Creative Techniques – a masterclass with Marc Lewis
In this masterclass, Marc talked to us about different creative techniques we can use to develop our ideas in ways that get them to stand out from the crowd. Often, the best ideas are very obvious – but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are the first things that come to mind. In order to get through the first thoughts, and find the gold, he gave us some techniques. Here they are:
- There’s more than one way to skin a cat
This is about getting as many ideas as you can on a topic down on paper, encouraging you to think divergently in order to see how far you can take an idea, and how many different avenues you can go down and see where they take you.
This is because the first ideas are often the things that most people think of – challenging yourself to write down as many words or phrases related to a topic in a short time helps you to dig deeper into it, opening up ways of thinking about something that you might not have considered in the first instance.
- Playful Children learn by breaking/testing the rules
The term ‘playful child’ comes from the theory of transactional analysis, and refers to a state of being that is playful, open-minded and accepting. We are encouraged to be in this state when being creative, and like actual children, push the boundaries of ideas by breaking the rules that apply them.
Think of the rules which apply to a particular category – for example, family cars. In advertising there are usually a certain set of ‘rules’ used to depict the product;
- A happy, nuclear family
- The car is roomy
- It’s safe
- There are plenty of accessories
- It’s clean, inside and out
- Perhaps there’s a dog
Making an ad using these rules doesn’t make it inherently bad, but it does make it boring and predictable. There’s nothing to make it stand out.
Now, what would happen if two or more of the rules were broken? That would make for a more interesting ad, wouldn’t it?
- Come at it from different angles to get different perspectives
It might sound counterintuitive, but when you’re presented with a problem to solve, it sometimes helps to look away from it for a solution. We have been taught that we should be constantly ‘collecting dots’, that is, consuming information from a vast variety of places, because you never know where the solution to a problem might be.
For example, go to galleries, gigs, festivals, read the news, books, comics, listen to the radio, to all sorts of music… and not just the stuff you usually like – get out of your comfort zone! You get the idea. The point is that sometimes, an external stimulus can give you the solution in an unexpected way.
I often have the radio on when I’m working, and sometimes the presenter will use a phrase or combination of words that resonates with what I’m doing, so I make a note in case I can use it in some way.
Dave Birss also gave us some examples of creative techniques, from his book ‘A Userguide to the Creative Mind’, which gives 35 different techniques for creative thinking. We looked at a small selection;
- playing with scale – make one element of the ad bigger/smaller to see how it impacts on the meaning
- tell the truth – find an interesting insight or truth and use that as your proposition
- use a celebrity – sometimes you can use a celebrity who embodies the values and personality of the brand to bring it to life
- refresh something old – give an old reference a new lease of life
- Playful Children are always listening
Lastly, as ‘Playful Children’, we should always have our ears and eyes open to our surroundings and to each other, and also be responsive to the things we see and hear. Marc has prepared a series of ‘improv’ games to demonstrate and practise advanced listening skills and collaborative storytelling which we will be doing another day – watch this space!