Three OFF­SET Sh­effield speak­ers dis­cuss the messi­ness of the cre­ative process, and we re­cap on Glug’s best year yet with a fo­cus on nine cre­ative cities

Computer Arts - - Meet The Team -

De­sign is of­ten not a clean, cut-and-dried process. True cre­ativ­ity emerges from con­flict, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and, cru­cially, mak­ing mis­takes.

Three speak­ers in par­tic­u­lar ex­plored the topic from dif­fer­ent an­gles dur­ing the two-day OFF­SET con­fer­ence in Sh­effield, and we caught up with them af­ter­wards to ex­plore their thoughts fur­ther.

“Mak­ing a mess is es­sen­tial,” in­sists Mov­ing Brands cre­ative di­rec­tor Dar­ren Bowles. “If we try and mod­u­larise and pack­age cre­ativ­ity, it will be lesser for it.

“As much as I love a Vi­tra­fur­nished, colour-coded li­brary en­vi­ron­ment, I want a messy space at its heart,” he adds. “Cre­ativ­ity is a messy process with a beau­ti­ful re­sult. And if we don’t al­low for mis­takes and play­ful pur­suits, we get some­thing banal and ob­vi­ous.”

Ir­ish il­lus­tra­tor Steve Simp­son agrees: “The cre­ative process has be­come cleaner and faster as the hands-on craft has been su­per­seded by apps,” he ob­serves. “It’s easy to make de­sign without leav­ing the com­puter these days.

“That leads to a lot of same­ness in the work when ev­ery­one uses the same meth­ods,” he points out. “Some­times the quick­est way isn’t al­ways the best. Get­ting messy with paint and ma­te­ri­als gives you more time to con­sider the de­sign, lead­ing to more orig­i­nal ideas.”

Pen­ta­gram part­ner Luke Pow­ell also ad­vo­cates break­ing away from the com­puter and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the world, warts and all: “It’s easy to get lost in the echo cham­ber of cur­rent de­sign aes­thet­ics,” he says. “Pay closer at­ten­tion to the world: paint marks on walls, di­lap­i­dated signs, junk shop tat, any­thing.

“Start­ing points like these open you to ideas that haven’t been ex­plored, that must be tested and ex­per­i­mented with, and that gets messy,” he adds. “It’s less teth­ered. It al­lows space for ideas to roam,

lead­ing to more var­ied, cre­ative and ul­ti­mately suit­able so­lu­tions.”

Bowles also en­joys ex­plor­ing un­charted ter­ri­tory: “If cre­ativ­ity isn’t given bound­less op­por­tu­ni­ties, the re­sults are dic­tated by fixed re­stric­tions – money, con­tent, tech­nol­ogy, and even au­di­ence – rather than a play­ful and sur­pris­ing cel­e­bra­tion of them,” he ar­gues. “Most of what we do as cre­atives is play­ful hid­ing of the seams, dis­guis­ing re­stric­tions to pro­vide clar­ity, en­gage­ment and joy.”

One of the in­evitable side­ef­fects of this ap­proach is that mis­takes will hap­pen – and you should em­brace them. “They can be ben­e­fi­cial to the fi­nal de­sign – ‘happy mis­takes’ can take you in al­ter­na­tive di­rec­tions and lead to orig­i­nal ideas,” be­lieves Simp­son.

“I do all my prep work in my sketch­book with a pen­cil,” he adds. “I can work fast and dis­card ideas without in­vest­ing a huge amount of time in a weak so­lu­tion. If you start di­rectly on the com­puter it can be sev­eral hours be­fore you can see if a di­rec­tion is work­ing.”

For Pow­ell, the value of mak­ing mis­takes tran­scends the cre­ative process for a project, and be­comes about the process of learn­ing, and evolv­ing, in gen­eral. “The sec­ond you be­come a know-it-all and refuse to al­low your­self to make mis­takes, you’ve stopped pro­gress­ing – at that mo­ment you’re in sta­sis,” he de­clares.

“We have all been self con­grat­u­la­tory when a cer­tain piece of work is ap­pre­ci­ated by our peers, and have gone on to repli­cate that look or style in other projects,” Pow­ell con­tin­ues. “The se­cret is to not get caught in that loop. While we de­sire the re­peated praise, the re­al­ity is that we get bored of the rep­e­ti­tion and so will other peo­ple if we don’t move on and make our ideas ap­pro­pri­ate to the next brief.”

It’s sound ad­vice, and echoed by Bowles. “I agree with the adage: ‘If you don’t make mis­takes, you don’t learn’,” he con­cludes. “It’s typ­i­cal of most cre­atives, but many er­rors we’ve made over the years have lead to some­thing in­ter­est­ing. Maybe it’s not learn­ing from the mis­takes that is the is­sue, but that we should al­low our­selves make more of them.

“A mis­take one day could be an op­por­tu­nity the next.”


from left: The leg­endary Ben Bos; panel on the Squares­pace stage dis­cussing Sh­effield as a cre­ative city; Ir­ish il­lus­tra­tor Steve Simp­son; The Cre­ativ­ity Hub.

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