This article is part of CMO.com’s October series about creativity and design-led thinking. Click here for more.
Powerhouse creative forces from the fine arts, media, music, and film industries graced the stage Thursday at Adobe MAX—The Creativity Conference, in Las Vegas, to talk about what it means to be creative, how they get inspired, and the role of technology in today’s creative world.
Potter Jonathan Adler said his focus has always been about designing clean, graphic, and uplifting pieces that are a reflection of who he is. His creative process, he said, is a dichotomy of self love and hate, and that is what makes him successful. Love drives him to execute on an idea. Then the self-loathing, where he doubts himself, kicks in—something, he said, every designer and creative needs to overcome.
“Any success I’ve had is a by-product of an intense focus on creativity in everything I do,” Adler told the audience of 12,000 attendees. “The purity of design ... that needs to be where everything starts.” To that point, Adler shared his company motto: “If your heirs won’t fight over it, we won’t make it.”
Renowned photographer Annie Griffiths followed on stage to discuss her life’s work as a photo journalist for National Geographic. Her key takeaway was that design and creativity aren’t just a job. It’s all about making a difference and getting people to connect with what you’ve created. “When you humanize a culture or an issue, people are capable of getting it,” she said.
Next up: musician, album producer, and DJ Mark Ronson, who started out by talking about his early days in the music industry. As a newbie, he said, he often tried to mimic influencers in his field but quickly learned he needed to make it his own. He has always been a big believer in the “gut feeling,” using it as his inspiration when choosing the right people to work with.
“When producing an album,” Ronson said, “it’s never been about putting [my] own stamp on it.” Instead, he focuses on whatever is appropriate for that musician. The takeaway for the creative community? Working with a brand should never be about your creative stamp, but rather what is going to work for that brand or company.
As a creative, Ronson advised, you always have to be ready and open for inspiration, which can come from anywhere. As for technology, smart creatives will “use the tech of their day while still preserving the human voice,” he said.
Ronson also spoke about measuring success. His advice: “Don’t chase things that won’t ever happen.” He’s not focusing his efforts on creating another song like Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” “You can’t chase making another hit like that,” he said—just like creatives can’t chase creating a viral social media video or campaign.
Capping off the session was actor, writer, and producer John Favreau, who was interviewed by Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes. For Favreau, the creative process starts with a notebook and a pen. He scribbles in the notebook, then places it back onto the shelf, he shared. Later on, when an opportunity presents itself, he goes back to that notebook and follows that thread to create something.
Despite that initial no-tech beginning, Favreau said he was comfortable with technology. “To turn away from something because it is new is not a smart approach,” he said. “Instead, find the things you like and embrace about them, humanize it, and steer that trend. That’s when one can be more useful. The tech won’t go away.”
Favreau also made a point about adjusting every story for the medium it appears, and that social media is the modern-day word of mouth. Consumers, he said, are forming tribal groups with others who have similar tastes, and they trust the opinions of their peers more than ever before. Testing and iteration, he added, is also a very important part of the creative process.
“When you release a trailer for a movie, seeing what the feedback is is like being at every water cooler. It’s a reality check on what you’re doing and whether it is resonating with people,” Favreau said. “You don’t learn from your successes; you learn from failures. ... If you are working hard at something, it’ll take you to the next step, even if it’s a failure.”
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