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Points North: Andrew Lawrence, Executive Creative Director, Elmwood


Each Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.

This week it’s Andrew Lawrence, Executive Creative Director at Elmwood. Recently voted one of the most influential people in British design, he argues that creative leaders must do much more to keep their staff happy and inspired. 

Anyone who has read Creativity Inc. will know the answer to the question… what’s the most important thing… creativity or people? The correct answer, (or so I am told) is good people, because from great people come great ideas.

So by definition, your team are your greatest asset, but they really do need looking after! Unfortunately, ‘us’ creative types are an emotional bunch. We really love to complain if the conditions for our craft are not quite right. We need continual tending and nurturing. Just the right conditions must exist for us to flourish and ultimately produce a good crop of ideas that will keep the clients coming back for more.

Beyond all the day to day niggles, I suppose the two biggest challenges faced when managing a single creative team are long-term project fatigue and the need for continual inspiration and refreshment.

elmwoodLong-term single client projects are great for continuity and project knowledge but do over time cause creative teams to become despondent and institutionalised. It’s so important to provide pockets of creative exploration on smaller projects throughout the year. I’ve always found that mapping a series of different sized projects against individual designers really helps keep the team refreshed and helps ‘rest the horses’ at key points or when they need a creative break.

There have been times over the years when I’ve felt like a cow in a milking parlour, brought in from the field and expected to deliver. But as any good dairy farmer knows, the milk is only as good as the quality of the grass! For designers, it’s all about the right inspiration because that’s our grass and we need to graze.

Most designers keep themselves abreast of what’s going on in the wider world, through their collection of references, web-links and long-term Pinterest addiction. But that’s not enough… we/they need more.

As creative leaders it’s important that we create the right environment that delivers greater outside influences so the team can keep their heads up and avoid being limited in wider world thinking. This is particularly important for studios further from the centre. Inspiration days, guest speakers and TED talks are a start and should be built in to your studio culture and seen as an investment in the team and your ultimate creative product. The thoughts need to come from somewhere so be inspired everyday.

On top of this we are an insecure bunch. We seek continual praise and like to be rewarded for our efforts. Encouragement and regular catch-ups are so important in the team’s development and growth. Even for those at the top of their game, the concept of acceptance and recognition is very important.

I suppose that’s where creative awards can help. Some agencies don’t chase awards glory, but for me they are a reward for all the effort; a recognition of your craft by peers and the wider industry so shouldn’t be devalued. They are particularly pertinent when viewed through the frame of effectiveness, but then that’s another story.

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