The Created Process
For some, the word ‘process’ is a toe curler. “Oh go on, tell me about your methods and structural frameworks… I just love that stuff” is hardly your average response. Pair it with the word ‘creative’ and yet more of you will run a mile. But a solid creative process is essential if you want a thriving career as a commercial creative. And we are all commercial, because we deliver creative solutions or applications for real businesses or caused-based needs. Our process is what facilitates the transformation of our wild ideas to valuable, real-world applications.
So whether you’re a lover or a fighter of process, read on to find out what a good creative process looks like and how it works – we’ve even thrown in our own, so the heavy lifting has been done for you!
Why bother with a creative process?
Your creative process is your anchor when delivering a project, and most importantly it keeps your audience at the heart of your work. It’s your creative contract to yourself and your team, your compass during the creative chaos and your roadmap to successful evaluation. Ideally it can expand and contract (i.e. you can use it across a day-long project, or to an 18-month marathon of a job). No matter what the task, it’s always there to ground you and keep you progressing.
Tried and tested: Created’s process
At Created, we’ve formed our own Created process, based on years of our own experience and learnings from others (always reap the best bits). It’s not rocket science, but it includes the key elements to help you forge great ideas, executed with real-world relevance and value.
Our process embraces research, imagination, testing, implementation and evaluation. It’s not a failsafe and it doesn’t always happen to plan – we’re only human and creativity by its very nature likes to mess with the programme – but we use it, it helps us and maybe it will help you too.
You’ll either get a brief from a client, or write your own brief (if it’s a personal project). At this stage, it’s crucial that you understand the challenge. If you need to discuss the brief with your client, then do so. The closer a relationship you have with them at this stage, the better the result will be in the end.
Some useful questions to interrogate your brief, or help you write one, are:
- What do you want to happen as a result of this activity?
- What’s been missing for you in previous projects of a similar nature?
- What one thing would make you more excited to see in this project?
- On a bravery scale, with 1 being the ‘safe zone’ and 10 being ‘superhero courage’, where do you want this activity to be?
- What do you not want to see in the final delivery?
- How does this activity/project fit in with the brand’s bigger vision?
- What are the commercial objectives of this activity/project?
In addition to interrogating the client objectives and intentions that sit behind the brief, before you jump into research and inspiration, it’s important to take some time to make sense of the challenge in the context of you personally as a creative. Here are some reflective questions that you might want to consider:
- What is this project going to demand of your practice?
- What skills and craft will you need to draw on?
- Are there any new tools you’ll need to learn?
- How can you bring all of your practical abilities to bear on this brief?
- What is this project going to demand of you as a professional?
- How are you going to work with others?
- What deadlines have been set?
- What workflow are you implementing?
- What is this project going to demand of you personally?
- How can you make sure that this work contributes to your development as an individual?
- Do you need any support from peers or mentors?
- What do you need to take into account to stay mentally on top of it?
- Can you commit to this right now?
This is about gaining a deeper understanding of the brief, the project and its wider context, all to build your knowledge base before you start developing ideas. Go wide and deep into as much weird and wonderful stuff as you can. Watch films, read books, go to galleries, talk to taxi drivers. Immerse yourself in the world of the brand and the brief and bring as much creative and artistic variety as you possibly can.
It’s helpful to explore the human side of things too:
- What does the brand you’re working for stand for and value?
- Who are their customers?
- Are they independent or part of a larger network?
- What/who might be influencing the brand and your client team? Do these influences matter to your response and need to be considered?
- How do people interact with the brands products and services (beyond just the ones you’re working on)?
If you’re going to be communicating something important for someone, it’s vital that you understand the motivations and idiosyncrasies behind that. Collect your research in one place and process it. What themes can you pull out? What is emerging loud and clear? What directions should you avoid?
If the initial rounds of the creative process – especially when faced with a client brief – are the invaluable stages of absorbing information and acquiring knowledge, this next phase is about developing your ideas. It’s about play, exploration and experimentation, and the start-point is the playground of your own imagination. This is where you get to unleash your creativity and there are no rules!
By allowing the ideation process to exist in an imaginary world, you’re giving yourself the opportunity for fearlessness to flourish. In these imaginary worlds we can explore more fully what it’s like to be someone else or somewhere else, using our knowledge of the audience and context, plus our own memories to inform our exploration. In these spaces trust your instincts and have the courage to try things out.
The imagination stage is actually continuous as you progress from brief to delivery, but at this stage of the process you are looking to produce as many ideas as possible. Go for quantity here and try not to limit yourself, but equally don’t be concerned if you keep coming back to one big idea – your intuition is pulling you there for a reason so follow that lead! Keep returning to the brief and your research to ensure that you’re fueling your imagination with the right knowledge.
Some questions you can ask yourself:
- What would [insert name here] do?
- What could I try that hasn’t been done before in this space?
- What would be out of character for this brand to do?
- What would be predictable for this brand to do?
- What would make it more exciting/engaging/surprising for the customer?
What have I tried/seen/experienced before in other projects that I can add to this idea?
This is the fun bit, where you actually get to develop your ideas. How many ideas you develop will depend upon the brief, the client and your own process. Given the choice, some like to show options, whereas some like to boldly invest in one. This will ultimately be up to you (and maybe your brief). But it’s not as simple as just doing it. We work in iterative cycles here and filter as we go. With version after version gradually becoming more and more refined and ‘on-brief’ until it’s ready to deliver to the client.
It might take three versions to get to that stage. It might take 50. However long it takes, you need to refine your ideas, make them, test them with the client, other creatives even friends and family if you feel it’s relevant, then get further feedback, and start the cycle over again.
It’s important to not let the feedback get you down. Nothing is perfect the first time, and clients will always have some changes to make. This is the job of being a designer/creative.
Some useful questions for eliciting feedback are:
- What is your favourite part about this idea?
- What specifically are you concerned about?
- What barriers can you see getting in the way of this?
- What can be amplified?
- What needs to be dialled down?
If you get feedback and you don’t understand it, ask “what’s important about that?” to the person giving you the feedback. This will help them reveal to you the rationale behind their feedback.
Finally, when all of the amendments have been made and the files have been exported, you’re ready to deliver the project to the client or share it with the world. This needs some thought too. Often the way we present something drastically affects how someone else receives it.
Think about your pitches, presentations, and online content. How can you maximise the impact of your excellent work?
Have you considered:
- Labelling and file name conventions
- What’s the supporting narrative that you’re supplying with this, for any outsider who hasn’t been on this journey with you?
- Does the client need a cheat-sheet/guide to share with their internal team?
This is the step that most companies and professionals say they don’t have time for. But it’s absolutely essential if you want to maximise learning from projects and improve for the next one. It’s simple. You stop and look back at what happened:
- What went better than you anticipated?
- What new techniques/methods/ideas did you try that worked well?
- What didn’t go as well as you had hoped?
- What could you do to improve this next time?
- If you had more time/money/resources what would you have done on this project to go the extra mile?
- What one learning are you going to take forward to your next project?
If you can, share your reflections with your peers and colleagues. Encourage them to reflect too. The more you hear about other people’s work, the better your own will be.
Your creative process is your life-long practice and with experience you’ll continue to finesse each stage throughout your career. If you have questions or want some guidance on parts of the process you struggle with, drop the Created team a line. We’re happy to help and all come from industry so we’ve lived and breathed this process too.
Or check out our part-time career courses. They’re geared up to give you project experience direct with industry, across the different working environments you’re likely to find yourself in throughout your career. Each one gives you the chance to learn more about yourself and put your process into practice. Find out more here.
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