• Abopinion
Opinion

Opinion: Is outside reference a help or hindrance to the creative process?

Posted by Alex Bec,

This week ahead of taking up his new role as visiting creative director at Wolff Olins, It’s Nice That director Alex Bec asks whether a wide range of influences is an imperative part of the creative process or a distraction. As ever you can add your thoughts using the thread below…

It’s not a groundbreaking idea for creatives to look outside their own practice to seek inspiration and reference, to give their work that extra bit of life. It’s common sense that simply looking up and observing the world around you – other professions, other cultures, other others – gives a certain perspective on your day-to-day. But is this influence a help or hindrance?

In a world where access to all of these other things is so easy, does this outside reference actually enhance or homogenise the creative process? Do we benefit from scouring weird and wonderful blogs all day, visiting unknown places, or watching obscure Netflix documentaries? Or do we end up mindlessly copying what we see?

Should we be concentrating our minds, carefully and quietly obsessing over every detail of what we’re working on, leaving no time or space for any distractions? Or does this narrow-minded, blinkered approach lead us to forget about any context or perspective and dull the final product?

I think the devil as always, is in the detail, and the point perhaps is not necessarily what you look at, but how you look at it to make sure that we aren’t passive passengers to the stimuli we’re generously shown (the brilliant Sir Paul Smith made this point much better than I do at our Here symposium last year, see video below). Crucially in the abundance of content flying around us, we must be more proactive to make sure we don’t become lazy about what, who and how we’re engaging with the content we might not usually see.

I come to this point as I’m honoured to have been chosen to be the next visiting Creative Director at Wolff Olins as part of their series of temporary CDs. My role is to do exactly what I’ve been discussing above; to actively offer new perspectives and reference points to their team, sharing a little about how we work ourselves in the hope that there are some nuggets that can help them make even better work.

Although I’m following far more worthy and established creatives who’ve filled the role previously (Daljit Singh and Dan Germain), I will endeavour to bring some worth from the wealth of incredible creative work we enjoy every day in our studio to a company of people I admire as true experts in their field. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t, but that’s part of the point – that actively seeking and learning from outside reference is surely better than having none at all?

comments powered by Disqus
Ab-300

Posted by Alex Bec

Alex is one of the directors of It’s Nice That who now oversees our sister creative agency INT Works. For several years he oversaw the Monday Morning Music Video feature until it came to an end in 2014.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. Newswall-itsnicethat-list

    Yesterday saw the launch of a brand new form of news presentation by Channel 4 in 4NewsWall – a Tumblr-hosted website dedicated to the day’s top news stories, listed chronologically, with each presented by a GIF. Thought up by 4Creative’s Jack Croft and Stacey Bird and developed by the creative team, it’s flashy, image-led and uncluttered – with each GIF offering a click-through button to a more detailed report – and looks set to be an interesting and exciting progression for news journalism.

  2. Graphicdesign_-opinion-itsnicethat-list

    A couple of months ago there was a lot of interest in this survey in which clients described the four worst types of creative agencies as they saw it. Now we have a chance to hear from the practitioners themselves, by way of Graphicdesign&’s in-depth industry study. Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright have partnered with social scientist Nikandre Kopcke to create a questionnaire which explores “practice, perceptions and prejudices alongside the usual questions about age, education, work and pay.”

  3. List

    It’s fast approaching the time of all-nighters (not the fun ones), tears, last-minute panics and all the other things that come with the end of learning and the impending beginning of the terrifying thing they call real life. But like the mum that tells you you’re always the best and most talented and most beautiful, or the best friend that bursts into your house and pops the kettle on/pours the gin, we’re here to remind you of some of the advice that might be able to help you.

  4. Stevedaniels-hero-list

    There is an awful lot of discussion around starting a new magazine and for many creatively inclined people it remains one of their foremost ambitions. Last week Makeshift founder Steve Daniels wrote an excellent blog about the things to consider when planning a new publication, and in doing so summed up many things we too feel are important. Steve’s now become an advisor to the title he founded, a move which maybe gives him a little extra distance to write “not a guide to the nuts and bolts of finding a printer and selling subscriptions but a contemplation of the major elements that will set you up for success.”

  5. Kingadz-autenticity-list

    In the branding and advertising world, authenticity seems to have become the Holy Grail. Seemingly melded to whatever people need it to convey, it’s become a buzzword whose significance has mushroomed while its meaning has all but vanished. With this in mind King Adz, aka Adam N. Stone – whose new book Unbrandable is out this summer – considers what authenticity really means in a contemporary creative context. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  6. Kinfolk_14.cover

    The latest issue of Gym Class magazine has an eye-catching cover; with bold block capitals on a black background spelling out: “Nobody cares about your oh-so-cool, Kickstarted, tactile, minimalist unoriginal magazine.” It’s intended as a “call to action,” Gym Class editor Steven Gregor told MagCulture, “make magazines, and make them exceptional.”

  7. Applewtach-list-int

    The Apple Watch was officially unveiled yesterday (as was a super-thin 13.1mm new MacBook) and as ever the internet is awash with run-downs and reactions slobbering over the new products. For Wolff Olins design director Jan Eumann though, the imminent arrival of the new timepiece got him thinking about logo design, and in particular how app buttons have rehabilitated the logo. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  8. Rod-hunt-int-hero

    Do you really need an agent? Why? What do they actually do? In a talk hosted by The Illustrator’s Guild of Ireland at this year’s Offset festival a panel featuring Peepshow Collective’s Andrew Rae and Chrissie Macdonald, illustrators Rod Hunt and Matthew Griffin and Bernstein & Andriulli agent Sam Summerskill, we heard about how best to go about finding an agent, what they look for and what they get up to. Here’s what we learnt…

  9. Opinion-int-list

    After visiting the Design Indaba conference in South Africa, Rob Alderson asks if the leading designers working today favour humility and modesty over the cloying over-confidence of their predecessors. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  10. Opinion-davidpearson-int-list

    Last week an interesting Twitter debate sprang up after a comment by graphic designer Andy Pressman who admitted that on a recent series he worked on it wasn’t always possible to read the books before designing the covers. So we decided to speak to a few other book cover designers and find out where they stand on this apparently quite divisive design issue; as ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  11. Marckremers-opinion-int-list

    As part of the digital design showcase we are running with Represent, we interviewed Marc Kremers and found him in an unflinching mood as he detailed some of the issues he felt were affecting the industry. Such was the reaction to Marc’s piece both on the microsite and social media, we have decided (with his permission) to republish an excerpt of his interview here. You can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, and check out the dedicated digital design showcase here.

  12. Ije-nwokorie-indaba-sun

    As CEO of Wolff Olins, Ije Nwokorie is well-versed in the creative landscape; the forces that shape it and in turn how it shapes our world. Describing himself as “born in the US, bred in Nigeria and enlightened in England” he also has a global sensibility that sets him apart from many of his peers.

  13. Opinion-int-list

    A new survey has identified what clients see as the four worst types of design agency, and Rob Alderson suggests we should listen to what they had to say. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below..