Whether you work at a creative agency or as a freelancer, you’re don’t get paid to make pretty things. You are talented enough to make art without clients, but that’s not why you’re in business. You have another talent: collaboration.
Collaboration doesn’t exclusively mean “working together,” although it is involved. Collaboration in the creative world is nurturing a relationship to produce successful results. Success by whose standards? The partners in the relationship.
For example, a non-profit hires your agency to produce a video for their annual fundraiser that highlights the past year’s successes. Those in attendance love the video and end up sharing it all over social media. The result for the client: more donations to their organization. The result for your agency: more referrals and a bright addition to your portfolio. You knocked it out of the park! Success!
Applying the diversity of talent in your creative agency to the eccentricities of each new client is collaboration in it’s purest form.
And, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that all art is collaborative.
Can you pull inspiration strictly from the self? Probably not. Even a hermit atop a mountain in the Pacific Northwest still has his senses from which to draw creativity.
Poet Emily Dickinson, like many millennials, lived at home her whole life and rarely left her room. Regarded as one of the original lady poets of 19th Century America, she drew inspiration not so much from social interactions but from intense study of literature, a.k.a. other people’s ideas. The relationship she formed with ideas sparked poems that still studied across the world today.
Even in isolation humans search for means of collaboration.
Not all art was meant to be published, but even those who choose to produce only for themselves use collaboration and muses to inspire their talent.
Most famously: Vincent van Gogh. He produced over 2,000 works of art while he was alive and didn’t publish a single one. Fame wasn’t one his mind. What was on his mind? Well, we don’t really know (remember the ear thing), but from his paintings we can assume he found inspiration in the French countryside and common folk. He formed artistic relationships with people and places, even if he was just an observer.
Some people need daily doses of human interaction to find inspiration. Residents of the first “hippy commune,” Drop City, were known for a lot things, but most relevant is the cool geometric buildings they built. They were all about being inspired by the present: each other, their land, and their ideas.
Cities, particularly in the West and Southwest, still dedicate themselves to the artistic community vibe. Being drawn to these places doesn’t mean you’re better at collaboration than others, it’s more of a personality difference. Van Gogh would have steered clear of these places, but that doesn’t make his art less collaborative.
Whether you create art in isolation, only for yourself, or while holding hands with other people, creativity is always the by-product of some relationship. From the pre-schooler encouraged to make “Beautiful Oops” to the architect sitting in his high-rise window-lit office, collaboration with people, places and things fuels artistic success.
The relationships that inspire creativity aren’t always cheery. If you work at a creative agency you don’t have the luxury to choose which leaf to draw that day, or what campaign they feel like working on. That’s what makes professional creative work so impressive: you have to be adaptable.
Working in a creative agency inevitably means working on project to which you don’t feel personally drawn. There are clients who don’t communicate enough, whose demands exceed their budget, who nitpick every line you draw. The professional creative life is not for everyone and isn’t easy, but these challenges are also opportunities to make your creative agency stand out.
Collaboration is hard work. Your personal biases and past experiences can get in the way. It takes focus to internalize your client’s situation, and find an inspired solution. Thankfully, you can find inspiration in every client. Make their story your own. Leverage their limitations to hone your solution. The end result will be a truly unique solution, and you will join the ranks of Afghan designer Massoud Hassani. He used his “client’s” unique situation and limitations, to develop a $53, full-autonomous, wind-propelled, and biodegradable mine sweeper.