What do creative directors need to make them creative?
Capturing the muse is a mysterious and idiosyncratic endeavor. To stimulate their creativity, some need absolute calm; some need a buzz. Some need spices; others thrive on deadlines. But what do the industry’s creative leaders swear by to get their creative juices flowing? We asked five creative directors from The Drum Network.
Patrick Bennett, Executive Creative Director (New York), Momentum Worldwide: my running shoes
The Drum Network’s top creative directors talk about their creative talismans
I would like to quote something poetic like a perfect glass of agricultural rum from the volcanic slopes of Mount Pelee on the island of Martinique. Or maybe that 2010 album that I always listen to when deadlines are approaching and creative concepts are scarce. But to be completely honest, there’s only one thing I can give credit to: my running shoes.
Honoring my running shoes may seem trite, but I do my best to learn, think, and design as I pound the pavement.
Most mornings I ride 6-10 miles along busy roads that criss-cross Brooklyn. On weekends it’s 10 or 13 miles.
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That’s an hour or two of uninterrupted time. No meetings. No alert. No email. No interference. No distractions. No temptations. Almost every day.
Even though mental hurdles prevented my best ideas the night before, once I laced up those shoes and stepped outside, the creative juices were still flowing. A running playlist I’ve carefully curated over years or a carefully curated podcast related to the creative tasks at hand help make that precious time productive and rewarding.
Mileage may vary, but for me, nothing else comes close. Recently, I even invested in fully waterproof gear to enjoy my precious creative moments, rain or shine.
Lisa Hill, Director of 3D Design, 2Heads: my earphones
The creative process is a matter of flow. There will be blockages along the way, times when motivation and focus slip away (and other times when inspiration comes flooding in and needs to be tamed). At any stage of the process, a pair of headphones is a faithful friend.
Nothing transports you like music. It changes your mood, sharpens your concentration. It’s not just the music. Headphones cut out all external sense, decrease distractions and create your own bubble wherever you are.
We’ve all been at the start of a project, diving into the brand, the ideas and the inspiration, and absorbing all the goals, functional requirements and technical constraints…when the focus wanes. When headphones are plugged in, there’s something about shutting down the world that brings clarity, bringing the challenge into focus.
The world of music is an endless mood changer. Music is a powerful emotional trigger; we release endorphins by listening to music and our brain is more active. We all know the power of music; how a song can take you back 20 years. We have our “getting ready to face the day” or “pumped for a wild night” backup playlists.
And there is the physical symbolism of the humble helmet. Nothing says “please do not disturb, I keep my head down” more succinctly than when headphones are plugged in.
Of course, there’s also a moment to take off the headphones, look up from the screen, and soak up the world around you. Connect with people – you never know where this next chance conversation will take you.
Charli Edwards, Creative Director, LoveThat: a habanero pepper
It’s not something I need for creativity, but I need a safe space to be spiced up. Passion drives me as a creative director; I love what I do, and my team too. So when ideas flow, we need an environment that allows us to be honest with each other. Even being objective can get us fired up, but that honesty leads to the innovation we all support. It’s exciting and full of energy, and that’s what I need.
I often walk out of meetings and say “that was a little spicy” – but in a good way.
Joe Hodgkiss, Creative Director, Nucco: my running shoes part II
It’s easy to get so involved in the creative process that you get lost. That great idea you had is starting to get vague after working on it for hours, and you find yourself feeling like you’re not quite in the right place yet. When that happens, I tend to dig up my punctured sneakers, open the door, and walk out.
I find running meditative when I’m grappling with an idea. I will go to my local park and try to do at least three laps. Just changing my environment and focusing on my breathing rather than a specific project does a pretty good job of hitting the reset button in my head. As soon as I’m done, I tend to find myself looking at the idea from a different angle. I’m going to find a new way to approach a visual problem or a new way to approach a concept that I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t lowered the tools and left for half an hour.
Developing creative solutions is not a sprint. There’s a rhythm to it, and having the confidence to say “I’ll leave it for now” is vital. I know that when I return to my work, I will have a fresh new angle.
Ben Golik, Creative Director, M&C Saatchi London: Artline 90 marker pen
No matter how digital our inputs and outputs become, I can’t think without a pen in hand. Not just any pen. The comforting weight and aroma of an Artline marker. Chisel tip. Black ink. It confidently describes itself as “high performance”. I’ll take some. It doesn’t matter if I’m confidently writing an all caps headline in the thick line/pleasant thought of the pen, or scribbling absently on a page (70gsm Goldline A3 pad; that matters too).
Something about holding that particular pen puts my brain into thinking mode. It also keeps me away from Google and the rabbit holes there. I’m free. Uninterrupted. Free to follow the ink flow. There’s probably a lot for a psychologist to dig into here. The thick phallic canon. The promise of an indelible in an industry where so much is so fleeting. The slight smell of diesel and thinner from all EU approved chemicals remains inside. It’s a heady mix that opens the way to ideas. And the chance to leave a permanent mark.
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