A list of resources to shift your perspective on the creative industry

If the creative industry is to grow in the way we want it to, where can we go to inform our decisions to accrue meaningful change?


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According to a recent WeTransfer report, there has been an upsurge in creativity this year in spite of you-know-what. After all, there had to be some way of filling all that extra time on our hands.

Amidst up-cycled objects and mail order deliveries galore, side projects are not the only significant addition to the industry this year. Economic downturn and social unrest has provoked us to think differently and address issues that could lurk beneath the surface no longer. In turn, the contributors and lynchpins of this far reaching community have spoken and the verdict is loud and clear. Employers, employees, freelancers and enthusiasts alike are calling for change in the name of a fairer, more ethical industry. But how to action that change in the first place? Where do the cracks lie and how deep do they go? Who should we listen to and why?

Below, ten creatives discuss something that has helped them see the creative industry in a different light. Resource lists have been rife recently but in a year of many learnings, one thing’s for sure, there is always more questioning to do. Here is a collection of some more food for thought in the form of podcasts, books, TV shows and more.

Carolyn Rhee: Hey, Cool Job podcast

For my recommendation, I chose a podcast facilitated by Mary H.K. Choi, called Hey, Cool Job. Each episode, Choi invites a different creative from varying fields and backgrounds to navigate their respective creative history and ongoing practice, with a focus on themes around mental health and personal experience. As a multidisciplinary artist, I find the podcast to be a vessel of many lessons, insights, and shared feelings that diversifies conversation around the artistic process and creative industry. It creates both a micro-lens, highlighting an individual practice, and a macro-lens, weaving in a greater collective in which we're all interconnected (as creatives and as humans).

Sola Olulode: Black Blossoms

The platform Black Blossoms has really helped me in the creative industry and I highly recommend checking it out. Founded by curator and educator Bolanle Tajudeen in 2015, Black Blossoms has been supporting and highlighting Black women and non-binary artists through an interactive public program featuring exhibitions, panels and screenings throughout the UK.

The work of Black Blossoms has been so affirming of my experience of being a Black Womxn navigating the art world. Validating my frustrations around education on Black art. Its educational programmes have expanded my knowledge so much on Black art, and helps me understand the history from which my work now follows on from. It’s been such a fantastic source of inspiration for my work, every Black Blossom lecture I go to leads to a new idea for me.

Adebayo Bolaji: Thinking, Fast and Slow

I’ve recently been reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. The book deals with our biases and the idea that we think we know why we are making choices and that we are “wide awake”. However, once facts are accessed, a lot of choices are convoluted with inherent beliefs, supposed values and indoctrinated concepts of the subconscious, which in turn dictates more than we are aware of.

The book has been of value to me because I work in an industry that is functioning on perceived values, and how we examine this ethically is a hard one because art is arguably intrinsically subjective. An extremely thought provoking read.

Rinchen Ato: Everything Was Moving

Some of the most influential experiences that have affected my creative process, outside of personal change, are the consideration of other artists' work and none more so than visiting exhibitions. The immersive experience, so carefully considered and composed, has taught me so much.

Everything Was Moving was one such exhibition, a vast collection of over 400 photographs from the 60s and 70s from various countries and photographers. The creative industry is constantly evolving and being able to look back at past work, from different social and political environments, helps one to think critically about the order of things today

Tami Aftab: The Messy Truth podcast

I really enjoy this podcast by Gem Fletcher founded on broad subjects within contemporary photography. The topics cover On Ethics and On Authorship for example, allowing the guest artists to talk about their work within a wider context. Alongside this, Gem often asks questions to demystify the industry, in a refreshing and engaging way that is accessible to all.

Mahmoud el Hossieny: Palaces for the People

I saw a talk called Palaces for the People by Erik Klinenberg in Google talks, who also has a book with the same name (ask about the book in your local bookstore and buy it from there).

Detailing the importance of social infrastructures, the book discusses how these have been solely created around commercial activities. Erik is a social scientist and he elegantly points out that societies have libraries, and that libraries are one of the main and vital social infrastructures, along with playing courts and parks. Some of his students came up with the name “Community resilience centres” which led him to point out that they were describing what a library is. Erik in turn suggests that these infrastructures are of great importance for a community's overall wellbeing and resilience, as well as a great starting point for rebuilding communities that experience hardship or other unfortunate events.

Nam Huynh: The Universe of Design

Horst Rittel was a design theorist who taught me, in his book The Universe of Design, that it is in the nature of a designer to find solutions to problems that were never there to begin with. I don’t need to worry too much about if a design is already finished or not, since it will always be a result of subjective decision. Nothing is definitely like in science, even if I set up certain requirements I don’t need to follow them to achieve a successful design.

Hezin O: Karel Martens: Printed Matter

A book that allows you to explore the body of work of an artist always impresses me, and I particularly like Printed Matter by Karel Martens.

The first edition came out in 1996 by hyphen press and was newly published under the name Re-Printed Matter by Roma Publications 23 years later in 2019. It’s great to see one person's work archiving for more than 50 years in itself, but also it is surprising that the concept was expanded to various areas such as computation and installation with the medium of printing that is most traditional to graphic designers.

Jaedoo Lee: The Social Dilemma

One thing I’ve watched recently that has helped change my perspective on the creative industry is the film The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I started to question whether the work I was doing was just content, and part of the exact problem the film addressed. It got me honestly thinking about how I would make a living if I said no to these types of jobs? How would I spend my working hours doing something more “meaningful”? What was “meaningful” work? I don’t know what the right answer is, but I’ve started to question things more.

Anna Ginsburg: David OReilly lecture

I was lucky enough to go to a lecture by animation icon David OReilly in the winter of 2017. Titled Navigating Commercial Art, I was expecting dark humour and wit, with a twinge of arrogance; geniuses don't have to stoop so low as to do commercial work. I was expecting to leave feeling entertained but ashamed of the advertising work I've done. Instead this talk changed my life.

OReilly carefully and logically explained the long term effects of making commercial art, of being a creative person working with briefs and external feedback. He presented the burn out rate in advertising agencies and how young creative people become unable to generate ideas after a certain amount of pitching, briefs and feedback day in and day out. OReilly was not trying to be funny, in fact he was very serious. He said he understood the only viable way for most creative people to make money is advertising and he understands that. He said if you have a burning impulse to create, to not take that impulse for granted. That creative spark, the fire in the belly feeling needs feeding outside of a commercial context.

At this point I'd done a few quite grim commercial jobs back to back. I had the seed of the idea to make my film What is Beauty? but not way of making it. No funding, no platform and no team. As OReilly spoke of the addiction to money which leads creatives to be idealess but the time they're 40 and of how having the impulse to make things is a gift which needs to be nurtured, I knew I had to make time to develop this idea. The next day I started research, and said no to another draining and vacuous advert.

That film is my most important and globally acclaimed piece by miles, it got over 15 million hits. OReilly reminded me it's about balance. That we all live in this consumerist, capitalist system. That, at present, our it's own responsibility to feed our creative spark when we can afford to and take time to fuel that fire in the belly.  

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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