Communicate your creativity

 21 March 2011

Do you ever feel like nobody understands you? Are you trying to get across creative ideas to a ‘non-creative’ colleague or employer? Five ways you can communicate your creativity, and build working relationships for a creative career.

Web and graphic designer Seb Ahmad runs Studio Mogul.
Web and graphic designer Seb Ahmad runs Studio Mogul.

Being creative for a living

You could say that people who are termed professional ‘creatives’ have some, or all, of the following characteristics in common:

  • Recognising their creativity: they know they are creative and take pride in showing off their creative side by having a good imagination and thriving on being original.
  • Independence: they crave freedom to do things by their own rules and dislike restrictions.
  • Limitless ideas: they try new approaches from multiple points of view, suggesting ideas and accepting challenges.
  • Risk taking: they aren’t afraid and don’t perceive what they doing as a possible ‘risk’.
  • Not motivated by money: as long as they have the basics to survive, they don’t measure their success by finance and profits.

On the other hand, people who claim that they ‘aren’t creative’ may have a more analytical approach to work, doing things to set rules and within boundaries.

This can be more productive, and being more cautious of risks means there’s less chance of things going wrong (having more money is rarely a bad thing either).

When creatives meet non-creatives

Claire Vize, the jeweller behind Lady Luck Jewellery, is also a project manager. So she knows what it’s like to being both types of people. She believes there are big differences between creatives and non-creatives, starting with how their brains work.

In the current job climate, the more you can do, the more useful you are.

“When I’m working in project management I find that the way my mind works is sometimes vastly different from my colleagues.

"I become bored of repetitive tasks, and am always looking for challenges, or to find a different way to do something, whereas a lot of the people I work with seem to do things 'by the book'.”

Web and graphic designer Seb Ahmad, who runs Studio Mogul, says the differences are not so obvious and it’s more to do with ‘being in the know’. Creatives and non-creatives are simply knowledgeable about different things and they can’t expect to know about things outside their field.

“I don’t know what the daily life of an accountant entails so why would they know what I do?” He doesn’t regard this lack of knowledge as a negative either, instead it provides an opportunity for both people to explain to each other what they do.

Communicate your creativity

In order to collaborate more easily, you need to keep an open mind. For Seb, effective communication is one of the most important aspects of his job. Without being able to explain his ideas to his clients, he wouldn’t have a job.

“We need to break down the barriers and find a way of letting our clients know what we do – after all non-creatives are usually our bread and butter in terms of giving us work and if we can’t explain our work, maybe we aren’t the expert in our field that we think we are?”

When you do take on work you need to be 100 percent confident that your client, boss or employer knows exactly what you’ll be doing and there’s no surprises. Ask them every possible question in the beginning – without knowing the answers, you may end up doing something unexpected and that’s often when friction between creatives and non-creatives start.

Visualise your creativity

For Claire, it can be difficult describing to a client what a jewellery commission may look like so she uses visuals to help.

Adapt your language: explain things without using creative jargon.

“I take a selection of sample photos of my work to show people to explain a certain colour combination or style - creative people seem better at visualising something that hasn't yet been made.

I often find that people will show me a photo and ask me to make 'something like that'. I then need to explain that I can't copy someone else's work and instead try and steer them towards design changes or different features, and again how I communicate this is important.”

Seb agrees saying if you can relate your idea to something commercial your client recognizes, like an existing ad campaign, they are more likely to ‘get’ where you’re coming from.

Five steps to working as a creative

You need to adopt a business-like attitude when it comes to dealing with non-creatives. As Seb points out, ‘Talking to creatives enhances your soul and gives you ideas – but it’s the non-creative that will commission you.’

This doesn’t mean compromising your beliefs – it just means being even more open minded:

  1. Adapt your language: you may need to explain things without using creative jargon ( remember: this makes you a more effective communicator).
  2. Accept that you are not always right: be open to seeing things from different perspectives rather than being locked in your own creative world.
  3. Take advice: your non-creative contacts may find you better suppliers, and new outlets for work.
  4. Show your versatility: prove to employers that you are multi-skilled and that you’re a commodity they can benefit them. In the current job climate, the more you can do, the more useful you are.
  5. Be professional: always keep in touch with clients, make sure you’ve asked everything you need to know and meet your deadlines.

Five steps to working alongside creatives

If you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘creative’, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have creative capabilities. You may work within a creative department but are restricted by your job role.

Here are five tips for what you can do to be a better colleague to creatives:

  1. Develop your own confidence: you need to be as confident in your ideas as the creative, especially if you are commissioning them. Know exactly what you want and explain it to them.
  2. Be open to change: although you need to fulfil your brief, look at things from different perspective and explore new solutions.
  3. Share your ideas: bouncing ideas off other people is a good way to start a more open minded approach. Get your immediate colleagues to come up with new suggestions - you’ll find yourself appreciating how the creative mind works.
  4. Become aware of the way things are done: keep asking yourself are you making decisions according to rules or can the boundaries be pushed?
  5. Get in touch with your creative side: even if your day-to-day job doesn’t seem to have any creative potential, try and look for ways to make it so, or take on a creative hobby outside of work. This new aspect of your lifestyle will eventually creep into your career.

Finally remember that whether you are a creative or a non-creative, give the other person a chance. They aren’t as different as you may think and the chances are you will both benefit from working together.

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