Creativity Alone is Not Enough

There was a time when good advertising photos and commercials stood out because they were creative. When just having a picture in your ad could set you a part. But those times are long gone.

In today’s crowded, noisy world good advertising photography and video must transcend just ‘creative’. Arguably, everything that is made is creative. But if you flip through any magazine or browse any interesting site, there are images that engage you and images that don’t. Gideon Amichay, the ECD of Y&R; in Tel Aviv, helps us understand that we must press beyond base creativity. In this new era of media we must be…

Brilliant. In a word, this is easy to say, but hard to do. What is brilliance? It’s insightful. It works harder. There’s more happening on a deeper level…more neurons firing when you look at the work. But beyond being just brilliant, for work to get ‘noticed’ it also has another characteristic. It is….

Different. Some professional creatives roll their eyes at ‘different’ because they argue that different for the sake of being different isn’t worth much. I agree. That said, ‘different’ with brilliance works. If you haven’t seen something before–say a fresh camera angle or a unique treatment on an image or video–you’re more likely to … stop on that page. Like it or not, different is effective. But while being creative, brilliant, and different you’ll get great gigs, lots of attention and perhaps even a high five from the award people. But the real thing we should all aspire toward is…

Innovative. This comes in many forms, but my understanding of creative innovation is when you’ve created something truly unique, when you haven’t just provided a solution to the problem, you’ve asked more questions, answered those questions too and solved the problem in a way that nobody has before you. It’s more than just working harder, finding a better camera angle and shooting the ad. It’s re-defining an entirely new expectation of what’s possible. It’s the iPhone. It’s the opening sequence to Saving Private Ryan or the 3D in Avatar. It’s Warhol or Banksy. Seth Godin or Gregory Crewdson. It’s Cartier-Bresson.

And while this list might be intimidating, there’s an abundance of room in every single craft or industry for innovation. In fact, it’s required for progress. So which of us will innovate? I’m banking it’s the ones that start out with creativity, sprinkle in some brilliance, and do things differently on a regular basis…Those folks are most often standing on the edge of innovation.

Admittedly, beyond a list of things, it’s hard to say what innovation is. But if I can’t say exactly what it is, I most certainly know what it is not. It doesn’t look or sound at all like the status quo. It doesn’t resemble boring pages in a source book, or a direct mailer. It’s not f8 at 1/250th with a main light and a fill. It doesn’t feel like a 30-second spot on prime time or a headshot on the cover of Time. Innovation often seems like it’s a far cry from what pays our bills as professional creatives, but I have no doubt that it’s worth aspiring toward.

The thing I do believe is that we can get there with intention and hard work. But how in the hell can we get somewhere if we haven’t defined where we’re going? Well that’s the purpose of this post. Let’s put a target on creative innovation. Let’s figure out where we’re going and go there now.

[original post and inspiration via the fun blog at Makin’ Ads]

86 Responses to Creativity Alone is Not Enough

  1. Jessica Bjorn March 16, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    awesome incite; and i think you are spot on! However hasn't this always been the case… innovation and brilliance always change because the status quo is always heightening!

  2. Heidi Rae March 16, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Thanks Chase great blog it backs up alot that i was just given in feed back from my photography final .. alot to think about and very helpful in looking into where i want to head with my photos thank you for all your advice and for your leadership in the photo world.

  3. Duluoz March 16, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Photography should be the embodiment of YOUR IDEAS and not limited to falicies of reality or the false crutch of equipment limitations.

  4. Alicia Johnson March 16, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Love it! I particularly enjoyed the part about what innovation is not! Great insight!

  5. Dan Baker March 16, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    A nice kick in the pants to stop playing it so safe. A list that easily created but be pretty depressing when the answers are not immediately available..

  6. Chase March 16, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    Great kick in the pants and also that little image is now my wallpaper for my iphone.

    Thank you!

  7. jonathan March 16, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Definitely appreciate this post. If you know what's good (not what's convenient), then do it.

  8. Lisa Love in Madison, Alabama March 16, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    Love~Love *and* one of the best posts I've read in a long time. Speaking for myself, getting there with intention and hard work requires planning on purpose and setting goals. "…..Let's put a target on creative innovation. Let's figure out where we're going and go there now."

  9. Scott MacKenzie March 16, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    I can't WAIT go to to school in August!
    This stuff makes me Hungry!

  10. Rúben Neves March 16, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    It is always a pleasure… wonderful post and a great sense of reality, Chase. Once again, opening new windows and redefining boundaries!

  11. Mer Phillips March 16, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    thanks chase! it is refreshing to read your posts. walking through high school everyday, sometimes it's hard to remember what brilliance, individuality, and innovation really takes. Photography as my outlet, allows me to build myself off the those solid building blocks. here's to brilliance, brilliantly different, and innovation!


  12. tim March 16, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    I'd like to add David Carson–both his work and his writing on his work–to the list. That is one person doing (or at least he did at one time) all those things to their very fullest possible extent in the realm of graphic design. He re-defined the whole thing, just because he had a personal vision.

  13. Trudy March 16, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    Very cutting edge post…(love the diagram). This one has me thinking…which I like. :)

  14. Stephen Hunton March 16, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    I always appreciate your insights. It's easy to just check the box a lot of times and just do what is needed to get the gig, but pushing beyond that is what will lead to growing a business into something more than just shooting an image.

  15. Paddy Fernandez March 16, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    "But how in the hell can we get somewhere if we haven't defined where we're going? Well that's the purpose of this post. Let's put a target on creative innovation. Let's figure out where we're going and go there now."

    I see what you are saying but I find that by setting a target can make one blinkered and perhaps miss the whole point of creative innovation…? i feel that innovation should be a process/journey not a destination.

    nice though provoking post as usual chase

  16. Matthew Dutile March 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Amen Chase. It's these kind of posts that have helped me grow as a photographer and approach my work from a different standpoint than others. Keep sharing the great insight.

  17. Njanja March 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    great post!

  18. Matt Timmons March 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    And that's the real trick- having the tools yet trying to conceive something new to build. I see brilliant stuff from my favorite creatives all the time, but then it his me- "why can't I think of that?" I think it takes some practice of the mind to become a serious innovator…or is it based on IQ level?

  19. Tommi March 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Great post. Your thoughts apply also to other fields of business and technology, e.g web publishing. Creativity is a good starting point to get some new ideas and the ball rolling. The best ideas then become even better when they carry on through the next steps.

  20. Frozen Forever Photography March 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Being different involves the understanding of normal… be ture to yourself and everyone will see the difference.

  21. Brence March 16, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Chase. I agree. With the proliferation of digital SLR's and more people wanting to be photographers it is ever more important for us to distinguish ourselves as GREAT rather than just merely 'good' photographers.

    In order to do this we need a way to set ourselves apart, not just with a professional approach to the business of photography, but also with innovation. This is something that I am still learning, but which I see as something essential to set myself apart from everyone else.

    Brence Coghill Photography

  22. Jonny March 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Innovation is a moving target. Often aimed at, seldom hit. It certainly isn't future proof either :) The idea behind the strobist movement is innovation. However, no one is innovative simply by following the strobist movement.

  23. Anthony March 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    enjoyed reading this post. very insightful!

  24. Jon March 16, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    I totally agree with this Chase but you also need a nurturing environment for all of these things to flourish, without that all of these things become decidedly more difficult to achieve.

  25. Howard Haby March 16, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Motivational Chase, always motivational. Good post. Cheers.

  26. sd March 16, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    awesome post. Inspires me to try keep trying after a long day of being beat down.

  27. Joshua March 16, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    I was so happy to read that you included Banksy. I would give anything to meet that man.
    The most interesting thing, to me, is that we will never run out of room for great ideas. The best ones make more room than before for better ones to come.


  28. Simon Fleming March 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Great brain-food as usual Chase, thanks.

    It definitely is not easy to get all these ingredients playing happily together all at once… but when you do, man do great things happen – whatever in life you are applying them to. Whenever I have stepped away from the norm, done something that goes against the grain, more often than not these things seem to start happening automatically and I end up with some of my most successful & favourite images.

  29. Greg March 17, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Chase Im real glad to hear you speak this way!..I think photog's would do good to check out Bruce Mao & other designer's that solve problems!…Did you read that book "Glimmer"?

  30. Steve Supple March 17, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    Thats my definition of innovation. Innovation is the application of creative intentions.
    Create an online presents, Create experiences for fans, Create projects that are relevant to them.
    Create ways you can find and communicate with fans.
    Create ways that fans can become a community.
    The fastest way to innovate is to communicate.
    Steve Supple

  31. Jeremy Cowart March 17, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Great post Chase. That's all. I love this. You for the win.

  32. Qua March 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    Innovation relating to technology is not about new technology, but about technology used in new , different ways that disrupts the status quo.

  33. gwppk March 18, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    "Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

    1997 Apple 'Think Different' campaign

  34. MoDs March 18, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    Soul searching. That's a refreshing perspective Chase. The cyclical process reminds me of Bloom's Taxonomy. Innovation, personally, is a rarity. With innovation, comes change. Successful designs have always prescribed to the human senses. The wheel was an innovation. How do you reinvent the wheel?

  35. Tamea Burd March 30, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Insightful, straightforward and inspiring. Thank you!

  36. Simon/ Gem Photographix October 4, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    Great post. The thing with creativity and innovation, is that it’s very hard to nurture these things when you’re only thinking about making more money and competing. True passion for your work, a curious mind, a willingness to learn from others (rather than see them as dangerous competition), those are things that help you tap into the muse. You have to have faith.

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