The dreamers: Flo Heiss on not being precious about where you find creativity

Creative effectiveness equals brilliant ideas living across multiple channels and touch points. As part of a new series celebrating the people behind these creative concepts – the industry’s dreamers – Gillian West catches up with creative luminary Flo Heiss, who shares his thoughts on being open to the world around you, and not being precious about where you find creativity.

“Where does inspiration come from? Well, that’s the million dollar question,” laughs artist, designer and adman Flo Heiss. “It’s like asking a concert pianist where the notes on the page come from.”

Returning to Dare in September 2014 after two years out to run his own venture – Studio Heiss – he admits the “boring, yet truthful” answer to the question comes from being open to the world around you.

“It’s all about experience,” he says, “not being too precious about where you expect to find creativity: it could be an art gallery, but equally it could strike in the supermarket or whilst staring at the side of the road.”

Having worked under his own rule for two years, Heiss reveals a disdain for the word ‘hobby’ as it “suggests you’re doing something at work you don’t want to be doing” and tells The Drum he’s trying to bring as much of the “non-perfect thinking” of outside pursuits into the workplace to inspire his team.

“The way I like to approach things is to start something and see if that leads to an idea, experimenting with objects and colours. I like to think I bring a lot of energy to Dare and that I’m interested in what people are up to, but I mostly let them do their own thing. My way of working works for me but I don’t have all the answers,” he explains.

“Of course, anyone can come to me for advice and, for me, that’s conversations around current things. I like to inspire through cultural context and loud music – although that might be more annoying than inspiring,” he jokes.

Outside of the office, he “goes through stages” with his interests, citing music, art and film as his main passions, with David Byrne, The Shining and Stanley Kubrick currently in favour.

“David Byrne has a book, How Music Works, about how he approaches music and his work with Talking Heads, and weirdly it works for the ideas generation. I also really got into The Shining again recently and Stanley Kubrick and the way he shoots things, how nothing was left to chance and everything has meaning. I watched Room 237 [an exploration of various interpretations of The Shining] last week and marvelled at the craft that went into it.”

According to Heiss, craft is something that’s becoming particularly important in the world of advertising and marketing with “more and more thought being put into things that are well made.”

“There’s been a shift with a lot of agencies and creative places talking more and more about customer experiences and starting campaigns with the consumer and working outwards. I’ve noticed more brands want to start off with a platform to engage with consumers, or just people in general, with advertising the icing on the cake,” he explains. “

In this day and age work needs to have some sort of cultural impact. You need to know what it is people are interested in. If you’re a brand your competition isn’t other brands. Your competition is the latest news, the latest film, the latest celebrity scandal. To compete in that world you have to be relevant. It’s critical to have a brand purpose and engage with consumers.”

Despite being one of the most celebrated creatives in advertising, Heiss admits that his “great friend”, Ogilvy & Mather China’s chief creative officer Graham Fink, is a “hugely inspiring” influence.

“He’s very good at doing unexpected things and constantly reinventing himself,” he says. “At the moment he’s doing this ‘Drawing with my Eyes’ exhibition and it’s just amazing, but he can also turn his hand to commercial work – creating wonderful posters for Coca-Cola, for example. I really love him as a person and admire the way he works.”

Despite having projects for brands including Lynx, Sony Bravia and Converse under his belt, Heiss doesn’t hesitate for a moment when questioned on the projects he wishes he was involved in, with Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge top of the list.

“I really admire Thomas Heatherwick and I look at him as an inspiration. He’s such an amazing thinker, as are the people he has around him. I would love to be part of the Garden Bridge,” he adds. Like many others, he’s also in awe of the Red Bull Stratos jump.

“Jumping from the edge of space – who wouldn’t want to be involved in that? And Volvo’s Epic Split – it’s so beautifully shot and it’s got everything you could think of, as well as Jean Claude Van Damme. It really shouldn’t work, but it does.”

The Drum’s Dream Awards, recognising creativity across a number of channels, platforms and sectors, takes place on 5 October. For more information visit thedreamawards.com.

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