In this seven step guide, we’ll be looking at the anatomy of a creative project. We’ll begin with the brief and idea generation, then look at how to capture that idea and turn it into a reality, the logistics of timelines and deliverables, and how to ensure the project achieves a happy and successful outcome.
What is a creative project?
Aren’t all projects creative? Well, for the purpose of this blog post we’re calling a creative project anything that isn’t a simple off-the-shelf product or service but necessarily involves creative thinking and problem solving. Its aim is most likely to create something unique that’s inspiring, attention grabbing and ideally mind-blowing with a jaw-dropping impact on your target audience.
Using a couple of analogies, putting a brew in the fridge doesn’t involve creating, finding a way to cool your beer in a warm wilderness does. Cooking a microwave dinner for one doesn’t, foraging in the woods and having to make a fire, well… you get the point, there are different degrees of creativity and different solutions to different problems. For the purpose of definition, your creative project is bespoke, most likely a one-off, may involve emerging technology and has artistic elements.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is aimed at those commissioning or working on creative projects, but also at companies and clients who want to have more of an insight into the process so they understand what goes on, how they can influence the direction of the creative flow and keep control if they are worried about the outcome or just remain in the loop once the brief is out the door.
We are going to break the process down into seven steps. Many of these steps will be traversed more than once in the process – successful projects should be iterative and creativity rarely walks a linear path.
Each step will be examined in more detailed blog posts over the next few weeks.
Briefs can be big or small, loose or tight. OK, we’re not talking about your underwear here, we’re talking about a description of what the project aims to achieve and most importantly why. Creating the perfect brief is actually harder than a lot of people think. We’ll examine how a well written brief can be a great catalyst for the whole creative process and we will give you an example outline.
Step 2: The Art of Brainstorming
You’re basking in the golden sunshine with that brief in hand, looking over an uninterrupted vista and now all you need to do is start throwing ideas out there. But they need to be good, complete, totally on target, new, focused, articulate, right? Well, wrong. This is a wilderness and you can make of it what you will; ideas are ephemeral and all you need at this stage is to capture glimpses. The most important rule is to have no rules and keep the ideas coming without judging them. Here we’ll gather some top tips for idea generation, especially the weird and wonderful ones.
Your creative butterflies flutter around you in all their dazzling glory, but any moment they may disappear. Now it is time to start selecting the best and brightest and pop them in your butterfly jar for close examination and documentation. We will look at a digital and analogue toolkit that will capture your idea’s essence and how to communicate that to others.
Any creative project is an adventure. It will go through a number of diversions before it reaches its conclusion, new ideas will join your existing ones, you’ll meet obstacles that seem daunting and sometimes unconquerable, and you’ll have wonderful Eureka moments. Ultimately, one of the best weapons you can carry to navigate your quest successfully is iteration.
Step 5: Plan for the Known Knowns and for the Known Unknowns
A lot of creative projects often go down to the wire, they are complicated by their very nature and there may be huge unknowns, especially if the project balances on the ‘cutting edge’. We will gather some useful tools to help you plan, ensure positive communication between the creators and client, how to create a timeline, and how to consider flexibility, assess risks and have a contingency even for the unknown unknowns. We will also give you an outline of what should be included in a project plan.
Step 6: On Budget
This should ideally come as early on in the project as the brief, but more often than not it is up to you to define how you’re going to be recompensed for your hard work and most importantly how you keep track of time and resources spent to make sure you don’t go over budget. We look at ways to budget a creative project and how to offer various tiered options.
Step 7: The Grand Finale
After your thing of beauty is unleashed upon the world, rather than just move straight on to the next project it is time to celebrate it. Now is a good time to sit down with the whole team and have a debrief session to talk about what worked well and what could work better in the future. Open a bottle of bubbly!
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