Don’t kill creativity

Once, part of the concept story-telling was a series of hand-drawn visuals, often drawn fag-packet size, then enlarged to A1 on the Xerox machine, rendered with crumbling chalk pastels brushed on with cotton-wool. Finished with a coating of intoxicating fixative spray, and mounted onto Polyboard (adhered with even more intoxicating SprayMount).  My late Father was an Architect, I can remember as a kid studying his concept presentations that were painted in watercolour, a much slower process I imagine, but with an artistic wash quality akin to what we were striving to achieve in pastels.

Armed with a dozen of these Polyboards (which were a bugger to carry), off you went to deliver your presentation.

The line quality, all free-hand sketchy, loose and often vague of detail, had a real artistic quality to them and oozed the ‘essence’ of the idea. The viewer gained an ‘impression’ of what the space might look and feel like, and had to use their own creative grey-matter and listen to the words of the presenter (or simply trust the presenter in what they were saying).

It worked, and worked very well.


In contrast we recently sat in silence in a large boardroom, as the entire Board sat transfixed with VR headsets on, with only smiles visible as they meandered through a space complete with moving graphic content, perfectly presented products and sun-kissed customers. It’s said jokingly that the Queen smells fresh paint wherever she’s visits, here the Board were seeing perfection in their product presentation, visual merchandising, and manicured customers gleefully engaging with their brand.

They were impressed- and fortunately in this case, also impressed with the design that glued it all together.

My concern however is the process and timing…

Seeing something ‘completed’ at the commencement or infant stages, and to be so convincingly real, needs to have been ‘designed’- long before it should be designed, and even earlier than it should be detailed. Potentially allowing tech to lead and disguise a lack of creative flair, and through smoke and mirrors push a weak concept through approval. Or the viewer to pass comment or encouraged to make detailed judgement too soon.

I love a CGI, walk-thro’, or VR- so don’t get me wrong. It just needs utilising as a tool at the right stage of the creative process. So first establish the strategy, proposition, and generate creative thinking (presented in whatever medium that communicates the idea). Then on receiving a rapture of applause (hopefully), and the design crafted, CGI walk-thro’s can then present the direction with precision accuracy how it will look once fully realised (for the Board, or for consumer group research).

Virtual reality, sound, moving image, emotional recognition etcetera, have a time and a place most certainly, and their sophistication is ever increasingly fantastic!- but don’t let it kill off starting first with a great creative idea.


Image – Architect Steven Holl