You’ve invested in creativity. Use it or lose it.

It’s pretty much guaranteed that the creatives in your team were defined as such before they were ever even employed in the industry. For most, this won’t be their first job – they probably made the move for creative reasons more than any other. In fact, during the 25 years I have worked in the industry the only reason I have ever known a designer actively leave an agency is because they felt restricted creatively.

Before entering the working world, creatives presumably studied their craft for years, and most certainly would have spent their youth just being creative for no other reason than their own enjoyment.

Most creatives would have developed their skills from childhood through a combination of encouragement and obsession. The moment they show a hint of skill beyond expectation (drawing being a great example), they will be encouraged to do it more and more, and so it begins.

Chances are, they will continue this throughout their school years to a level that will suggest pursuing it as an option for further education. This is the stage where being creative ‘for fun’ has to transition into creative that will give them a career. When I was 16 and being asked what I wanted to do for a job after school, I had no idea. The only thing I was interested in was art (mostly graffiti if I’m being honest) and so the only suggestion offered was Graphic Design (they actually called it ‘Commercial Art’). This was totally uncharted territory for me.

 

Personal projects can make a difference

I successfully got myself onto an art foundation course thanks to a bunch of drawings I had done over the next few weeks. As I had previously lost my school art coursework, these drawings were all self-initiated – a 50/50 mix of traditional life drawing and my own, more graffiti-inspired work.

Every move I made during the next five years of study and twenty-five years of employment in the industry has been successful in part due to my own personal projects that made an impact on tutors and employers alike. Whether it was sketchbooks, fanzines, experiments, coding, animation… they all illustrated the same thing: thinking creatively and continually learning… for fun.

This has been a character trait we have always looked for in designers that have joined our team at CWA and one that we actively encourage to keep alive.

 

Passion is a priority

One of the things we recognise at CWA is how time, or lack of it, can be a major factor in our creatives losing their passion for personal projects. Work and family commitments can often leave you too tired to find time for your own creative outlets. Long-term, this can have a detrimental effect on your team and, potentially, your business.

While self-determination and motivation will play a big part in every creative’s journey, as an employer who has invested in their talent, we have a responsibility to make sure that they use it before they lose it. Which is why we encourage and support initiatives like internal projects. Opportunities for our team to learn and showcase new skills without the restrictions of client guidelines. These could draw influence from personal projects that they already have a passion for – or allow time to try something totally new. This can then influence a different way of thinking internally or perhaps dictate a creative direction for a client’s next campaign.

Another initiative we support at CWA is an annual ‘YOR day’. This is a day in which you can take time out and experience something that inspires you. It’s Your Opportunity to Reflect on what makes you passionate about your work and the direction it can take you, and potentially the business.

 

Keeping creativity alive during lockdown

At the time of writing the UK has been in lockdown for almost a month due to the Covid-19 pandemic and many agencies, including CWA, would have followed government advice and started working from home shortly before this. For any agency that prides itself on working as a team, this has thrown up unprecedented challenges. You don’t appreciate how much of your day-to-day team relationships is based on off-the-cuff remarks, chipping in with advice on overheard issues, shared jokes and unspoken body language. All things that cannot be replaced on a scheduled video call.

Unsurprisingly, being thrown from one way of working to another practically overnight can have a massive impact on thinking creatively. You may not feel natural ‘bouncing ideas off people’ via a video call, or perhaps your home surroundings have just too many distractions to allow you to focus. If you have kids at home too… well, I feel your pain… BUT now, more than ever, is a time to not lose focus on being creative.

As an agency we know how important it is for our clients to remain marketing themselves during this time or planning for their return once everything settles down. Our creatives should be doing the same, particularly any whose situation has meant they have excess time on their hands as it will be those that will have the biggest shift adjusting back into the flow of work – we all know how weird it can feel after just a week off!

This is a perfect time to finish off that project you started or explore a creative passion you’ve struggled to find time for in the past… learn a new skill or totally master an existing one. Digital marketing (social media in particular) has seen a surge in recent weeks, something that will most likely stay when the pandemic is over, so if your skillset lacks a digital focus you could do worse than brush up on that.

Podcasts and live streaming are also areas that have seen a massive boost during lockdown. Even if you don’t see yourself as a natural presenter, being able to master the set-up and any graphics, audio editing or animation that can support these will be a benefit to you and your agency.

If you need more direction, there are countless ‘Daily Design’ challenges and even initiatives that are dedicated to fighting the pandemic – my current favourite is ‘Thank You Delivery Heroes’- celebrating the great work delivery drivers are doing across the globe.

For those of you who have a little less time on your hands yet still crave a little creative break, there are plenty of museums and art galleries providing virtual tours for you to check out – not quite the real thing but they are considerably cheaper!

So, whether you’re encouraging personal projects, learning new skills or virtual experiences – your team should come out of the lockdown refreshed and ready to get creative.

 

Remember to say hello@cwa.co.uk if you need anything from us during lockdown. Video production? PR? Or even just a virtual coffee, let us know!

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Written by
Martin Lovegrove
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