What’s Your Creative Process?
I was asked recently by a good friend — and very talented photographer— Jeremy Fokkens, what my creative process is. I paused for a minute because it’s what I do on a day-to-day basis, so it has become more muscle memory than active thought. Typically, there are only 2 things that change in the equation: the problem I’m trying to solve and the people working on the project. Even though little changes in my process aside from those two factors, systems can always be improved upon so this was a great exercise to see if there’s anything missing.
Setting the Foundation
Since the very beginning, Everbrave has had a few set values which we live by. It doesn’t matter if our actions are internal or externally facing, we always keep these values in mind. They are a guide to how we do what we do, and they play a foundational role in my creative process.
- Create with Purpose
- Mutual Respect
- Details Matter
- Be a Problem Solver
- No Surprise in Time or Money
- Act Courageously
Looking Through a Business Lens
I look at every problem not just through a creative lens but also a business lens because ultimately, we’re successful when the client is successful. A client may come to us with a project such as designing a poster but it’s my job to dig deeper and find out why. What are they trying to do and what are their objectives? Quite often the problem is not the task at hand but about trying to reach business goals. If I can discover the client’s goals, then perhaps I can identify something that might be more effective for reaching those goals than the poster they initially wanted.
Be a Sponge. Ask the Right Questions
Gather all the necessary information from the client about their project, their business, and then some. What they are trying to achieve, why they’re doing it, when it needs to be done, what their budget is, who their competitors are, past successful (and unsuccessful) projects, target audience, and everything else you can think of. Try to get as much information as you can and do your own research to back everything up.
Creating the Creative Brief
Working with the client, my team and I develop a creative brief for approval. This will address the objectives and tactics of the project. If done right, it should inspire the team on conceptualization. Keep in mind, this is a brief, not a Ph.D. thesis so I keep it short and sweet.
I actually find this part quite challenging because it becomes the measurement of success in a project and it holds everyone accountable.
Visual Vocabulary (a.k.a. Mood Board)
The purpose of building a visual vocabulary is to paint the optical story of the brand and/or the project. This sets the tone and style of the work produced. It also helps the client visualize what is to come and sets certain expectations. It’s imperative to try to minimize surprises because at the end this will affect timelines and budgets. I have the client involved early on, so they understand how the solution was found, but more importantly, they get to be part of that conversation and address anything that may not meet their expectations. At the end of the day, the client needs to own whatever is created for them.
The Big Idea
Coming up with the big idea is a lot easier once the client has agreed to the creative brief and visual vocabulary because then expectations are (mostly) established. That’s why these steps are so vital to getting into the conceptualization of the actual project.
Getting to the point of coming up with the big idea might be one of the most creative parts of the process. I enjoy collaborating with the team because we all have a different point of views and something unique to offer. I’m not always the one coming up with the big idea, and I’m ok with that. My team’s success is my success and the client always benefit from collaboration.
Coming up with this is only half of the problem though, selling it is the other half. That’s why we make sure everything we do has a rationale, matches the visual vocabulary, and meets the objective set forth in the creative brief.
I always think it’s important to have the potential tactics laid out before presenting the big idea(s) to a client. To come to those tactics, I use my experience and research to decide the best course of action for the project. From that, we source preliminary quotes.
I’d hate to present something and then have to go back to that client to inform them that it will cost way beyond their budget.
Finding the right people for the job is key. This means if our team can’t provide all of the services, or thinks a specialist (illustrators, designers, photographers, writers, PR…etc.) can better execute the concept, we will bring them in.
This step is pretty self-explanatory. Making sure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. Details matter is one of Everbrave’s core values, so we make sure everything is up to our standards and is consistent with our brand and theirs.
I always check back regularly to make sure the work we did was effective. There’s always room for improvement so we take in all feedback and adjust creative accordingly for future reference.
Room for Improvement
Writing this was a great chance to reflect on my current process and I found that what is missing, and also critical to the process, is to have more opportunities for constructive criticism internally. As a small company we tend to do things quite efficiently and that helps us in making quick decisions, but it’s important to spend some time to step back and make sure we have looked at the problem from every angle to explore all options.
I’m a creative first and foremost but I’m also a business owner so it’s incredibly important to me to make sure that whatever I create suits the needs of the client. While every creative process is different, this is what best serves my needs as a creator and as a business owner.