25 Sep The Unrequested Guide to Recognizing Original Creatives
How easy is it to scroll through design projects and say “boring” or “amazing”? It’s natural for us to judge others’ work. Take, for example, the Juicy Salif by Philippe Starck, one of the best-selling products. If you were to show it to a designer, they would find 30-40 things that the product does poorly.
The reality is that it has sold half a million pieces (500,000). You may not personally like it, but Mr. Alessi saw something in that product.
We tend to judge projects based on our past experiences. If it aligns with our ideas about design, it’s okay; otherwise, we dismiss it as terrible.
Indeed, it’s impossible for everything to appeal to us or match our taste. However, as design professionals, we need to recognize great ideas and talented creatives, even if this is more related to the company they work for. When purchasing something for ourselves, it’s fine to judge based on our taste. But when deciding if something can work or not, we must be prepared to change our criteria.
Choosing a good idea is very challenging, so most companies take the easiest route: they find the best creative.
Using an established designer gives companies the reassurance that they rarely make mistakes, thus ensuring that things will work. This is also why emerging designers are often criticized by clients who don’t trust them enough to allow for innovation. On the other hand, an established designer can even “sell shit” and still get approval.
First, we must question whether it is true that famous people “sell shit” or if it is simply our inability to see the relevance of their projects. Otherwise, we must analyze ourselves to determine if we truly have a creative mindset.
I recently watched a TED presentation by Adam Grant, who attempted to define the characteristics of truly creative individuals (he calls them “originals”). I won’t delve too much into his opinion here, so I encourage you to watch it yourself. But there is one golden rule: creatives possess a specific mindset. This mindset is a way of thinking and operating that leads to the generation of genius. What I mean is that we are not inherently born geniuses, but we have the potential to become one.
The real problem is that most of us are already set in a mindset that is often more suitable for workers than for creatives. There’s nothing wrong with being a good worker, but if we are working as creatives, we must embrace that mindset.
The pursuit of well-executed standardization has taken us away from our original goal: to find uniqueness.
It’s a tricky situation because it’s not solely the designer’s fault. Some creative directors also possess the same mindset, judging work based on standard values, and designers strive to please them to get the job done. The result is a product that adheres to market rules and eventually fades away. Moreover, designers tend to conform, leading us towards disaster.
If we unconsciously train ourselves to create the best standards, the output will be standardized, and progress will stagnate.
If we look around, we are surrounded by standardized products, likely born from the criteria I mentioned earlier. Standardization is everywhere, like a horror film.
The only solution is to put equal effort into creating original things instead of standard ones.
The biggest challenge with this approach? Convincing the client.
That’s because clients usually expect something standard, and it’s incredibly difficult to persuade them that your idea is the right one if you deviate from those expectations. People like Philippe Starck have already proven this, and now they can easily convince others because their previous successes have granted them authority.
However, beware: being unconventional doesn’t mean creating useless fancy objects. Dieter Rams, Jony Ive, the Eames, and many others had/have an unconventional approach that resulted in beautiful and functional objects with no overtly flashy style.
So, the framework to create an original product is simple: you need to excel at managing the unconventional and turning it into reality.
The bad news is that this requires a lot of time and numerous attempts. The greatest music composers, for example, achieved their masterpieces after composing 500 to 600 pieces. It’s a long journey, but as designers, it is our responsibility to at least give it a try.
I was not born creative; I’m still training to climb the Olympus, and I see my ideas evolving year by year. Sometimes, they may be a bit harder to understand than before, but I am confident that good ideas need time to be appreciated. Think about music: if you hear a song for the first time and immediately like it, it’s probably a combination of familiar notes that will soon become tiresome. On the other hand, a good song in a new genre needs time because it offers something fresh, and we need to get accustomed to it.
But once you’re in, the experience is massive.