Monday, 21 September 2015

'One plus One Equals Three'

This evening I attended my first LSE public lecture, given by Dave Trott, author of Creative Mischief and Predatory Thinking with a career in advertising.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the lecture, entitled One plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking. 

It was more advertising related than I was hoping but also more applicable to my work than one would think from such a topic.  I would say that what I do in the Archive at the National Theatre is fairly removed from the Marketing department and yet many of the issues and much of the thinking behind advertising (a slightly different thing to marketing as Dave clarified) are similar to things that I need to consider in my current role or to projects that I have sight of.

Dave was very quick to state that creativity is declining due to us being bamboozled by complexity, technology and jargon.  He wants us to free our minds and get back to the task in hand, getting a message out there to our audience.  Creativity is not styling an existing thing to match your purpose but it is being unpredictable and creating something that no-one could have guessed - this is relevant to all jobs, not just advertising.  Creativity happens relatively little as people are becoming more and more submerged in digital and social media.  He drew an incredibly simple diagram demonstrating that TV, digital, social media and newspapers are all platforms for a message, the true media is the consumer.  The consumer has never changed and will never change so we need to understand how the brain works to ensure that people talk to one another and spread the word - that is the true definition of 'viral'.

There are times when the newest technology does bamboozle us and does temporarily cloud our judgement sometimes resulting in resources and material that is not practical or suited to the audience we are aiming at.  We create apps, virtual reality experiences and digital exhibitions in the hope that we will be seen to be keeping up with the Joneses but, really, we should be focusing on the most practical way of communicating with our audiences and persuading them to use our service - that may well be Twitter, or it might be a good old fashioned leaflet.

As I work with the various departments the Archive collaborates with, I notice a desire to be at the cutting edge of technology and make sure that we are leading the way for digital content and learning materials.  An admirable aim for a national institution.  We are currently working hard on our Lyttelton Lounge, providing physical and digital access to our Archive front of house at the theatre and this project has thrown up many considerations including interpretation, audience, interface and message.

One of Dave's diagrams particularly hit home for me:

                                                                                 creative ->
relevant                                            relevant                                   irrelevant
invisible                                            visible                                      visible
             <- account manager/client

This diagram shows how a brief to create something relevant and visible can get pulled in one direction by a creative person or graphic designer, while an account manager or client can pull it in another.  I found this particularly interesting since I have been involved in marketing for a couple of Archive projects and have witnessed the brief being pulled in both the right and left directions as the deadline loomed.  I need to try to keep the teams as close to the centre as I can to ensure that my project is visible and understood by our audiences.  That is a lot easier said than done but I can see how and why it can get pulled in other directions and I am hoping that this will help me in the long run.

I really enjoyed hearing about a different profession and seeing the plethora of links that there are between jobs out there and how cross-disciplinary an archive position can be.  There is so much to learn about other departments, colleagues, ways of thinking and learning and what drives people but I'm open to the challenge and hope that this can help me to advocate the Archive and push its reach further.