Part of my role as Talent & Culture Manager means I coordinate our two major learning events in the shape of Digital Week (normally held in March/ April) and Creativity Week (around Halloween).

These events are one large part of our commitment to Continual Professional Development. Something which Material has always been passionate about, but since becoming members of the IPA a few years ago it has refocussed that commitment. We are pretty darn dedicated. The 2 GOLD accreditation IPA CPD (so many acronym’s) certificates in our boardroom are a testament to that commitment. (brag)

CPD GOLD certificates

Creativity Week is the lucky part of my job. Lucky for me and lucky for everyone else in Material. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

First to realise how lucky I am, then again, to stop dreaming and get my head down and do some actual work. I’ve got 15 events to cram into a week!

This years Creativity Week was a couple of weeks ago starting on 26th Oct ’15. It is for all Material staff but if you are a client or friend of Material then you may find yourself with an invite in your inbox.

It differs from Digital Week as that is a week which is focussed on new tech and digital discovery and theory. Creativity Week is different. It is special. The appreciation from the staff is palpable and it is unbelievable what we get to do and who we get to learn from during the week. You’d think we were a Silicon Valley behemoth, rather than the proud UK agency that we are.

This year we had a huge cross section of people from a range of different industries who either talked about their Creative Process or reflected on over-arching creative theory:

Comedian: Ray Bradshaw
Graphic Novelist: Karrie Fransman
Creative Director from the Textiles Industry: Mark Hogarth, Harris Tweed Hebrides
Industry Consultant: Katrina Dodd, Contagious
Policy designer and Social Entrepreneur: Sarah Drummond, Snook
Virtual Reality Specialist and his team: Martin McDonnell, Soluis
TV Executive, writer and radio personality: Stuart Cosgrove
DJ: Alex Smoke

Alex Smoke, DJ and Claire Blackwood

In addition to those incredible speakers we had some out of the ordinary events taking place in the shape of: a music video segment filmed in the office by Tenement TV with Glasgow band: Acting Strange, a Screen printing workshop with a Glasgow mother and daughter duo: Rhubarb & Ginger, a Cannes Lions Creativity World Cup and a 3D printing workshop at Maklab. 

Screen printing Workshop

Screen Printing
This was all then rounded up with a trip to the Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery to have a Halloween Tour lead by the ghost of Hugh Tennent (we had to wear hair nets throughout the tour, it was hilarious). 

Tennent's halloween Tour with Ghost of Hugh Tennent

All these events were topped and tailed by wise words from our CEO, Sera Miller, She made it her job to guide us, help us recognise what we should be looking out for, help us decipher what we were learning so we could get the insight and benefit and then help us apply that to what we do every day.

Interwoven throughout the fun and wisdom of the week there were some key themes which stood out. Here’s what I thought I’d round up and share with those of you who may not have been able to make it along:

  • Standing on the shoulders of giants: Quite a few of the speakers hit on this theme. Working/ expanding on what has gone before, continually improving, evolving, learning from the greats. Stuart Cosgrove said: “Culture deserves reinvention. Residual Culture can become Emergent Culture”

Stuart Cosgrove's book

  • Disrupting the Harmony/ Don’t be Linear: Harmony is a threat to creativity, you have to break out of your comfort zone, change how you work, where you work, change who you collaborate with, work alone, work together, whatever allows a new perspective on an idea. Karrie Fransman, Graphic Novelist creates unnatural physical situations to encourage creativity. 

Gillian McCormack using VR headset at Soluis talk

  • Collaboration/ Partnerships: a lot of the speakers described the benefits of this, whether it be collaborating with the public, colleagues, family, other agencies, clients etc. Depending on what is appropriate. Sometimes, what isn’t appropriate. Alex Smoke would ask friends to review all his work cause he trusts their knowledge of music. Mark Hogarth of Harris Tweed Hebrides extols the virtues of ‘Partnerships’ over ‘collaborations’ as collaborating seems transient, and he says “If a partnership is worth investing in, then it is worth investing in for a long term. We have partnerships, we don’t collaborate”

Mark Hogarth, Harris Tweed Hebrides

  • Prototyping/ Bodystorming: The importance of the Physical space and Play. We were encouraged to create prototypes, video, get an understanding how something would be/ look/ feel. How would people interact with it/ react to it. Use space to help imagine your thoughts. Sera Miller, the CEO of Material reminded us of Dougal Wilson of Blink Productions, director of most of the iconic John Lewis adverts, who creates what he calls ‘Crap-o-Matics’ to understand what the final adverts will look like to adjust, improve and understand what he is creating. 

Sarah Drummond from Snook 2

  • Putting People at the Heart: The Consumer is the focus of all design. Make sure they are involved/ considered/ understand/ accept/ agree with what you are creating. Consult data to keep making sure you are being user focused. Sarah Drummond explained how her company, Snook, work with the public at every stage of their design process, continually making sure every step considers the ultimate user. Martin McDonnell from Soluis explained the importance of AR and VR stunts only working when the user gets the immediate benefit at the event. Ray Bradshaw, comedian said: “Sometimes you will never know exactly how things will work till you show it to the public. That can be terrifying but always use it as a tool for improvement and be willing to make changes even at the last minute.” 

3D Printing Workshop-Maklab

  • Align with Behaviour: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Sarah Drummond from Snook says: “Don’t make consumers do what you think they should do, watch what they do, and enhance”

Claire Snedden presenting during Cannes Lions Creativity Ideas World Cup

  • Removing the individual Creative: Giving up the idea to team working. Sera, Stuart and Sarah all discussed the benefits of giving up your idea to the team, for the greater benefit. Sera reminded us of Ed Catmull, who has made this theme the main focus of his company, Pixar.

Soluis Business Card AR

  • Wear different hats: Taking on different personalities to improve the creative process, add a new dimension. Both Karrie Fransman and Sarah Drummond from Snook made us realise the benefit that this can have on creativity. Stepping out of yourself, whether imagining yourself as a different person or a different version of yourself. View your work through different eyes to help with insight or to take on different qualities such as confidence or perception. Ray Bradshaw, comedian, explained how important it is to understand each joke from different perspectives.

Ray Bradshaw Comedian

  • Open source sharing of ideas: Alex Smoke and Sarah from Snook both extol the virtues of sharing your work, whether that’s allowing the masses to have access via Soundcloud or uploading sketches/ designs to an open source platform or giving over the design/ idea to the client to be able to manage it themselves, improve and re-align to their needs.

Alex Smoke, DJ making tunes with Andy Brown

I can’t believe it is over. It was a highlight of my year. I was slightly broken by the end of it but energised by the new things I had learnt. I hope everyone who attended was energised too. While we put into practice what we have learnt I’ll also say a little thank you to Material for allowing me to manage the event and allowing it to even happen in the first place. Ta.

Danni x

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