God Damn it! How Can I Ever Find Inspiration In This Local Dump?
Snr. Art Director, Memac Ogilvy, Jeddah.
Ask a creative about inspiration and you’ll soon feel a haze of monotonous answers cram the air, leaving you with more confusion on the subject then clarity. In fact, you might be spun into a whirlwind of cliché complaints on how uninspiring our environment in Saudi Arabia is. Ultimately, the response will counter the intention of the question you asked and leave you demotivated.
We often look at communication art in other parts of the world and think: they have the freedom to express; They have so much development around them; It’s a more sophisticated society over there! You might also be familiar with common solutions to these claims, such as: you must find it in your environment; you can log on to the Internet and search for “interesting advertising”. The list, quite frankly, can go on for miles. The truth is, most of what is mentioned above has some merit. The question remains: Is the problem we face with inspiration in the lack of it, or is the problem with our approach to seeking inspiration? The answer requires us to acquire skill sets that are obvious, yet often neglected.
Have you ever evaluated the process you take when trying to gain inspiration for an idea? Doesn’t it sometimes seam like the same approach repeats itself on every creative project or piece? For many us, the answer is yes. Focusing on how we behave is often seen as a frivolous, if not, a frustrating task. We’ve found a comfortable approach to creating that one great sketch of our garden tree and stuck to that process on every single project, not realizing that the approach to sketching an existing tree is not the same as creating an imaginary one. To create something from scratch, we need to find new ways of inspiring ourselves. Thus, we always look at things we feel comfortable with. Unfortunately, comfort won’t always bestow on us profound inspiration. What often happens in Saudi Arabia with creative individuals in the communications industry (designers, art directors, creative directors, copywriters) is that they tend to adopt a foreign idea – trying to localize it, or they might come up with an idea that speaks the obvious about the culture. Sure, hiring more local talent would help, but the reality on the ground would require a little more than a change in passport details. The problem persists with creative talents from all backgrounds. Both above approaches, in my opinion, lack one fundamental point: INSIGHT.
If we, creative individuals, aim to dig into an insight about our environment we can most certainly rejuvenate the process of creating inspirational ideas each time. No one says that the design skills you learned at your college in London or Jeddah aren’t valid, but how you use those skill sets in one environment will most likely have to adapt, along with yourself, to another environment.
Sadly, most of what I’ve come across during my eight years with Saudi Arabian media is a bunch of designs filled with short cuts on Photoshop, cliché definitions of what is “truly Saudi,” and imported ideas from abroad translated into Arabic. This frustrating situation pushes me to ask: When will we ever set a trend?
As I believe in presenting a proactive solution to any problem addressed, here are my personal and basic take on inspiration and the four steps to acquiring it:
Step 1: Re-evaluate the way you look at your environment. If Jeddah looks like a big dump of uninteresting colors, try looking at it as an authentic splash of earth tones buried with age and experience. Your point of view on life has to constantly evolve in order to continue cracking creative ideas.
Step 2: Yes. Your own culture does have a lot to offer, contrary to your belief. I often ask my interior design friends who study all sorts of cultures for technique and inspiration: Why don’t you guys take a field trip to Assir? Did you ever notice their take on color theory and patterns? I’ve even had a discussion with the editor of this magazine on how we can utilize the concept of Al mamnou3at (the forbidden) to say something interesting in our advertising; of course, we should not cross any political or religious boundaries. But we most certainly can push the envelope on cultural perceptions.
Step 3: Become insightful by gaining insight. Walk around and notice the details. Monitor people’s behaviour, especially those of whom you might never mix with. You’ll be surprised how important it is for you to understand shopping habits of individuals from different social classes or ethnicities when you create a communication project.
Step 4: Be positive at all times and don’t complain about what you lack, unless your aim is to create miserable work- but even that requires a form of morbid inspiration.
In closing, and I hope to have inspired you to rethink the concept of inspiration by now, you should really relax and focus on the objective of your piece. Give yourself a moment to absorb the reasons behind executing the project and then go for it with full attention. It’s worked for me, I’m sure it can work for you.