Digital or generalist? Hopefully both.

The debate at today’s Hyper Island Master Class (digital training for creative professionals) was one of craft versus utility in the modern creative department. The creative generalist vs. the digital specialist. Call them by other names, but you know what I’m talking about. Most agencies agree bringing these two groups together is critical. Doing it, however, challenges many of them.

I’m generalizing but bear with me. There is a latent tendency for generalists (art directors and copywriters) to obsess about craft (typography, body copy, design, etc) far more than the various species of digital creative. Conversely, the latter group tends to be more about the usefulness of the creative. Utility trumps aesthetic. Does your creation help the end user? If not, who cares what it looks like? Online, you’re just creating “digital ghost towns,” said digital creative consultant (and one of our instructors), Daniele Fiandaca.

Of course both are very important. Duh. Yet, there is much to be gleaned by extrapolating key pieces from this discussion (if debate is too strong a word). Pick any side. Both parties have much to say. Either way, it should be apparent that getting both sides aligned is in the best interests of agency, client and consumer.

Let’s stick with the agency, shall we? I work for the day when of all my colleagues are hybrids, with digital folks thinking high concept and their creative counterparts respecting utility.

The metaphor I like for this hybrid creative department is “guppies fucking.” Aquarists know that within a short period of time you can’t tell which guppy came from which parent. They are a strain of all. Likewise, we in adland will no longer be able to tell who came from a general background or the digital side. And we won’t need or want to.

“Useful,” stated Saatchi creative director and class presenter, Tim Leake “will be the new cool.”

The new, most desirable creative people will be keen on delivering concepts that are both useful to users and beautiful to behold. They will be adept at all of it and evaluated accordingly. As will planners, producers and account executives but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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