Was ’16 that bad, or is it Facebook telling us to think that?

One thing I take into ’17, is to be mindful of what I eat. In particular, where the social feed is concerned.
If as the saying goes we become what we eat, then Facebook can be quite one dimensional in terms of diet. While Facebook has a staggering one fifth of the world’s population on its network, I don’t believe I’m getting the social reward or depth and range of that audience.

This past year, it occurs to me how dangerously myopic it can be, creating a posse of like-mindedness, that didn’t welcome in a counter view or create a democratic stage for assessment or debate.
Instead, it’s just a distorted game of pass the parcel, layer upon layer of the same sentiment, shared and reshared, endorsed by the ones we like and follow.
But not necessarily true or reflective of the wider reality or critical mass, which sits outside of our algorithmic clique.
And when the music stopped, we looked at each other, dumbfounded.

In this game, we all ridiculed Trump (liking his growing popularity through infamy and hair gags) and scoffed at the chances of a dark ages backwards move like Brexit.
We got both wrong at the  truer polls of real life.
But what’s interesting, is how Facebook is now algorizing it (Yes, I think i made that word up, sue me) as ’16’s fault.
Like ’16 had a motive and a beef and a score to settle. And most dangerous to assume, is behind us.
I should pause here to say that obviously Facebook doesn’t create this in some malign effort. It isn’t the creator of this. That’s us.
We amplify our own narrow mindedness amongst each other.
And punctuate it with trivial Animated GIFS to keep ourselves entertained.

The craziness of ’16 has been in the making for many years.
Trump. Yeah, the vote fell into this calendar year, but the sentiment already has grandkids. The same goes for Brexit. This stuff brews.
Let’s not be foolish to think that it happened in ’16.
If I use the other victims of ’16 to stress my point further.
David Bowie. He took a whole life to die. But more importantly, live.
The same goes for Leonard Cohen.
The year is incidental. The lesson is not.
The respect we ought to be giving to these occurrences –  sad, stupid or catastrophic – is not.

Let’s love them while they’re alive.
Let’s look beyond the heinous year, to the deeper behaviours and symptoms of the sentiment.
Let’s look at ourselves as a powerful unit of one, capable of determining reality.
And not just at each other (in FB) for council or condolences.

That’s what I learnt most in ’16.
Please don’t share it.








Don’t dilute the Dinosaurs.


Funny thing being ‘creative’.

First signs usually surface in the form of remarks from a visiting Aunt, including such favourites as,  “Wow. I think she’s got art in her.” and “Look how creative she is.” Without fail followed by, “I can’t even draw a straight line.”
Never quite understood how straight lines lead to great creativity, Picasso did okay with his curves, but that’s not the point.

Aunt’s remarks aside, this talent begins in a completely childish state, unadulterated by objective or measurement. It’s pure and raw and essential. It’s that child trying to get that message out. With whatever is at her disposal. Wax crayon. Apple juice. Whatever.

It’s effortless and unscripted. The best art the child will likely create. Sadly.

For what comes next is the bitter-sweet companion to creativity:
The commentary.
The critique. The appraisal.
Inseparable, art is the object, criticism the shadow; self righteously giving the work form, value and above all, purpose.

Wait, let’s pause to consider that.
Does it? Should it?

At this stage I really do want that bright eyed child to look up from her drawing and say,
“Aunt Mary, I appreciate your interest in my drawing, but, I really don’t give a shit what you think.”
Then her talent will be preserved and her creativity will grow with her.

But the script doesn’t go like that.
She looks up and says “Oh. Thank you.”
But it’s what she thinks that matters. Somewhere in her head, Pavlov’s Dog barks, a response mechanism is born, where after each reveal there’s an appraisal.
And after each appraisal, there’s a self-appraisal.
Why didn’t Aunt react as well as picture one?
Was it the aeroplane with the enlarged windows that caused the response, or the presence of family in the Dinosaur landscape? Maybe I should include more modern animals?

I’m not as good as I was at 4 and a half.
Am I losing my edge?

Cut to being 8. Cut to being 18. Cut to being 28.
All that time leaving its scars.

Child stars lose their shine from being watched too closely.

It’s a tough gig. I suspect a large proportion of extremely talented people pack away their talents early for this reason.

But the rest continue bravely. Cautiously. Into photography. Writing. Design. Music. Acting. Even Advertising [sic].
And this Pavlovian mechanism of reveal / appraisal continues with them.
The stakes getting higher as the commercial interest increases.
This isn’t art. This is the business of creativity. And sorry, it’s just business.

Stop. Rewind. Go back to being 4 and a half.

Your work is your work. What they think shouldn’t affect what you put down on the page.
Only you should. If you’re thinking Dinosaurs, go full on Dinosaurs.

How they react, well, they’re going to react. That’s the deal. That’s the Creativity / Commentary companionship combo I mentioned earlier. It is what it is. It’s going to happen anyway.

Just don’t dilute the Dinosaurs because of it.

Basics. You’re never too experienced to relearn them.

I recall a few years ago we used to run a creative workshop first thing on Monday mornings. It was our way of not letting a work WIP be the first thing our Creative department was subjected to each week.
So we flipped it, and invited everyone to get free breakfast and coffee, provided they brought with them some kind of inspiration for our creative department. In these sessions we raced mice, watched Korean gangster cinema and anything else, so long as it wasn’t worshipping at the alter of Advertising.
And at the same time, the Chief Creative and I would talk about the principles of doing better work.

Each week we’d leave the session asking each other, “Is this really necessary? Surely all these fantastic creatives we’ve hand selected from the best agencies across the country know this.”

Thing is, it was necessary. Going back to the basics, the ideals and primary principles of what we believed in as an agency – really was resonating. Of course we all knew, but how quickly you forget when things get super busy.

What we realised, was that the basics cut through the noise of the present tense and gave a much stronger direction for the whole agency.
Complex situations suddenly seem quite simple when you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Or not doing.

And I’ve carried this with me wherever I’ve gone. The basics become the foundation of great outcomes. Like the press-up of fitness, you can practice them at any level.
And if you think you’re too experienced for them, think again.




Going backwards to go forwards.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 07.22.22 Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 07.21.45Introducing technology that protects you from yourself.
A distraction free keyboard.
Fascinating that the selling proposition for this writing monstrosity is to have so little capability to do anything other than just be a cloud-based keyboard, that it offers ‘zero distractions’. That’s a euphemism for zero features btw.
And at Only $499 (reduced).
Wow. I think that’s cheaper than a full spec Dell?
They should try remove more features and make it really desirable.
Like removing all punctuation, who wants to pause for all that distraction?
Or only having 4 minutes battery life. That would make time more precious.

At first, it seems ludicrous.
But try and write for 30 minutes without checking your mail, or responding to a pop up message, or watching a full series of Stranger Things.
It’s hard.
Hate to say it, but they’re onto something here.
Amusing how it just drops in there, ‘leave your smartphone at home’.
Yeah, just before I share hypodermic needles or cut off my thumbs.

But I am interested in technology going backward, in order to retain it’s intrinsic magic.
Another is the new Leica that has no digital back for pre-viewing what you’ve shot. 99% of people will send it back as a defect. 1% will realise that photography is best enjoyed with a delay between what you see in the viewfinder, and what comes up when you review your images later.

Products that do less, better.
That don’t try and own the whole game.
That are just good at one thing.

How many of those do you have in your life?

Random. The necessary addition to any creative diet…


Look around you. There’re probably a lot of smart people employed for their ability to think in straight lines, be logical, keep things rational.

Be careful.

The best use of your talent, might not be to mirror their skills (which are very useful, respectable and necessary).
The best use of your talent, is probably to be the YING to their YANG.
To not let all that nodding turn into nodding off.

That’s where Random comes in.
Like Roger Irrelevant taught us through the School of Vizz, sometimes you need to be ‘Completely Hatstand’.

It’s really important, Random.
It’s not a destination, but it’s a great way to get somewhere more interesting.
It’s the ace you didn’t even know you had until it appeared up your sleeve.
And until then you were in short sleeves.

Entertain it. Find it. Use it. Pull it from a hat.
Let it bring the surprise and delight that it always brings.

And then note the different sort of nodding start to happen.