Keep it simple, stupid @_helenasmith

By Helena Smith 

As we have delved deeper into strategy and planning over the last couple of weeks, it’s become increasingly apparent how hard simple really is and, how I have been ‘trained’ for anything but.


A few of the books on our reading list do touch (some more than others) on the curse of knowledge and when reading said books I accepted the idea. I understood what they were saying, but I can’t say I fully believed in it. How can being too knowledgeable be a bad thing? Surely the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are for dealing with the world around you?


No. Now I am completely surrendered to this idea and will say wholly that the curse of knowledge is real. And that these last two weeks have really proved it to me in more ways than one.


When set a brief naturally you get the immediate influx of reactionary ideas. The ideas which tend to be slightly outrageous (and therefore exciting) but have a lack of substance in regard to the brief. Consequently, these ideas are usually void within the next ten minutes once the initial burst of adrenaline from being set a new task has calmed down. Your composure is regained and you is to research.


To ensure that you really nail the brief with creating a great campaign, the context of the issue the brief is dealing with needs to be thoroughly understood. This means a lot of research needs to take place. This in itself it’s quite exhilarating process and I’m often surprised at how much you can learn and take in in a short period of time. The problem is then sifting through all this learned knowledge to see what is actually useful. Que the curse.


Feeling quite proud of all my research I personally struggle to let go of certain things and often resort to the crowbar. Being aware I have this tendency, I try to avoid it by homing in on what I think are the important bits and end up doing more research. So in trying to save myself from having too much information I actually end up with more. It gets ugly.


Getting in this sort of mess arguably is just part of the creative process and Marc promises our guts will get stronger so perhaps with practice it might get easier to spot the useful bits. But for the 2 and 3-day briefs it certainly has been a struggle for me. And because of this the scamping process has forfeited. This meant I had to reluctantly put up work on the wall I wasn’t proud of, breaking one of the golden rules of being a creative.


Another way I have felt the curse is through my desire to overcomplicate sentences (you may have noticed). This Tuesday we had the great Patrick Collister in for a master class and he spoke about how the education system stunts your ability to develop ideas. It’s a theory I have heard a few times before, but again it’s only recently that it’s hit home. On a daily basis, I battle with my desire to either use more words in copy than necessary, or overcomplicated ones (which I’m not convinced now even I know the meaning of) and feel like I’m making myself look stupid if I don’t. When in reality it’s the complete opposite and I just sound like a tit.


But from a young age I’ve been trained to sound like a tit over paper. At school I was encouraged to use ‘intelligent’ vocabulary, discuss ‘complex’ abstract concepts and come to profound conclusions in order to get the high marks. Then university, well I’ll just quote a passage from my dissertation… “However, it seems with the distinguished attitude development of society wanting to feel part of a bigger group this seems difficult. For artists, it can be fairly assumed, especially those working in the public participatory practice, that becoming concerned with issues within the community is a natural progression.” And that wasn’t the worst I found.


When you’re trying to sell things as Patrick and other mentors have been quite rightly drilling into us, abstract doesn’t work. In fact, I’m finding there is actually very few instances in which talking in an abstract way does, especially in a time now where consumer experience is becoming increasingly important.


So, I think it would be fair to say that advertising is proving itself as a sort of cure for some ways the curse of knowledge manifests itself in me, as I endeavour to sound less tit like and more human like.

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