Creativity is something that is so revered in society today, yet it is increasingly in a tug of war with data. On the one hand data can release so much creative inspiration. On the other hand it can stifle creativity when the numbers “suggest” that a creative thought is not the right way to go. It is therefore important to regularly look back and get reminded, and inspired, by pure creativity and how it alone has brought about huge changes in society. A way to do this is revel in the great creative undertakings that have changed industries, as well as remember those that lived their lives through their creativity and had huge successes.
With so much work being shared online, it is often difficult to spot the great work, let alone remember and rediscover the iconic works of the past. Agencies and marketing organisations always hark back to a tight portfolio of examples that they use in presentations. However, these tend to be what is currently in-trend. It was therefore incredibly exciting when I discovered this video (see below) called Idea Catchers from DDB that takes you on a journey of epic work across time. The film seems to be part promo film, part industry champion piece. Have a look.
Another way to be reminded and excited about feeding, believing, and pursuing your creative spirit is by looking at those that have done it to perfection. Alex Calderwood is such a person. For those of you who do not know of Alex Calderwood, he is the mind behind the Ace Hotel, Rudy’s Barber Shops, ARO.Space nightclub, and Neverstop creative agency. What was notable about all his undertakings is that they were all ahead of their time, and all were sparkplubs to kick-start their respective cultural trends. For example, the Rudy Barber shop franchise started in 1992 and in the mid 2000s with metrosexuality in full-swing the traditional male-grooming trend went mainstream.
The beliefs and actions that made Alex such a cultural icon are not that unique: He vigorously pursued his passions, he fused together movements, he lived his undertakings, he encouraged ideas from everywhere, and he ignored conventions.
Creativity has its greatest chance to flourish if you follow what you love, and what you believe in. By doing this your are able to tap into your gut, which tends to know what is right. Moreover, by pursuing what you love, the energy that is put into such an undertaking is not just extreme but healthy. This combination can galvanise people that are needed for the journey to success, but also removes obstacles due to the power of sheer will. It also gives you “healthy” blindness which allows you to plough through barriers. Above all, when you vigorously pursue your passions you work with a young, naive, obsession that can conquer anything because you aren’t influenced by the tide of society. Alex did this throughout his entire life. He jumped into projects because he was “pumped” by the ideas and couldn’t wait to see them realised.
Alex was also very good at fusing together movements. Great creative work is often the result of mashing things together that somehow really compliment eachother. The Ace Hotel concept was so successful because it did exactly that. It brought together craft, granola, and quality together and mixed it with the tech and startup scene. After an era of over indulgence, this type of quality seemed right and the new generation of hipsters sought this level of authenticity and honesty in the places they visited and the experiences that they sought.
Creativity can be completely unlocked when you live what you do. Alex Calderwood did just that. It was as though he never entered into the “stream of life”. Instead he kept living the life he loved and found cool ways to make money in that existence. It was as though he made money by initiating projects that would make his hobbies or interests the best they can be. Many of us say “I’d love to own a bar, or coffee shop” because we love visiting these establishments and have brilliant ideas of how to make really cool versions of them. The problem is most of us simply keep these ideas as, well, ideas. Those that are creative pioneers make their ideas come to life, even if they fail, because its a lot of fun and it makes their day-to-day interests and routines theirs, and really cool.
The final attribute that made Alex a revered creative was that he ignored conventions. On judgment, the biggest enemy of creative brilliance are conventions. The world runs on conventions and thus they are very powerful energies. Most people prescribe to them and thus fight those that don’t. Meanwhile every convention is a “matured creative idea”. The greatest creative visionaries ignored conventions – Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, etc. BUT they knew how to manipulate the convention infrastructure to allow their creative ideas to be nurtured to a point where they could fend off conventional wisdom. Whether it is a music system that sits in your hand, a hotel chain that is hip but real, an airline that is reasonable but luxurious, they all would have been shot down in most boardrooms with a plethora of data showing why they were bad ideas.
Wieden + Kennedy’s John Jay puts this well when talking about Alex Calderwood: “What Alex did well was defy the mechanics of marketing learned by rote and past case studies. He protected something endangered today: creativity in an age where ideas are judged by data alone”.