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Opinion: Alicia Keys, musician, role model and global creative director? Sheesh

Posted by Rob Alderson,

This week editor Rob Alderson looks at Blackberry’s decision to hire Alicia Keys as global creative director and what message that sends to designers everywhere. As usual come join the debate on the thread below…

I’ve started coming to work on a spacehopper. Oh, I know there’s far more practical, effective and less time-consuming ways to commute but I discovered that I get LOADS of attention when I bounce over London Bridge and through the financial district form jaded workers clearly thrilled to see something so silly.

Of course I don’t really do this, primarily because I’m not a moron. And yet this kind of nonsense now seems _de rigeur _for various technology companies who seem to believe that financial salvation will come via hiring a popular musician as their creative directors. The latest firm to jump on this bizarre bandwagon was Blackberry who announced Alicia Keys as their new global creative director last week. The company was following in the footsteps of Polaroid, Intel and Microsoft who have pulled similar stunts with Lady Gaga, Will.i.am and Jessica Alba respectively.

Blackberry President and CEO Thorsten Heins said: “We are excited she will be bringing to us her enormous capabilities, as well as a vast network of relationships in the entertainment, social media and business communities, to help shape our brand and grow our business.” According to DAWN.com: “In her new role, Keys will work closely with app developers, content creators, retailers, carriers and the entertainment community to further shape and enhance the BlackBerry 10 platform, and inspire creative use through its remarkable capabilities and functionality. From music to books, to film, to apps, Keys will lead the charge of enhancing entertainment consumption and distribution, through the power of BlackBerry 10.”

It’s hardly surpising that so many creative industry types were riled by Blackberry’s announcement. Firstly it belittles the skills and experiences that talented creatives spend years amassing. I wonder how Alicia would have felt if a graphic designer turned up before the Super Bowl on Sunday night determined to replace her singing the national anthem?

Secondly what effect will these kind of decisions have on tech companies’ in-house design teams? If it’s just a PR stunt then why not basically say that, rather than pretending that these musicians are going to be massively hands-on? Because if not, if the reality is that Alicia will be helping shape Blackberry’s creative strategy, then what message does this send to the existing staff? Work hard, get your head down and do a bit of networking and you might make senior management, unless of course Marvin from JLS unexpectedly becomes available…

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.