People often ask what fresh perspective I might bring to the mix. I thought it best to share a bit about my philosophy here. THANKS for visiting!
Greg Allen, the founding director of Chicago’s iconoclastic theater company The Neo Futurists, wrote a piece in September 2005 entitled “25 RULES FOR CREATING GOOD THEATER.” Although it was not written as a treatise on making great creative for the digital space, it is one of the best sets of guidelines I’ve ever seen for it.
I have chosen 9 rules to illustrate that here.
DON’T CREATE GOOD THEATER.
YOU MUST INTEND TO CREATE GREAT THEATER. WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE PERFECTLY GOOD PRODUCTIONS OF PERFECTLY GOOD SCRIPTS. YOU ARE SETTING OUT TO DO SOMETHING GREAT OR IT’S NOT WORTH DOING.
This meaning of this one is pretty self-evident. I believe strongly in creating amazing work. Though we may not always reach the proverbial “stars” with our product for a variety of reasons, our sights must be set on the heights of creative excellence in both concept and execution. This is huge for me.
KNOW WHY YOU ARE CREATING THIS SHOW.
THE PIECE YOU CREATE MUST BE THE EXPRESSION OF SOMETHING ABOUT WHICH YOU FEEL VERY DEEPLY. SETTING OUT TO MAKE “GOOD THEATER” IS NOT ENOUGH. TAKE A STRONG STAND – PERSONAL, POLITICAL, SOCIAL, ARTISTIC, – AND CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO EXPRESS IT. INCLUDE YOUR PERFORMERS IN THIS AIM.
Great creative starts with clear goals. We absolutely have to be clear about why we are creating a solution in order for that solution to be effective. More than 25 years in the business has taught me that clients believe “deeply” in their product or service and users are looking for experiences that both thrill and provide true utility. It is our clarity of purpose that resonates with clients and makes solutions successful for that most important audience: Users.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
HAVE SOME IDEA WHO YOU ARE CREATING THE SHOW FOR. FIRSTLY IT SHOULD BE FOR YOURSELF. BUT SECONDLY IT SHOULD HAVE SOME TARGET FOR WHO WILL BE IN THE AUDIENCE – CHILDREN, TEENAGERS, PUNKS, THE RICH, THE OLD, LIBERALS, GRAD STUDENTS, WOMEN, GAYS, A SPECIFIC ETHNICITY, ETC. THEATER “FOR EVERYONE” IS BLAND THEATER.
Creative that speaks to real people in honest ways is good creative. Knowing who those people are is essential. What drives them? What motivates them? How can we best reach them? What utility are they looking for and how can we enable that? Knowing this information makes for truly targeted solution-building. I am very focused on target, however broad or niche, and reaching that target in meaningful ways to them.
MAKE FORM FIT FUNCTION.
ONCE YOU HAVE IDENTIFIED WHY YOU ARE CREATING THIS SHOW, FIND THE PERFECT THEATRICAL FORM TO EXPRESS YOUR BELIEFS. WHETHER IT BE A PUPPET SHOW, A DANCE PIECE, AN ENVIRONMENTAL INSTALLATION, STREET THEATER, SEQUENTIAL ART, A GUIDED TOUR, AUDIENCE INTERACTIVE, NON-VERBAL, BARE STAGE, SITE SPECIFIC, PROSCENIUM, ETC., DON’T BE RESTRICTED IN YOUR FORM. MIX AND MATCH FOR SPECIFIC MOMENTS THROUGHOUT THE SHOW.
Very humbly, I consider myself a “creative’s creative.” I love art for art’s sake and LOVE creating art. The creative business, however is not just about creating art. It is an equal blend of art and science. The marriage of great creative and technology is absolutely paramount in today’s marketplace. Great ideas delivered poorly are blunted. Well-built sites and apps that don’t stir the heart are inert. It’s the balance of both that makes for amazing solutions.
USE THE PERFORMERS FOR WHO THEY ARE.
LET THE PERFORMERS EXPRESS THEMSELVES AND THEIR LIVES AND EXPERIENCES IN THE SHOW. INCLUDE THEM IN THE CREATION PROCESS. GIVE THEM THE CHANCE TO SPEAK FROM THEIR HEART.
So often, creative marketers forget that brands are at the center of the solutions they are building. I strive to create solutions in both concept and design that magnify the essence of what they are promoting, whether that’s the brand itself or functionality or utility within a digital release. The best work is so often “transparent,” offering users that clear window into a brand. That window might offer a tinted view, but it never obscures the subject beyond. Design or development that becomes to “self-important” does just that, muddies the view. It just gets in the way. The brand and its expression through storytelling, utility and functionality are the heroes and as creatives, we can not forget that.
CREATE TRUE THEATER.
A SHOW SHOULD NEVER FAIL TO ANSWER THE QUESTION “WHY IS THIS THEATER?” THEATER IS LIVE PERFORMERS IN FRONT OF A LIVE AUDIENCE. NEVER FORGET THIS. IF YOUR SHOW CAN BE PUT ON TELEVISION OR TURNED INTO A MOVIE WITHOUT LOSING SOMETHING, YOU HAVE FAILED.
Apps are apps. The mobile web is the mobile web. Full desktop experiences are just that. The medium should drive what we are creating, building on the unique options of each. We must be clear about this. We always need to keep the uniqueness of the medium firmly in mind.
USE THE ELEMENTS ON STAGE.
EVERY PRODUCTION SHOULD INCLUDE THE FOUR NATURAL ELEMENTS, ESPECIALLY FIRE AND WATER. THERE’S NOTHING COOLER AND MORE IMMEDIATE THAN THROWING WATER AROUND OR WATCHING SOMETHING BURN ON STAGE. IT IMMEDIATELY INVOKES THEATER’S RITUAL ORIGINS. IF THE POWERS THAT BE DON’T LET YOU DO THIS, DO IT ANYWAY.
So often, I see pyrotechnics, shock tactics, and crazy creative out there. That has its place, but I’m most impressed by the basics. What can you do with great concept (great hooks), type, layout, copy, a user-centered mindset and data? Those are the things that give substance to those pyrotechnics. Without those solid basics, creative is empty. It fails. This has become more urgent, evident and relevant with the shift to primary use of mobile devices. As we look at the world from a “Mobile First” perspective, those basic elements ground solutions in ways that we need.
UNIFY THE AUDIENCE.
GIVE THE AUDIENCE SHARED EXPERIENCES WHICH CREATE FAITH AND TRUST IN EACH OTHER. CREATE AN EVENT THAT BRINGS DISPARATE PEOPLE TO IDENTIFY WITH EACH OTHER THROUGH THEIR MUTUAL, BUT INDIVIDUAL, EXPERIENCE OF THE SHOW.
Great creative solutions create connections. They allow us to belong to something. They give us those “shared experiences” Greg is referring to in this rule. This is perhaps no more evident than in digital and especially in the mobile space. I always look for ways to not only involve users in the fully interactive experience of the digital solution being created, but also to allow them to relate to each other through that creative solution. Brands are built through dialogue and shared experience in today’s digital world.
ESTABILISH RITUAL THROUGH REPETITION.
GIVE THE AUDIENCE A RITUAL OR REPETITIVE PATTERN WITH WHICH TO IDENTIFY. CREATE A SHARED HISTORY FOR THE AUDIENCE. ONCE A RITUAL IS ESTABLISHED, YOU CAN SPEAK VOLUMES THROUGH TINY VARIATIONS ON A THEME. THE ART IS IN THE DETAILS. THERE’S NOTHING BETTER THAN FEELING PART OF AN INSIDE JOKE.
Usability is a huge part of success in the creative space. As a current darling of digital, the UX space is frought with jargon and mysticism. That’s SO true, but good UX uses allows us to establish patterns for users. It allows them to reach the goals that they have when interacting with a brand in any channel. It’s sexy in the geekiest way possible. And best of all, it works.
EVERY DAY, I TRY TO ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS.
What have we enabled our audiences to do today that they couldn’t do yesterday?
How have we increased utility in our branded digital channels today?
Did we create something conceptually strong, visually beautiful, and functionally elegant today?
How have we delivered on the promise of the brand today for ourselves and our clients?