Russell Davies: If you're a planner, prepare to unleash your creative streak

By Russell Davies,, Thursday, 10 May 2012 08:00AM

I'm teaching a course in a couple of weeks and I'm worrying what to talk about. It's one of a series of seminars for senior planners and my bit is called "Making the most of your creativity".

Russell Davies: If you're a planner, prepare to unleash your creative streak

My problem is to do with boundaries - first, I'm not sure what a planner is supposed to do any more. Second, I'm not sure what "creativity" you can take for granted these days.

When I started in planning, you could assume that a planner could draw a non-confusing chart, write a non-confusing brief and make a non-confusing mood board for research groups. (The really nice mood board, for the client presentation, would have to be made by the studio - because it had the scalpels and a fume cupboard.)

Then, sometimes, there were special planners with extra skills. They could draw or paint or take decent pictures.

My special skill, for instance, on which I coasted for a number of years, was that I knew - a long time before most people - how to paste an image into a PowerPoint presentation.

These days, I'd assume that almost anyone in an agency or media business knew how to film, edit and title a decent video and get it on to the web. They should know how to set up a good-looking blog, make a reasonable set of wireframes, take a reasonable photo, record and edit a reasonable interview, do a bit of stop-frame animation, nicely visualise some data, know what the golden ratio is and know the difference between Arial and Helvetica, and between a hyphen, an em dash and an en dash. (NB. Before you get all clever, I do not know all these things - I just expect you to.)

I think the average planner should be as comfortable with a marker pen and layout pad as they are with a laptop. The tools of creativity are just far more accessible these days. Doesn't everyone know this stuff? Perhaps not.

But maybe it's about more than general fluency with the tools - it's about the future of the job. And I see a lot more creativity in it, not less.

Personally, for instance, I'm convinced that the most potent and fecund creative unit of the next 20 years is going to be a team of a designer and a strategist. That's who businesses will want solving their problems. Could you do that? Can you talk about affordances and desire paths and say "canonical" a lot?

Though maybe that's all a bit too highfalutin. I also have a bunch of tricks for making the propositions on briefs sound more creative (though not too creative). Maybe I should just show them those. If you're coming on the course, let me know. Everyone else: we'll let you know what we come up with.

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