Home
Business-Wise
Kate's Collage
"Vinny Da Vendor"
"Benny Da Buyer"
Kizer & Bender
Memory, Paper & Stamps
Category Reports
Designing Perspectives
Scene & Heard


Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


 


 

Insights on business, and practical ways to improve your own.

Printer Version

Fostering Creativity

The care and feeding of artists is a tricky business.

by Kate (September, 2003)

(Note: Kate is a mid-level manager at a major craft company.)

Ah, the excitement of seeing a new product emerge from the development process! What started as an idea in someone's mind is now, finally, complete. But just how was that initial idea born? Millions of words have been written trying to explain exactly how the creative process works, but the answer remains elusive.

Still, we do know one thing: Whether this piece of creativity is a product, an ad, a sell sheet, a presentation, or whatever, the creator worked in an atmosphere that fostered the creative process.

As a manager, it's your job to provide that atmosphere and understand how creative people create.

Understanding the process.

First, realize that creativity is personal. Unlike accountants, creative people put a part of themselves "on the line" with each job they complete. They express themselves in color, fiber, technique, and design -- or words and graphics -- in areas where there are no clear-cut, right-or-wrong answers. The result is not black or white; there is no one correct answer or solution.

Second, realize that since creativity comes from within, there are days when it is nowhere to be found. At those times, it is nothing short of torture for the creator. Circles end up as ovals, country blues look gray, everything has typos, and nothing is pleasing. If a simple hangtag takes hours to finish, what can be expected of a quarter-page ad?

Yet when a creative person is in "the zone" and the creative juices are flowing, the difficult can be done in less than an hour and the impossible in less than four. Recognizing this, and trying to work with rather than against that flow, makes the process easier for all involved.

Unfortunately for the creative person, creativity is not visible. There are times when 15 minutes spent staring out a window can result in a wonderful design that is then completed quickly. Thirty minutes of magazine flipping or 20 minutes spent surfing art-filled websites look like slacking off. In fact, the subconscious is busy during this time, fine-tuning thousands of graphic tidbits of information into hundreds of different possibilities, with tangible end results.

Communication.

Fostering creativity starts with communication. The minute you start describing a project to creative people, images are forming in their brains. The more precise the information you pass on, the clearer those mental pictures become. What exactly is the assignment? What exactly is the purpose -- what should the viewer feel or do after seeing the creator's final result?

Though the computer age may have reduced the time needed to transfer the idea from the brain to the printed page, the process needed for creating that the initial mental image is just as involved as in the pre-computer age. Any information omission can lead to delays and frustration which impede the creative process.

Positive Words.

When talking with a creative person, do you use positive or negative words? For example, once an ad includes the necessary information, everything else is subjective. Font, color, background design, wording placement, etc., are personal preferences. Maybe there's nothing "wrong" with the first draft, but you just don't like it. How you communicate your thoughts can have a huge impact on the final result.

I have heard feedback such as "This is awful", "Is this the best you can do?", and "My two-year-old could do a better job." No matter how thick their skin, creators can't help but take offense at these comments.

Because artists put themselves in their work, they may take negative comments personally. Though your initial intent was to express dissatisfaction with a printed piece of paper, the artist hears, instead, that you're dissatisfied with him.

The most productive way to handle the above situation is to acknowledge the efforts made, but offer suggestions. "That's an interesting approach! What about ...?" Or, "Gee, I'm sorry, I guess I didn't make myself clear. We really need the ad to ...." In both situations you have acknowledged the effort in a positive way, while pointing out that there is more than one way to handle the ad.

Equipment and Tools.

The clearest communication, positive feedback, and a thorough understanding of the creative process are all for naught if the equipment and tools to be used are outdated or inefficient.

Do your computers have a habit of crashing because they don't have sufficient memory to do what is asked of them? Do you purchase single-use versions of programs rather than multi-terminal ones because they're cheaper, yet load them onto everyone's computer? Do you not authorize the purchase of necessary items because you don't understand why they're needed?

Though all employees are key participants in the success of a company, some special handling is needed to create an environment which truly fosters creativity. The guiding hand that supplies assignments and sets deadlines should hold a very long leash, one which allows freedom to roam...experiment...create.

(Note: Kate's previous columns are archived. To access any of them, click on the titles at the top of the right-hand column. Have any comments about stolen designs or products? Email Kate at katescollagecln@aol.com.)

xxx

 

horizontal rule

horizontal rule



   
   


Kate's Recent Columns...
HOW A RETAILER CAN HELP A VENDOR CREATE A PRODUCT; Product testing with store customer.

MY VISIT TO SOUTH KOREA; Crafts in a war zone?

A PERSONAL VIEW OF SCHOOL TRAGEDIES; The Newtown Massacre brought back memories.

MEMORIES OF 9/11; A proud but humbling experience.

THE AMERICAN DREAM, UPDATED; Something achieved, something lost: the end of a hard, but wonderful era.

DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL: CHAPTER ONE.

WHAT HALLOWEEN CHARACTERS DO YOU HAVE AT WORK? They're everywhere! They're everywhere!

BOB AND DARWIN; Reprinted from the May 15, 1986 edition of Profitable Craft Merchandising.

EXCERPT: YOU DID WHAT IN THE DITCH? FOLKLORE OF THE AMERICAN QUILTER; An edited version of the author's preface.

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN; Chapter One from a hot new comedy/mystery novel.

WHERE AND HOW DO WE PERCEIVE BEAUTY? Are we open to unexpected wonder?

THE DUNCAN FAMILY; Winner of CHA's Special Recognition award.

SEWING FOR DUMMIES(R), 3RD EDITION REVEALS TEN BEGINNER MISTAKES; Basic sewing tips for Novices.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY AND THE POST-50 GENERATION; These are modern...conveniences?

CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE THAT WILL COME SOON; In fact, they're already happening.

WAKING UP IN THE LAND OF GLITTER; Reprinted by permission by Grand Central Publishing. Copyright, 2010.

PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS; Are you ready for the worst?

CRAFT THERAPY COULD INJECT A HEALTHIER BOTTOM LINE; A website that shows how crafts are good for consumers' health, and good for business.

WORKING IN A HOME OFFICE; Benefits, problems, and tips learned the hard way.

INDUSTRY VETERANS KEEP WRITING; Short stories, romance and mystery novels, and reference books.

MOTHER'S DAY SPENDING; Less than last year, but...

WILL RETAILERS FOLLOW THE SAME DISASTROUS PATH AS NEWSPAPERS; They might, unless....

LESS SPENDING, MORE CRAFTING; The recession offers a wonderful opportunity for our industry.

A TRIBUTE TO DAVID CUNNINGHAM; Wise words for a remarkable man.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CRAFTING; Research could open the door to better health for consumers, better sales for the industry.

EMPLOYEE STOCK OWNERSHIP PLANS; Another example of unintended consequences.

SO, WHAT IS EBITDA? A hypothetical example of how it's determined and what it does - and doesn't - mean.

USING YARN TO IMPROVE THE WORLD; Knitting scarves for the Special Olympics and raising funds for the Rwanda Knits project.

WALNUT HOLLOW: AN INDUSTRY AND CONSERVATION LEADER; The company went "green" long before it was popular.

THE FUTURE OF MAKIN'S USA; Changes and improvements are in the works.

FELIX BASS

CHINA'S DEVELOPMENT AND THE FUTURE OF CHINA-US RELATIONSHIP; The Chinese ambassador's address to the Peoria (IL) Rotary Club.

REMEMBERING DAVE CUNNINGHAM; The end of an era...

MEMORIES OF BILL MANGELSEN; With lessons for all importers, businesses, and people.

RWANDA KITS UPDATE; Making a difference, changing lives.

LAST MINUTE CHA SHOW PRODUCT INFO; So many products, so little time.

WHY I SCRAPBOOK; So much more than photos and stickers.

ARE SCRAPBOOKERS CRAZY? Contests, validating lives, and more.

LETTERS FROM THE FIRE ZONE; Safe, relieved, and thankful.

A GLIMPSE INTO THE 2015 RETAILING ENVIRONMENT; Shifting demographics, household downsizing, and new marketing present industry challenges.

SOME THOUGHTS ON GLOBALIZATION; A PARADIGM REVOLUTION: The Big eating the Small is now the Fast eating the Slow.

THE CRAFT FUR DUCK; The old image of crafts needs changing.

MY 20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY, PT. III; "We are on the edge of losing touch with our consumers."

MY 20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY, PT. II; "We cannot...run companies for stockholders only or look for the one item that will last forever..."

MY 20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY; "I still believe that accurate trend prediction is the most important driver for profits for companies..."

BEADING SMILES; Helping with sick kids through crafts.

THE WORST TRADE SHOW EVER; Why CHA is no longer in Chicago in winter.

ACCOUNTING FOR GIFT CARDS...Can mess up the books.

HOLIDAY EATING ADVICE; How to stay happy, if not healthy, during the holidays.

NRF'S TOP 10 TIPS FOR SMART HOLIDAY SHOPPING; What consumers are being told on getting the best deals from retailers.

THE MICHAELS SALE AND OCTOBER RETAILS RESULTS; The CLN Newsbrief emailed to subscribers.

WHAT HAPPENED TO PROFESSIONAL CRAFTERS? SOME ANSWERS; Lack of access to supplies, inept show managers, and more.

A BEGINNING (AND END) FOR SOME ... Why do some consumers stop crafting and other become lifelong enthusiasts?

YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME? Public exposure of a private life can be misleading, dangerous, and bad for business.

CLN NEWSBRIEFS: August sales and Michaels quarterly report and conference call.

CLN NEWSBRIEF: JO-ANN'S; The quarterly report and the conference call.

CHARITABLE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL; Play golf, quilt, knit, scrap, stamp, paint - all for good causes.

IN DEFENSE OF PAPER; Technology has its place, but...

EXCERPTS FROM TALK GERTIE TO ME.

LITTLE WHITE LIES; Embellishing your resume can catch up to you.

THE DECORATIVE ARTS COLLECTION; The best our painters have to offer.

LETTERS TO CLN; Rag Shops, younger consumers, tough times for designers, and more.

BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE = LOYAL RETAILERS; 10 ways vendors can improve their relations with retailers.

WHAT HAPPENED TO PCP's; The savvy Professional Craft Producers have evolved.

PRIVATE CHARITY OR PUBLIC TAXES? Will the scalawags get rich and the poor remain poor?

HOW YOU CAN HELP KATRINA'S VICTIMS; Practical, concrete suggestions.

CHURCH BULLETINS; Typos that allegedly appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services.

SCRAPBOOKING A SENTIMENTAL EXPERIENCE; An example of why scrapbooking is so popular.

ANATOMY OF A PRODUCT PRESS RELEASE; What should be in it, how to write it, and a model.

EXCERPT: THE HEALING POWER OF CRAFTS; Using your hobbies to gain mental, physical, and spiritual benefits.

HOW TO SAY WHAT YOU MEAN; It's up to you to mean what you say.

ENCOURAGING BRIGHT IDEAS; Debunking myths about your staff's creativity.

SICK DAYS -- AND COMMON SENSE; Working when you're sick sets a bad example in more ways than you think.

THE ART OF COMPROMISE; It's an essential tool for the mid-level manager.

KNOWING YOUR LIMITATIONS; Thinking of trying a new category, such as scrapbooking? Answer these questions first.

PROGRESS? IF YOU SAY SO.; Are craft stores losing their identity.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T; Simple acts make a big difference.

FOSTERING CREATIVITY; The care and feeding of artists is a tricky business.

DIRECTIONAL SIGNALS, WHO'S TALKING, WHO'S LISTENING; How to avoid communication snafus.

WANNA JOIN A CLUB?; Not this one, please?

GRAPVINES: STOPPING OFFICE GOSSIP; Practical ways to minimize the damage.

EMAIL: THE UPS AND DOWNS; We can't live without it but we're paying a price.

LONG TERM SATISFACTION: Easy to cheapen products, but at what cost to your reputation?

EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION: WHY BOTHER?; Because it's not only fair, it's good business, too.