‘You need to be outspoken and very clear’: Flo Heiss on what it takes to be a great creative

The Drum recently caught up with Flo Heiss, partner at Studio of Art & Commerce, to find out what he thinks it takes to be a great creative. Here’s what he had to say...

As a great creative you always need to be up to something and doing stuff. Never stop. I’m always collecting things.

There is a difference between people who are doing stuff all the time, who are always up to something, using what they have found, what they have seen and their experiences to infuse their work, and those who just get a brief and go out and try to find something.

They have a great depository of writing, of film and images. They have stuff in their pockets so that when a brief lands on their desk they already have an idea of what it could be. Never start with nothing. Have a mental library of images and a keep a memory of everything that goes on in your life because 99 per cent of the things you make or write about as a creative are autobiographical.

Another thing, which is difficult, is that you have to stay strong in your belief of what you are coming up with. Have the strength to say ‘let’s try this, stay with me a bit for this, it’s an inflatable cactus’. Coming up with the idea is the easy part, but taking everybody with you as a creative is quite difficult sometimes and it’s also a skill.

When pushing forward with an idea you have to be very specific about what you are talking about. You need to be outspoken and very clear. Tell a story around it with amusing images and bring it to life. Also, be open for people to say that they don’t quite get it and then stop and consider that maybe it’s not a good idea or the right thing.

As a creative, you never know as much as your team or the client know. Often a client suggestion does make something better. If your idea is a bunch of flowers, and it ends up as a bunch of flowers with a few different arrangements in it, that’s fine. But if it ends up looking like a cactus then it’s not fine. Those big commercial films run against common wisdom and there’s a beauty in that, but it has to be strong enough to carry everyone along.

You should always try out an idea. As much as you think you have something, it will never end up like that because it changes all the time. There comes a point where you have to start making something and trying things out to find out if it is a good idea. This happens more and more but I don’t think it happens often enough because your clients and your colleagues have to buy in to uncertainty, and people love certainty.

When you can’t find the idea, at that point you have to force yourself to start with something. I read Paul Arden’s book and his advice is that if you are stuck just use the first thing that comes into your mind. Look out of the window and use the bird flying past and start writing with that.

I have used that as a mechanic ever since. If you are blank just start with something. Start with a picture you took - write about it and it will get you into it because only by doing something can you get out of this rut. Also, log your ideas so you are creating a library you can refer back to when you most need an idea. Force the journey to begin.

This article was first published in the 17 August issue of The Drum

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