Opinion

Saatchi & Saatchi's Kate Stanners on the art of crafting relevant and beautiful work

Kate Stanners, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi London, on the vital importance of craft in creativity, and how the skill must be honed over time in order to devise the most beautiful, effective and successful messages for brands.

Kate Stanners, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi London
Kate Stanners, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi London

For me, creativity has always been inextricably linked with craft. At its best, it’s the ingredient that can turn a simple idea into something truly inspiring.

But in a fast-changing communications world, craft seems to have become a bit of an unfashionable word. Clients see reams of homemade online content getting millions of hits, and ask why they can’t create something similar. The answer, of course, is that they could. But what would be the point?

Which brings me to the first element of good craft in our business – relevance. For me, it’s one of the most important factors in any piece of commercial communication.

Yes, an idea must be compelling, but it must also have the right brand message. Volvo Trucks’ ‘Epic split’ is a great example of a stonking idea, brilliantly shot, and featuring a celebrity – which, without the branding, would not have worked.

The blank page

I’m always in awe of how artists deal with the tyranny of the blank page, when that very blankness offers them the opportunity to come up with absolutely anything. So the constraint of a brief can be very liberating. Directing creative thought into the right place is an essential first step in great craft.

Secondly, craft doesn’t have to be expensive. Wieden & Kennedy’s Old Spice campaign has been such a success because of its writing and performances, but these, in themselves, don’t have to be costly. Making something beautiful requires a skilled eye much more than it does money.

As an industry, we have to ensure that we give our people the space, time and access to more-experienced craftspeople to learn the vital skills they need

And craft doesn’t necessarily mean film, either. A well-thought-through gif or Instagram picture can be incredibly effective online. Toward the end of last year, the ‘Peace for Paris’ symbol by Jean Jullien was a single image of great, powerful design, and an example of how the simplicity of great craft can cut through online.

But there are some characteristics that exist in all craft, regardless of media. Characteristics like skill, talent and, above all, care. Timeless qualities that have been applied to our profession over decades and are even more relevant today, in a world cluttered with content.

Craft mindset 

Craft requires a certain mindset: one of open-mindedness and passion, courage and conviction from people who have strong opinions and are prepared to share them. People who care about the detail, whether that be in typography, lighting, styling or photography.

Of course, young people don’t have the experience of craft built in when they start out in our industry. And in a market powered by technology and a growing sense of immediacy, where brands are demanding more creative for less time, craft is in danger of becoming a devalued skill. As an industry, we have to ensure that we give our people the space, time and access to more-experienced craftspeople to learn the vital skills they need.

Because they are skills that apply, with equal pertinence, to all the media at our disposal. Whether that’s great writing and storytelling on Twitter – like Oreo has done so well in the past – concise, beautiful visuals on Instagram, or great film.