Monday, August 12, 2013

Art Direction: A Product of the Adaptive Unconscious?

Art Direction, where do I start? There is little or no prescribed training for becoming a Creative Director or Art Director. This position, or should I say profession is perhaps the most important position in any media production regardless of the media or the message.

It combines years of experience working in a variety of media, a natural passion for expression and an innate curiosity about the human condition.  This skill draws upon your ability to think laterally and a passion for history, art, literature, popular culture, music and poetry and often demands “gut reaction” decision making.  It is also well served by a healthy curiosity about what motivates people emotionally and that can be expressed into a very defined work space like advertising in radio, print, videos, web sites, interactive design, etc.  

Many of today’s creative deigns are just that, simple designs made to look nice by a graphic artist but with little depth and understanding of subtle creative nuance that uses white space, layout, messaging and unique ideas to capture an audience and engage them emotionally. Why are good Creative Directors rare? ...well, because it is an impatient process, driven largely by a client’s subjective appreciation of good creative and an industry that values a process driven by time and cost rather than effectiveness. Quite a mouthful but true none the less…in a world dominated by short term goals and often young, short-staffed marketing and communications people, there is little appetite or ability to defend the creative process and all that it can achieve.  

Advertising or any media project, when done well can be a work of art, literally, and must be allowed to breath, and that often takes time and money to create something that will truly inspire people rather than simply inform them. An art director is a leader...he or she ...must trust their instincts, gained from exposure to a broad range of media, artistic ideologies and artists, emerging artistic trends and historical relevance. They must inspire the best out of their production team and in the end; the Creative Director must communicate that vision to clients and stand behind what are unorthodox ideas and unique creative concepts.  

I have been fortunate over the years, having been mentored under a number of good art directors and I have come to understand that my natural instincts, fostered over time through exposure to many unique artistic projects, and love of the humanities serve as important fuel for great creative decisions.  Understanding the use of typography, videography, imagery, white space, asymmetry, composition, depth of field, ideology, passion, curiosity, language, culture, boldness, spirit, truth, size and texture are but a few of the learned instincts that go into making an artistic decision.  Bringing these innate instincts to the creative decision making process, which often takes the form of quick gut reaction to a creative idea, take years of experience as postulated in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink through his term the “Adaptive Unconscious”.

As a society Malcolm suggests in his book, “I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it.” Malcolm goes onto to say, “The power of knowing, in that first few seconds, is not a gift given magically to a fortunate few. It is ability that we can all cultivate for ourselves.”

Art Direction or Creative Direction is a cultivated skill that demands time and experiences. As Malcolm Gladwell postulates in another book, entitled Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule applies here. It claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. While 10,000 hours may seem like a really is only a lifetime’s passion!

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