29. January 2016 · Comments Off on 10 Tips for Managing Creative People · Categories: creativity · Tags: ,

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1. Develop ideas
Start with a collaborative environment. Work with creative people to develop concepts but avoid specific, detailed instructions on what a project should look like. Explain parameters clearly—such as the feel or look a project should have—and let the designer go to work. Check in often to see how the project is going and help in its development.

The creative personality is not one to just follow a set of rules, and that trait makes them successful in creative and design-oriented fields. Give them room to develop concepts without constant observation.

Coach workers rather than dictate a set of rules to them. Avoid planning out everything that should be done in advance and give employees freedom to make choices so they feel some creative control over projects.

2. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm
Much of the creative process is organic and creative people like to think and imagine. Because a characteristic of a right-brain thinkers is to process information in sometimes random and varied orders, brainstorming sessions can be beneficial. Toss out many ideas (follow the “no idea is stupid rule”) and keep quick notes of concepts that are workable.

Encourage workers to brainstorm with each other. You don’t have to be present for good ideas to emerge. Tracy Collins, a newspaper manager, offered this advice in the 2008 edition of Design Journal: “Help them develop brainstorming alliances that will strengthen teamwork within the visual group, and have that group present their ideas to you.”

3. Foster a creative workspace
A row of gray cubicles will not foster creativity. Litter your workspace with color and items that will inspire workers. Look for interesting artwork or showcase some of the work your company has done. Is the room silent? Think about playing music at a certain time of day. Let the employees pick the tunes.

Rearrange the workspace to facilitate communication and collaboration. Paint a white wall orange and add a piece of artwork to it. Set aside an area with couches and tables to employees to relax and chat. One of the world’s top companies, Google, is known for its super-modern workspaces which feature lots of color and modern “cubicles.”

Be flexible with work schedules if possible. Maybe some of your workers would benefit from a schedule that does not fit in the 9-to-5 mold. Try to accommodate shift variances for people to optimize their skills.

4. Provide feedback

Let your employees know how they are doing. It is easy for someone who primarily uses a right-brained style of thinking to become attached to their work emotionally. During critiques, keep the focus on an employee’s work. Choose words carefully.

In any creative field, much of what “works” or does not can be a matter of personal preference. Weigh this when critiquing a project. If you do not like a creative piece look, ask yourself several questions. Does it work for what the client wants? Does it follow our guidelines of style and is it technically sound?

If the project meets these guidelines and you still don’t like it, the difference may just be a matter of taste. Remember you may not like everything that comes across your desk. It may sound overly simple but people have different styles and like different things. It does not make something right or wrong; it is just a matter of taste.

Do set clear boundaries in black and white areas. A common concern among creative, for example, can be meeting deadlines. Start with how much you like the direction of the project but emphasize that the team is waiting for everyone’s contribution so the project can be completed. Outline a clear set of steps to meet that goal.

5. Develop style parameters
Although creative workers like their space, it is a good idea to have some guidelines in place. Develop and post a set technical specifications, communication standards and deadline policies.

For certain types of work where visual consistency is important—such as design in magazines, newspapers and some websites—develop a basic set of style rules. Outline what fonts and colors are acceptable; set guidelines for images. Also set guidelines for breaking the rules—what is the threshold, who approves the “rule-breaking.”

6. Don’t fear failure
An international Mercedes-Benz ad campaign in early 2011 focused on left-brain and right-brain traits in a series of print advertisements. These ads showed the differences in thinking styles visually. The result was visually stunning images that make you think, but did they sell the product described? The creative agency took quite a risk with this edgy campaign, but I doubt people who saw the ad related it to buying a car. The result could be viewed as both a success and a failure.

Don’t take away work from someone after a failed project. That is the time to “get back on the bike” and try something else. If an employee did good work but a project just did not come together give them another chance and talk about the small success and failures that contributed to the final result. Creative people can sometimes have egos and typically need to feel confident to find continued success.

7. Coach principles of communication
Sometimes it can be very frustrating for visual people to communicate with non-visual workers. Your visual group may be able to “see” an idea during a conversation while others cannot. Coach those workers on how to better communicate their ideas.

Sometimes the solution can be as simple as having sketch pads and pens at all meetings so those visual ideas can be put out there for everyone. Ask questions to help visual thinkers learn to better articulate their thoughts as well: “I don’t understand. Please talk me through this one more time.”

Help designers learn to explain their decision-making and why things look a certain way. Don’t accept “because it looks cool” as an answer; push creatives to justify the reasons why something works or does not.

8. Different is good
Don’t focus on differences as a negative attribute; use them to your team’s advantage. Different styles of thinking and communication can be a challenge in the workplace but try to focus on how to use those differences.

Creative people think in a way that is likely to challenge the more structured process of managers. Keep your cool during these challenges. It may be frustrating but the same thought process that challenges your rules about a dress code, for example, is the same process that got you stellar results on a project. Learn to mesh your styles effectively but keep lines of communication open and appreciating difference.

9. Emphasize learning
Technology is changing the way we work at a pace that is hard to match. Make sure your employees are learning new things and keeping up.

Print designers should be dabbling in web design. Encourage and find opportunities for those who are not. Web designers should have to participate in a print project or two.

Provide learning materials for your staff as well. Subscribe to industry magazines and have them available. Send links to neat ideas or online articles. Show that you are seeking out learning opportunities as well.

10. Start daydreaming
Daydreaming is at the core of problem-solving, according to an article by Amy Fries for Psychology Today. Don’t stop your best employees when they zone out at their desks; sometimes that is when the creative process is happening.

Further, encourage mental time-outs. Several companies known for innovation—Google, 3M and Gore-Tex—offer employees free time, just to sit and think. When have your best ideas hit—in the shower, at the dinner table? Giving employees more time to think about projects may increase overall productivity.

20. January 2016 · Comments Off on 5 Reasons to Work With Creative Staffing Agencies · Categories: creativity · Tags:

Need to Hire? Creative Staffing Agencies Can Help

Here are five reasons why a creative staffing agency can make job-filling easier:

Industry and local market expertise. Creative recruiters understand the industry inside and out, not to mention the local markets they serve. In fact, many of TCG’s creative recruiters used to work in the industry as designers, writers, marketers and more. This background gives our creative recruiters unparalleled insight into candidates’ abilities as well as how those skill sets can meet your specific business needs.
Access to a breadth of top candidates. Creative recruiters focus on building extensive pools of creative talent. You may write the best job description, but are you certain it’s reaching the best candidates? With a creative staffing agency, you have access to a wide range of potential hires that may otherwise never have seen your job opening. In addition, creative recruiters reach professionals who aren’t actively looking for a job, but may be interested if the right opportunity is presented to them.
Cost. Employee turnover costs can be high. Did you know that the cost of a bad hire can equal 30 percent of that person’s initial-year salary? Knowing how much a bad hire can set you back financially makes it worth your while to ensure the candidates you do bring on work out.
Time. Time is money, especially when you think about the opportunity cost of evaluating resumes and portfolios, and then comparing candidates’ skills and experience levels. Save yourself this time. Instead, spend it on leading your team and focusing on business initiatives.
Flexibility. Quick access to creative freelancers allows you the flexibility to staff up or down to meet business needs. Maintaining that perfect equilibrium on your team is tricky, but it’s that much easier when you rely on a creative staffing agency to help you bring on temporary workers when project demands require it.

10. January 2016 · Comments Off on 5 Tips To Boost Your Creativity As A Photographer · Categories: creativity

While there is no universal recipe for taking a good shot, every photographer has a set of tricks, which invariably come in handy. Well, here are mine.

1. First of all, tell a story.
Find the motivation for each object in the scene; some integrating vector. What are these objects? How did they come here? Who brought them here? Who is the protagonist? What’s going on here?

A good photo is like the climax scene in the movie. Looking at this kind of photo, the viewer will be able to see what happened before, and can guess what will happen after. For your photo, invent a coherent story (with a beginning, middle, and end), and then simply capture a culminating point.

2. Create and use mind maps.
It’s the perfect exercise to make your mind work and get it running. I believe you can easily find detailed articles about how to use the mind maps, but here is a summary: write the main theme (the object you are working with, the mood you want to convey, and so on) in the center, draw rays of main branches (shooting conditions, associations, available props, supporting ideas, location). Refine each of these parameters using the supporting branches. Then, ask yourself which of the two resulting details fit together best? And then build your picture on this finding.

When I first heard about mind maps, it seemed like a pointless idea. I thought I could just write down associations in a column with the same success. But mind maps can give you something better than that. They provide a structure, allowing you to combine a lot of elements and make connections which you never think to do at first glance. Give them a chance. They’re perfectly simple and useful.

3. Do not allow the material to control your imagination.
We often think to ourselves, “If I had this kind of camera…” or “If I had this prop…” But you already have everything you need. You have an imaginative mind, so use it! Photos do not have to be realistic. If you need a dragon, you do not necessarily need to recreate a giant fire-breathing lizard, you can just cut it out of paper.

4. Make a tribute
This is an interesting and creative process, and a good practice for using various artistic means. Do you have an interest in painting or film? Select an inspiring artist, director, or creator, and try to make a shot in his style. Analyze his or her distinctive techniques, colors, angles, and try to tell your own story within these parameters. You don’t just get a good exercise, but you also create an interesting postmodern piece of work.

5. Start a big project.
Select a theme and promise yourself to follow through and produce your best work. What is the biggest series you’ve ever made? Five images? Ten? Fifteen? Multiply this number by two.

01. January 2016 · Comments Off on Your Guide to Building the Best Creative Team · Categories: creativity · Tags: , ,

Your Prescription for Building the Best Creative Team

As you chart new goals and plans, add “building the best creative team” to your list. Follow my prescription below, which includes five must-haves when building effective teams:

Right People: In order to build the best creative team, you need the best people and the right number of them. Three ways to assess if you have the right people is by evaluating technical skills, cultural fit, productivity and team size.
Skills. With any team, you need to begin with the right intellectual assets. This is the science part of team-building. Your job is to ensure the individuals on your team have the right technical skills and expertise (like software knowledge) as well as the right level of experience.

Cultural fit. Can you define what makes a good match for your team and organization? This is the art of team-building. After all, there’s a job description and there’s the right fit. The right fit needs more than the rote skills to execute the tasks associated with the job; he or she must also have the personality and work style to fit in with the culture of the team and company.

Team size. Integral to team-building success is making sure you have the right staffing level. Do you have the flexibility to staff up or down during peak times? Will you be able to maintain your core skill set regardless of slowdowns or busy seasons? Allow yourself the opportunity to staff up or down to meet business needs. Being able to add unique skills as needed to handle elevated work periods keeps teams running smoothly.

Right Process: Having the best creative team means team members are not just passionate and creative, but also productive and efficient. And to be productive and efficient, you need clearly defined expectations. Effective teams have a leader who sets tangible targets, such as deadlines, production schedules and scopes, in order to achieve team goals and expectations, with checks and balances along the way. Creative teams can be brilliant, but you can’t overlook the need for defined process, direction and focus to keep that brilliance on target.
Right Leadership and Leadership Approach: Without a doubt, your creative team leader must have the technical expertise to communicate with the team, but that’s not what will make them an effective leader. The best leaders need to identify and communicate a vision and inspire others to create. They must also be humble, approachable and decisive. A strong team leader should know when to be open to the team’s thoughts and when to stand firm and make a decision. On creative teams, the most effective leadership approach is often one that lacks hierarchy. Avoid being too rigid. Instead, focus on:
Having open communication between team members and management. While there should be rules of engagement, it should also be understood that there are no dumb questions.

Using team-based approaches to solving problems. Don’t just tell; ask how others would handle problems or setbacks.

Fostering a safe-to-fail and safe-to-risk environment. Creativity can’t thrive if risk and failure aren’t an option.

Right Environment: Creative teams need creative workspaces. Inspiration can be hard to come by when teams are divided, isolated or restricted. Find opportunities in your team’s physical environment to inspire creativity. That may mean using a conference room as a collaborative work environment. It may mean structuring desks like a bull pen, with all team members working in open space The right environment might also mean access to proprietary tools and software, even when team members are away from the office. Flexibility to work from home and access information whenever creativity strikes – even in the middle of the night – means your creative team can be effective and productive anytime, anywhere.

Right Vision and Strategic Direction: It’s integral that your creative team understands the bigger purpose of the project, department and company. What’s the mission of each? How do each of those individual missions come together to serve one greater goal? For example, if you are building a website, every team member, from the UX designer to the copywriter to the web developer, needs to be unified on mission, goal and purpose, not just for their roles, but for the final deliverable. This is the core of an effective team – understanding not just your individual contributions, but how those fit into the greater picture.