Work / Opinion

Don’t be a designosaur: how to avoid creative extinction

Design agency Fitch’s executive creative director Alasdair Lennox shares some very wise words about keeping your design work fresh and innovative, the importance of curiosity and why you should draw every day.

The creative industry has always been driven by a fusion of innovation, unwavering passion, bags of emotion and that unrelenting, raw, unrivalled talent. Yet with digital now riding the creative carousel, it’s up to designers and creative technologists to keep the industry’s cogs turning by adapting to this super digital world.
Great news for the more digitally-savvy designers, with their penchant for all things tech, but what about the designers who aren’t that way inclined? How can the more traditional creatives and hand-drawing devotees avoid becoming a ‘Designosaur’?

Having climbed the ranks from junior designer to an executive creative director, I wanted to share what my experiences in the creative industry have taught me. So I stole some quiet hours on planes and in hotel rooms during many-a-business trip, to pull together something of a “creative manifesto”; An outline of what I feel are the vital ways to avoid creative extinction and stay relevant in this ever-transitional industry.

Start Again. Again

The speed of change in the design world is exciting, but there’s no denying that it can be hard to keep up with. We’ve jumped from analog to digital, mobile to social, AI, to Omni-channel and that’s just in the last decade.

When I started out, nobody was au fait with digital – it was all about the craft of drawing boards. So when everything went super digital I thought that was the end of my career. But then the penny dropped, and I realised that design is a continual learning process; it’s about starting again and again; it’s an education that never stops and that’s what makes it so versatile.

Be curious

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s the heart and soul of creativity and the polar opposite of process. The truth is that while a necessary evil, process does pose a risk of giving every project that cookie-cutter outcome.

Without curiosity, we all start to rest on our laurels and rely on process to get us through. For me personally the solution is to stay curious – to take time away from your desk and get out there – go visit a museum, catch a movie, take a long walk – it doesn’t really matter. It’s about giving yourself some head space before returning to the drawing board and letting the ideas flow.

Be an apprentice to wise and raw mentors

Mentors don’t only come in all shapes and sizes, but all ages too. I’ve realised that while there is much to learn from the more mature creative, with their abundance of industry experience and hindsight, designers should also be an apprentice to raw mentors. The young up-and-coming talent have just as much creativity and inspiration to offer as the more experienced designers.

Be emotionally intelligent

Egos. We’ve all got them but there’s a real danger of charging around an agency when you’ve had some experience, blundering into a brainstorm and thinking your idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Emotional intelligence is the antidote to this. Not only are two heads better than one, but if presenting work to a client, you need to read the room and know when to step forward and when to step back and give the more junior members a voice.

Be stubbornly flexible

It’s easy to miss the point when you’ve got tunnel vision. Sometimes we have a creative visualisation of where we want a project to go and while it may be great in theory, in reality it might not pan out how you’d hoped. The way around this is to be nimble and flexible, willing to adapt, without losing sight of your creative goal.

Draw something every day

The wisest words I’ve ever heard were from my mentor, Rodney Fitch: “Be sure to draw something every day”. This principle speaks for itself. So don’t be lazy – hard work coupled with curiosity and inspiration pays off.

And there you have it. A creative manifesto from a designer who loves his job. With any luck there are a couple of principles here that both wise and raw creatives can take away to help them become better designers or creative leaders.


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