Logic or Magic?


Logic or Magic? Are we in Lilliput or is that the world's largest beer? Either way he's using the laws of buoyancy to good effect and my question here is….

What was Archimedes up to? Legend has it that he leapt from the bath and ran naked down the street shouting Eureka having sussed his now famous law! Whether that’s true or not I'm more interested in what he was doing in the bath before he got out.

Did he have a flash of brilliance? The proverbial light bulb moment (even though they had not been invented yet)? Or was he applying himself logically to solving the mystery of why some things floated, and other things sank?

I don't believe in light bulb moments. Solving problems and coming up with creative solutions is just about applying yourself logically to the data you have at hand and the problem you are trying to solve. Being inventive may seem like magic to others but then again what accountants can do with numbers seems like magic to me.

For me it’s logic not magic – the lightbulb ‘feeling’ is what you get when you realise that the idea will  fly. 

Are you logician or magician?

Is there a Hippo in your Office?


On this heatwave Friday did you know that hippos make their own sunscreen? Their sweat is red and scatters the light!

Hippos are also useful for product design. Here’s how.

Agile creative teams tend to generate more ideas and projects then they can cope with. Ideas are the easy bit; it's working out which project to run with that can be the problem.

And that is where the hippo comes in. Not our semi-aquatic mud loving friend here but the ‘HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion’, or HIPPO for short. The highest paid person has usually got there by making a bunch of right decisions so just ask them which project is the winner and go for it. After all surveys have shown that eight out of 10 business leaders place intuition as their most valuable skill. 

This method doesn't always work (e.g. Jeff Bezos’s Fire Phone) but it some situations it can be the best way forward – especially when listening to client businesses. 

So next time you see a hippo coming don't run away - unless of course it's wet and covered in mud!

The Importance of Donuts


I was sitting at my desk some years back in Southern California when the smell of freshly baked Donuts wafted through the door. This was clearly going to be a great Friday!

On investigation it turned out that the box of freshly baked Krispy Kreme donuts (other brands are available) had been brought in by the local dentist as a goodwill and, no doubt, a business development strategy!

Whilst the dentist’s tactics are debatable, he was following the basic principle, that we all hold true, to offer something of value for free in order to build trust with your prospective customers. 

So here's my free Friday tip that might help you solve a creative block. Instead of thinking of the best way to do something, just take a moment, do a U-turn, and think of the worst way that it could be done. It’ll be fun.

For example let's say we are trying to design a revolutionary new corkscrew. What would be the worst way to open a bottle? Well you could smash the bottle with a hammer as that’ll certainly get the wine out! Problems abound but it gets you thinking about doing something to the bottle instead of getting the cork out of it. Perhaps a battery operated rotary diamond cutter around the neck. That would solve the problem of bits of cork dropping into the wine and could even be easier for people with weaker hands. Just an idea……

Now where are those donuts?

Creative Block Solved


 Stuck for a new idea. Creative block? Here's a solution.

Just think of an animal and make a connection between it and the problem your are trying to solve. Whales work well but this time we'll try an ostrich.

For example if you're brainstorming garden furniture and thought of an ostrich it might go like this.....

What are ostriches known for? Sticking there heads in the sand - ah sand! Let's make a chair out of sand - could be an interesting material that blends with the garden landscape. A plant based resin binder would work.

(Credit to Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World, a great book I read when I was a student back in the day.)

Nothing New Under The Sun


Nothing new under sun? But when you find out your idea has been done it can still be a good thing.

That well known proverb is centuries old but how can something 'not new' still be good for business?

Searching patents and finding a beautifully drawn patent from Victorian times with the same idea as yours can raise your stress levels. Many give up since our precious idea is no longer 'ours'.

But on the other hand do you ever really know for sure if you are the first person to have an idea? I don’t think so.

I prefer to take a more positive view i.e. ‘great minds think alike’. If that earlier patent had been successful and sold in millions then you would probably have heard about it without having to dig into the dusty vaults of a patent library.

So don’t give up. Look more closely and you'll seer the crucial differences that will make your idea the one that will succeed.
Finding others pursuing the same objective as you is a sure sign that there is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.

And of course you only see rainbows under the sun.

Free Pitch? Does that make you a bad person?


In the eyes of the design community ‘Free Pitching’ is a dirty word and the industry bodies like the Design Business Association have been working hard with the industry to stamp it out. John Scarrott of the DBA said;

“Free creative as a basis for selecting an agency is a lottery to which both parties buy a ticket. And it’s tempting for agencies to demonstrate they can solve the problem by actually solving it.

As with any ‘punt’, there is always a chance of a win for both sides, but the stakes are actually higher for the client than they are for the agency. For the client, if they’re serious about their brand, making the wrong choice of agency can be costly. When it comes to selecting who you’re going to trust with your brand, why would you flip a coin to make the choice? There’s always another way to demonstrate an agency’s worth than offering free creative, there’s plenty.”

A recent report shows that while nearly 90% of clients surveyed value design as important to a brand’s success and see the standard of UK design consultancies as “very high”, almost 70% of clients say they would not expect to pay for a creative pitch. So why the mismatch between what the industry is promoting and what the clients are actually doing.

Thought Leadership and Commercial Insight

I don’t believe an agency has ever been hired purely on past work and reputation. There is always a conversation about the upcoming project and that conversation will inevitably include some original thinking by the agency about how to handle the particular project. These days it’s not enough to go along and show them how smart you are as the client can easily sit there and say, ‘Hey you guys are really smart’ and still not hire you – that’s where thought leadership can end up. You have to be telling them something about their business that they don’t already know, some opportunity that they hadn’t fully appreciated to either make money or save money. That is true commercial insight and to get to that point you must be thinking up new stuff just for that client which is a creative activity provided for free. 

The Collaborative Pitch

We prefer a collaborative pitch. It’s based on a good relationship and helping the prospective client find their way towards a winning solution they thought impossible without stinging them for £10K upfront fee. So, we’ll listen to their needs, do some thinking and share the results of that thinking with them so they can start to see what might be possible if the innovation is pursued. Of course, once they can see the future, the commercials can shift to a more traditional footing but even then there is always scope for value pricing. Designer's tend to be entrepreneurial and like to have some 'skin in the game'.

And the other thing to remember is that the client is investing time and resource during the collaborative pitch process which is costing them money in the same way it’s costing the agency. Get it right and it becomes an equal trade where everybody’s happy and engaged and that can lead to a really sparkling result. 

A Blank Sheet?


Nothing like starting with a blank sheet of paper – but is it really?

Truly blank sheets are a rare find, often there’s something hiding on the other side or some devious invisible ink that will materialise half-way through the project and derail it.

In busy innovation driven environments it’s vital to know at the start what’s hiding on that proverbial blank sheet. So how do you unearth them early?

There are loads of innovation processes around that offer step by step guides on project set up but often the more intuitive stuff gets missed. Communication with the widest team is everything and that doesn’t just mean getting them in a room and taking a poll. It means having all the antennas up and listening for the sparks of ideas that are hiding beneath the surface and then following up where necessary with the individuals in a more relaxed setting away from the wider team.

Project are made of people and they hold the key to making sure you know what’s lurking on that supposedly blank sheet.

Launching the Lightbulb


Ever wondered why the lightbulb is always the icon for an idea? Well it’s all down to Mr Edison who figured out how to make a light bulb practical and long lasting. He also invented the phonograph and motion picture camera but I guess they are less iconic somehow.

After a 15 year detour on client side it's exciting to be getting back to our roots. The difference now is that we understand what it's like to be the client - been there, done that. And that's why the headline is about 'no-nonsense' - we'd rather talk about a valuable solution than spend time on another 20 PowerPoints slides.

We’ll be posting stuff about new ideas for a wide range of topics from safer driving to Kim Kardashian (really?) and also more every day stuff like better teabags or water purification for African droughts. 

And as is customary when making inaugural speeches I’d like to thank the Upwork (www.upwork.com) community who have all helped get this thing set up. Thanks guys!


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