design school). The list includes ‘Talent is one-third of the success equation’, ’95 percent of any creative profession is shit work’ and ‘When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance’.

Staying with the business of design, Graphic Define has a good list of questions for aspiring designer/entrepreneurs – ‘Are You Ready to Open Your Own Design Studio?’.

Thanks to Three Minds @ Organic for pointing me to the New York Times’ Year In Ideas Issue, covering the ‘serious and silly’ ideas of 2006, such as ‘The Comb that Listens’, ‘Empty-Stomach Intelligence’ and ‘Wine that Ages Instantly’. Three Minds also introduced me to the delightful Samorost Interactive Adventure (Not Safe for Anyone with Lots to Do).

Scamp is writing a great series of Tips for Young Creatives. No.4 was Pretend You’re Two Blokes in the Pub and try to convince your mate of the value of the product you’re working on:

It strips away all the marketing bullshit, and can lead to something simple and honest.

I’ve been using a similar technique for ages, to get writers (including myself) unblocked and strip away the ‘literary bullshit’, so it’s good to see it applied to advertising. Other tips in the series – 1. Don’t Over-Polish, 2. Choosing an Agency, 3. Play Family Fortunes, 5. Dickett’s Finger, 6. Use Never-Seen-Before-Footage and 7. How to Approach Agencies. Hopefully there will be plenty more in 2007.

Apart from being essential reading for anyone with a presentation to give, Presentation Zen provide plenty of general creative inspiration offers inspiration like this end-of-year post on The Need for Solitude in the creative process.

Finally, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is one of the most consistently useful blogs on the web – if you write a business blog, website or e-book you’re probably reading him already, but if not you can’t afford to miss The Best of Copyblogger.

That’s it for December – I’ll post January’s creative links early in February.

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Creative Links

There are some excellent creative blogs out there – here are a few recent posts that have chimed in with my creative interests.

Whistle Through Your Comb

A new discovery this week, via Russell’s post of the month. Having blogged about creative environments, I thoroughly enjoyed The Perfect Office – which is emphatically not the kind of creative showroom where ‘the architecture is meant to communicate to the onlooker, “we’re highly creative.”‘:

I think an agency should not look at its office as a place: it should look at it as a tool. In other words, agencies should not create architecture that communicates creativity. They should create architecture that generates creativity.

Among the suggestions for a truly creative office are “No headphones… ever” – the author evidently agrees with the Creative Review blog that iPods Can Seriously Damage Your Creativity.

Noisy Decent Graphics

Great post on what it’s like to be a graphic designer – The Design Disease. Subjectivity rules on Wishful Thinking – I’m always fascinated to glimpse the world of someone who works in a different creative field, and this gives an good idea of what it’s like to be thrilled by arrows and tormented by shocking kerning. I draw the line at choosing a book by its cover though.

Cookin’ Relaxin’

Another new find, with an ingenious analysis of ways to consume Time based media such as music and radio programmes. With creative synaesthesia fresh in my mind, I’m intrigued by the visual representations of radio shows – and it’s worth reading to the end for the fractal bit.

Logic + Emotion

David Armano has put together a nice end-of-year e-book in the words of his readers:

2006: The year of…
PC (Power Consumer)
Business + Design

Download page: 2006 in your words