Design Work

How to get the best from your creatives

Every studio has one, a creative diva, that Eyeore type that grumbles and moans about every task, hates whatever they are doing, yet doesn’t really do anything about it. Here’s how to get the best from your creatives.

Why are they like this? Well, they do live in a daily environment of design by committee, where they constantly get told to change, change, change their masterpiece – until it’s diluted down enough to meet the client’s satisfaction.

Everyone has a design opinion and creatives feel this more than most, as theirs usually sits at the bottom of the heap. When looking at the situation this way it’s actually quite easy to understand why they feel stifled and frustrated.

Yet unlike a portion of other designers who ‘drop the baby’ and allow the client to do whatever they like, just to get it out the door and move on – these ones don’t. Their incessant bellyaching drives everyone around them wild but it’s actually a sign that their passion still lies beneath, a sign of suppressed creativity.

So what are the keys to engaging these people and making the environment painless for everyone?

1. Allow them to be unproductive – to do the absurd and fail. Innovation comes from experimentation and exploring outside the parameters. Expect the costs that come along with this but in the long run it will be cheaper than losing clients through not staying ahead of the game.

2. Don’t constrain them – performance will be better if they’re allowed to work autonomously. Don’t force them to follow unnecessary processes or hover over them, asking what they’re doing or how they’re doing it. Creatives are easily distracted so keep them away from emails, IMs and phone calls. In short, don’t interrupt the creative process. Allowing them to work outside normal hours is also beneficial as they will often prefer to be left alone.

3. Don’t criticise the bad ideas – Make them feel important. Creatives are used to criticism but it often cuts deeper than you think; they can often feel crushed. Not noticing that special effort spent on a job will do you no good, as their opinion will be verbalised and bad energy can affect the whole team. Be lavish with the praise but also be sincere about it.

4. Consider carefully before allowing them to manage others – your most talented creatives may be wonderful at their jobs but this certainly does not mean they should be managing others. Actually it’s rare that natural innovators have good leadership skills, (a number of extremely successful business owners have identified their own leadership deficits and brought in others to make up for it, Mark Zuckerberg for one). A study showed that the most talented creatives also exhibit psychological characteristics such as being rebellious, being independently motivated and low in empathy.  All can inhibit them from being effective leaders.

Understanding what really makes your creative divas tick will help you to build an environment where they can flourish and truly allow their brilliance to shine.

Image courtesy of Bryant Arnold.

Becca Stevens wants to live in a world where clients stick to the initial brief and designers go home on time. As a Studio Manager, she’s been subjected to all kinds of job juggling, patience testing and deadline moving situations. When she’s not training other agency folk how to use Streamtime to harness the chaos, you can find her poking around antiques and vintage places, finding curiosities to treasure. 

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