I’ll have a Plate of Creativity with a Side Order of Passion.

This was a post I wrote for another blog, but I think it’s perfectly applicable here. Enjoy.
~Daxx

Sometimes I hear people comment that they’re just not that creative. I often wonder what makes them think that. Why would anyone be comfortable living with that idea? As a creative person who works with graphics all day, I’m here to tell you that everyone is, and has always had the potential to be creative, and I’m going to tell you why.

Image

Creativity is not just pretty graphics or designs. Creativity is more than that. It’s multi-layered and multi-levelled. It’s relative, and we all can do it. Maybe we can’t all create pretty pictures, but that doesn’t mean you are not a creative person.

Each of us has heard a quote where at least one person has remarked “I have to write that down”. That’s because language can be beautiful. Words and phrases that are strung together like pearls on a string can be memorable if done with care. They roll off your tongue like they were meant to be together.

We’ve all read literature where the author’s abilities in word-smithing made the material enjoyable to read. Advertisers have known this for a long time. It’s called copywriting. They use it to write text for products and services that draws consumers in to read more and to buy the products. Since the forties, the big deal was writing slogans because they were bite-sized consumer information that were written to be memorable. Sometime, more often than not, they used humour to generate silly sayings like “where’s the beef?”, because as long as it was memorable, the consumers would buy. It didn’t even have to be grammatically correct.

Sometimes these phrases were so powerful they actually became part of the cultural lexicon. Here are some examples: “Don’t leave home without it” (American Express), “It keeps going, going and going” (Energizer), and “Good to the last drop” (Maxwell House). Slogans waxed and waned like the tides in the ocean, some lasting a generation or until events made them distasteful and others spanning multiple generations.

Language is like that. A well-written book is a another example of when thoughts and ideas are conveyed in such a succinctly perfect way that it’s more than just pleasurable to read. A well-crafted story is a thing of beauty. The point is that language, specifically writing, is an art form. Anyone can do it and with a little care and common sense, produce something that is memorable. It’s also the reason why some people, such as some politicians and presidents of large firms hire specially trained people who write many of the words that come out of their mouths. They recognize the power of words and want what they say to always be memorable and have some level of importance. That not exactly creativity, but they do recognize the word-smithing abilities of the people they hire.

Art form aside, creativity doesn’t have to involve art at all. Take the lowly potato chip. This now commonplace little demon of our waistlines was invented in 1853 by chef George Crum at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York. Crum created the snack in reaction to a customer who continuously sent his fried potatoes back complaining that they weren’t crunchy enough. Crum sliced the potatoes as thin as possible in reaction, fried and salted them. His customer loved them and “Saratoga Chips” were born. Crum’s solution was a stroke of high-cholesterol genius and it was his creativity that got him there.

Let’s say you work with numbers seven days a week in a cramped cubicle on a crowded floor and when the five o’clock bell rings you can’t wait to get home. You’re not rushing to get out because you hate your job, but because you can’t wait to get home and work on your garden. Creativity doesn’t have to be what you do with your time, but the passion you feel for it. You could be a horrible gardener who unceremoniously kills everything you touch, much to the horror of your neighbours. But that passion you feel, that fire in your belly to get going, that excitement is a form of creativity.

You could be a golfer who has one particular shot that you’ve perfected, and everything else you struggle with. You could be a golfer who is an amazing putter. It could be the one shot that you can cut through like “budd’ah”, but you couldn’t chip your way out of a paper bag. Some might argue that’s just skill, but I would counter that it was your passion for the game that fuelled you to invest the time to perfect that shot. It was your creativity that helped you find the solution that worked best for you.

Passion learning is something many of us do outside of work. It’s a yearning to learn something unrelated to your day job, a personal pleasure if you wish. We’ve all heard of people who have taken cooking courses after work. Passion learning is directly connected to creativity. You do it not because you have to, but because you want to. That yearning is the start of the fire that will become a passion. You don’t have to be great at whatever you do, just have the desire. That’s also creativity.

Here’s another example: You’ve just invited a guy you swear looks like Fred Flintstone into your home to fix your fuse box. Fred stays an hour and a half and charges you what can only be described as “close to your mortgage”. You might be freaking at your bill, but what you may not realize is that, according to his co-worker Barney Rubble, the work that Fred just did for you, to any other electrician, is in itself a work of art. To you, you can’t see that level of workmanship because you are not an electrician. It’s something that is outside your scope of aesthetics. Sometimes, you can’t see creativity when it’s right in front of you because creativity is relative.

Forget the graphics and pretty pictures. Take a closer look at your own life and I will bet a mortgage payment, you ARE a creative person. Take a look at your accomplishments in your work life and I would expect you to see much of that was driven by your passion, and it was your creativity that got you there.

(PS. I take Visa.)

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Digital Stock Photography

AS DESIGNERS, Images and text are what make up any piece of graphic design. The text we get from the client or agency writers, and the imagery we create, have created for us or purchase online. Ideally, it would be great if the photography was unique to each piece, but uniqueness costs money and can get very expensive for the client. So what does a graphic designer do when he needs some artwork for a client, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money? He turns to online stock photography.

A stock house is a distribution house for the photographer. They use their network to get the photographer’s work out there to the graphic designing public. When an image is sold, the photographer gets a percentage, depending on the license type.  If the license is royalty free, the photographer gets a small piece of the pie, but the image can be sold over and over again. If the license is rights managed, the photographer gets a much larger chunk of pie and in some cases, can control how that image is even used. In special cases, some rights managed images cannot be used by two different companies in the same industry at the same time. And there are variations.

So in a nutshell, most stock houses are generally the same in what they do but their definitions may be slightly different, particularly from country to country. It’s always a good idea to read everything about how they do their licensing when dealing with a new stock house.

Another consideration is time zone. If you are working on a project with a tight deadline (and who hasn’t?)and you need an image at a special size (let’s say that image is stocked in a smaller size only), keep in mind where the company is physically located. An ad agency in Toronto, Canada who needs the image by 3:00 the following day, won’t get it in time because their stock house in Sacramento California is not only three hours behind them, but wont even see the request until 12 noon Toronto time or 9 am Sacramento time.

Licensing There are two types of licenses: royalty free and rights managed. Each stock house deals with these two terms differently and it’s always recommended to read the fine print of any contract at least once. Don’t assume that if one company says you can do whatever you wish with the image, they all say the same thing.

Getty’s use of royalty free images means the designer purchases the image and uses it over and over again. The larger the image, the more he pays. Some places such as 123rf allows you to purchase a set rate subscription per image. Others such as  Shutterstock have single rates where you pay once, and download as many images as you require over a set amount of time, such as a year or 25 days. The longer the time period, the higher the subscription rate. The downside to royalty free images is that anyone can have the same image as you which means although you may have come up with a smashing design, your imagery is not so smashing after all.

Rights managed means (in most cases) the stock house may distribute the image, but the photographer holds the rights to how that image gets used. Getty’s use of the term is fairly straight forward. The designer negotiates with a rep on how he or she intends to use the artwork and pays based on a number of variables such as duration (how long the printed image will be in distribution), print copies (also referred to as circulation), image percentage (ratio of how big the image is in the overall printed piece) and so on. And those variables are in reference to each usage. Want to use it in web? Then there are a whole new set of variables to consider.

Now let’s say your client decides to add a brochure into the mix, the designer must then go back to the rep and negotiate a new license based on new usage. The downside to the uniqueness of rights managed images is that only a few people may have a copy of your image and it’s far more expensive than royalty free.

And while we’re talking about the downside, let’s not forget the downside of online digital photography itself. The one horrible aspect of such photography is that it tends to homogenize all design, everywhere. Anyone can have your images and as a designer, you loose your own uniqueness when you use it. Consumers become unresponsive to the same images appearing over and over again in all advertising. Digital Stock house catalogs can take on a bland and predictable appearance. Designers crave unique, edgey photography but rarely have the client budget to afford specialty photography.