We Have A Few Changes…: 5 Tips For Giving Great Creative Feedback

Creative FeedbackWhen you work in the creative trenches every day, it’s easy to take for granted that we all speak the same industry language. But hearing vague terms like “make it bigger” or “it needs more energy” or “it doesn’t feel young” doesn’t help anyone. If you want to provide good creative feedback, there are a few things you can follow to ensure you’re giving (and getting) the most of your time. Here’s our top five tips:

  1. It Starts With The Brief. Before you give any feedback, the best way to ensure it’s going to go well for you later is to be clear on the assignment and work parameters before anyone gets started. It will give your team the specifics they need to work with, and it will make your critiquing easier later as you’ll be able to point to specifics on what is or isn’t working.
  1. Come Prepared. If you haven’t taken the time to properly review the project, how are you going to give good notes? Even people who have a great creative instinct still need time to reflect on what they want to say. Put your thoughts into notes that you can refer to and share with your team as a follow up. Just winging it is disrespectful to your team, and in the long run, if you haven’t properly reviewed the project, chances are you’re not going to be happy with the outcome, and you’ll have to go through it again, which leads us to…
  1. Be Specific. Okay, the logo just doesn’t “pop” to you, but how can you translate that to the creative? Perhaps your target audience is tween girls, and you feel the logo won’t appeal to them. Or maybe the background is too busy, and the logo is getting lost. Or  maybe you just want the logo bigger. Either way, any of those answers will give your team tangible feedback they can work with.
  1. Be Honest… But Be Kind. Yes, it’s business, but creatives often pour their hearts into their work, so even if you’re just being honest, be careful. Even if you don’t like it, acknowledge their time and effort. Perhaps it feels off because they took a big creative risk that didn’t land. Or maybe they tried a new skillset that they haven’t yet mastered. If it’s just not working, then you should be honest, but let them down easy. There’s no need to bash their work.
  1. Recognize The Positive! Who says feedback has to be all about the negative? Even if you feel a project is perfect, it can be just as important to let people know what they did right. If they know what the strongest part of their work was, then they’ll be more likely to repeat those good parts again.

Implement these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to giving thoughtful, specific and encouraging creative feedback that will empower your teams to do their best work yet.


Playing to Work, Working to Play

According to Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Even though we work in a creative industry, many of us are faced with this same issue, but the solution could live in our childhoods as well. When we were young, most of us spent a great deal of time making our own fun by engaging in unstructured imaginative play, and it turns out that all those hours on the playground might have been developing our brains as much as our time in the classroom. But as we’ve grown older, most adults are faced with a constant barrage of meetings, deadlines and the monotony of the day-to-day, which often gets in the way of us feeling like true creative beings and competes for any leftover time we might have to engage in playful activities.

Studies have shown that even under-stimulated adults can suffer from play deficiency, the same way we suffer from sleep deficiency if we don’t get our required allotment of hours every night. In fact, those grownups who do engage in consistent play have been proven to be more productive at work. According to Brian Sutton-Smith, the developmental psychologist who devoted his life’s work to studying the importance of play in both adults and children said, “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” Play isn’t just an activity; it is a powerful mindstate and a skill that requires commitment and challenges us to stay creative yet focused and must live in everything we do.

But what is play? According to Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of nonprofit the National Institute for Play, “Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

So, it could be a game of office foosball or trivia night, keeping playdough or some other fun, stimulating activity at your desk or even just engaging in work that feels playful. At Oishii, we’ve been lucky to have worked on several projects for children’s brands, from our rebrand of The Hub to our recent award-winning work for Sprout, which have kept us on our toes creatively and reminded us about the wonder a child’s imagination and an afternoon of unfettered playtime can hold. Those projects had budgets and deadlines and meetings, but we were able to find a sense of fun in each of them, and tap back into our younger years of unstructured play.

In the process, we’ve been able to strengthen ourselves as creatives, build better relationships with our coworkers and even relieve stress. And by engaging in our own versions of play, we can keep our minds and hearts open to new creative ideas. After all, you never know when that sense of kid-like wonder will spark your next great idea.


In Order to Think Big, Sometimes You Have to Think Small


Photo Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

Most companies value creativity and want to capture the generative powers of novel ideas for their employees and businesses. And yet, we’ve only begun to grapple with how to bring the complex powers of creativity into our offices. The main challenge is the mechanics of how it works still remains elusive. And if we don’t understand the mechanics of creative production, how can we thoroughly encourage it in our teams? Right now, most companies aren’t, at least not successfully.

A recent Harvard Business School study surveyed 3,500 companies and found that few employees were given incentives, time or resources to creatively solve business problems or seek new paths of innovation. Even Google, the world’s most innovative company, whose leaders are vocal champions of group work and collaboration, recently released a study of its own methods for organizing collaborative group work and surprisingly concluded there were no clear patterns for productive group work.

Part of the problem, say some neuroscientists, is we shouldn’t start with the group, team or company to study creativity. We’ve got to think small, at the level of the individual. We’ve got to grapple with the ways our individual brains churn out ideas, take imaginative leaps on smaller problems before we tackle understanding how groups can best come up with new product lines and ideas.

In their new book Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire reinforce this point. In their analysis, understanding the models we use in our daily lives, predicts, to some degree, how well we can expect to accomplish at work:

“We are, all in some way, wired to create everyday, and that everyday life presents opportunities to exercise and express that creativity. This can take the form of approaching a problem in a new way, seeking out beauty, developing and sticking to our own opinions (even if they are unpopular), challenging social norms, taking risks, or expressing ourselves through personal style.”

A personal style? Yes, Kaufman and Gregoire suggest there is a relationship between professional creative output, the projects we finish, the ideas we follow through to completion, and what they describe as a general creative style or sensibility. How we run our personal lives and solve our own problems. So, for example, if we spend our weekend mostly binge-watching television, or if we mostly go out and drink with friends, this will impact our overall creative personal style we use at the office:

“People who engage in a creative lifestyle—perhaps by drifting off in daydreams, taking photographs just for fun, talking passionately about personal goals, writing thoughtful cards or letters to friends or family, keeping a journal… tend to be more open minded, imaginative, intellectually curious, energetic, outgoing, persistent and intrinsically motivated by their activity,” according to the co-authors.

So, while we prep for the weekend, take some time to think about what your personal style is. Whether it’s a nonstop schedule of surfing, some fun-filled family time or even Netflix binging, however you spend your Saturday and Sunday will probably dictate your Monday as well.


Killing Your Creative: When Your Big Idea Isn’t Working

We’ve all been there — you have the perfect idea! It’s already all fleshed out in your mind… trouble is, you may have overestimated its potential and underestimated the downfalls. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that your big idea may be great, but isn’t right for your client or project; however, shoehorning it in is never going to work. When this happens, it’s time to kill your darlings. And the sooner you identify what’s not working, the sooner you can save what is.

It’s going to be painful, but trust us, it will make the project better in the long run. Here’s four of the most common pain areas that, when disregarded, can turn a great idea into a dead end.

Leonardo DiCaprio sampling your client’s product while a Rolling Stones single plays in the background may seem like a winning combination, but unless you’re Martin Scorsese, structuring your entire idea around such an expensive premise is a quick way to kill it. No matter how brilliant your pitch, if your idea requires a blockbuster budget, and your client’s bottom line is closer to Blockbuster Video, it’s time to let it go. If an idea is truly brilliant at its core, then it should be able to hold up to a little creative compromise, even if that means a little less flash and no “Sympathy for the Devil.”

As Mark Twain famously said, “There is no such thing as a new idea… We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.” So, while there’s almost no chance that whatever you’re pitching is going to be mind-blowing in its originality (we create reference boards for a reason after all), we still must strive to make each project our own unique take. It doesn’t matter whether or not your idea was consciously inspired by someone else’s, if the similarity is too close, it’s time to abandon it. You don’t want to be accused of stealing another advertiser’s idea.

This one is tough, because we’d all like to believe that our creative abilities span across the industry’s needs, but the truth is, most creative shops specialize in certain crafts for a reason. So, even if your client loves the Annie Leibovitz-inspired photo series you’ve pitched, if your staff’s only photography experience is with Instagram selfies, it’s time to be realistic. The good news with this pinch point is that just because you may not have the skills on hand to execute, it doesn’t mean your idea is bound to fail. With a little self-honesty, the idea can still be saved. As long as you’re willing to admit that the work may be best served by partnering with another company or outsourcing it altogether, you can still see your concept succeed.

Maybe you’ve been storing up a great idea you’ve had since the last Art Basel, but your client is in a conservative industry, and to them, pushing the envelope is literally redoing the logos on their envelopes. Even if your idea is gorgeous, groundbreaking and, hey, totally budget-friendly, if your client isn’t in a position to take a creative chance and you end up feeling like you’re pushing too hard, it’s time to take a step back. We’d all like to believe that we know best when it comes to our client’s needs, but sometimes, we have to trust what they’re saying is what they really do (or don’t) want. And many ideas are evergreen. Just because it’s not the right fit for this client doesn’t mean it’s not worth filing away for later. After all, some of our best ideas are already in the back of our minds, just waiting for the right turn of that creative kaleidoscope.  


Four Deadly Creative Sins Saved

We all have our bad habits, the ones that we revert to when we’re stressed out or feeling disengaged. And when we’re working long hours on tight deadlines, we tend to unconsciously revert to these negative patterns. Breaking them can be incredibly hard, but what if you could, instead, make those same bad habits actually work for your own creative good?

Read on for our top tips on how to turn around four of the most common creative pinch points and use them in your favor. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.

Let’s just get this out of the way: We’re humans and we procrastinate. But with a little flexibility, we can view our procrastination as a matter of discipline and not necessarily a personality trait. With that said, there are deadlines to manage and meet, and the hardest part of any deadline is the starting — the jumble of emotions and thoughts of excitement and anticipation that often serve as an initial obstacle. But, putting together a list and prioritizing tasks is a good place to start. In fact, with a little foresight, according to John Perry, professor emeritus at Stanford University, procrastination can be your friend. Perry, who wrote “The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing,” touts the benefits of “structured” procrastination or postponing tasks strategically to focus on more important jobs. “Procrastination means not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Structured procrastination means you don’t waste your time,” Perry explained in Business Insider. So, next time you’re putting off an unpleasant task, embrace that opportunity to do something else that needs to be done instead. It’s amazing how much you can get done as long as you’re conscious of how your energies have shifted.

Sometimes restlessness — a symptom of procrastination or boredom — especially during meetings, can be highly distracting for those around us and give us a general sense of discomfort. But, next time your legs are jerking or your fingers are doing a little too much tapping, why not take your body’s cue and go for a walk? Getting outside and walking around can lift your mood and help change your creative mindset.

As we’ve said before, “The unconscious process and its strengths don’t always fit into standardized work schedules, and… sometimes, people are judged as unproductive or lazy when they don’t seem to be hitting a mark; when they aren’t relentlessly ‘producing’ heaps of”things.’” While zoning out can be seen as a waste of time, it’s when our minds are at ease that we’re the most creative. Studies have shown that the most productive creatives stay inspired by allowing their minds time to roam. So, instead of fighting your daydreaming impulses, why not schedule some time to engage in them?

Being Messy
Working at a desk piled high with empty food cartons and half-full coffee mugs isn’t conducive to productivity, but, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science by Dr. Kathleen Vohs and colleagues at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, being messy can boost creativity. The team ran a number of experiments with participants in messy and clean rooms and found that subjects in the messy room tended to come up with more creative solutions for challenges, being five times more likely to produce “highly creative” ideas. It seems that messiness and creativity are strongly correlated, and that a little disorder can let inspiration flow. So, feel free to add your new collection Star Wars figurines to the desktop, but maybe it’s time to wash those mugs.


Color Your Way Into Bliss

Walk through any Barnes & Noble or Art supply store, and you’re likely to see displays brimming with thick volumes of coloring books. Our favorite is the Existential coloring book, with Jean Paul Sartre poised and ready for bold dashes of color. There are lots of color-ready ready styles. mandalas are popular as are floral patterns. But the intricate patterns and delightful details offered in the pages of these books aren’t for kids — they’re geared toward adults. The trend is so strong that four of Amazon’s current bestselling books are adult coloring books. Even Fortune reports the rise in popularity of adult coloring books contributed to 2015’s increase in paperback sales (up 12 million units from 2014).

So, what’s the meaning behind the craze? First of all, it’s a satisfying creative experience. Filling in these detailed patterns and pictures with colors and sketches of your choice can make even the most artistically challenged feel like they’re doing something creative. But the benefits and appeal go far beyond just having some fridge artwork that stays within the lines.

According to the American Journal of Play, adult coloring books (and really any sort of play) can help you relax and reset your mindset, as well as reduce stress and foster creative and innovative thinking. They can also offer potential benefits, such as improved mental health or logic, problem-solving and motor skills.

In this fast-paced creative industry, the value of letting yourself relax and renew your mindset is key to keeping your creative juices flowing. So, what are you waiting for? From mandalas to octopus gardens to paisley pages, there’s a coloring book out there for you. Just sharpen some colored pencils, find your perfect pattern, and let your mind relax.


A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping

GRYD 1What’s your New Year resolution? Statistically, most of the 45% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions center their goals around health and fitness, with “being happier” or “enjoying life to the fullest” sitting in the top 10. But by the end of this month, one in three people will already have given up on their freshly declared goals, and overall, only 8% of us will realize them at all.

It makes sense; it’s already difficult to make time for exercise and healthy eating — and setting a goal to “be happier” seems so intangible, it’s downright daunting. But what if, aside from taking some long walks and trading candy for trailmix, there was something else we could do that would make us feel better, and even healthier, all while helping others? Turns out, being charitable, with your time, money or talents, can make us report higher levels of happiness, lower our blood pressure and even help us live longer! The key, studies have found, is to be involved in a cause that’s important to you personally. The stronger the connection, the more likely you are to follow through on your intention and reap the benefits from it.

We’re strong proponents of this as individuals, and as a company. At Oishii, we believe public art, design and experiential filmmaking have the power to incite meaningful conversation, and even challenge how we create and collaborate.

GRYD 10 GRYD 15Last year, we were involved in two projects that were near to our hearts, and we directly saw how these types of opportunities to get outside our traditional commercial space and do work for a greater good influenced us creatively and mindfully. First, our project for Los Angeles’ GRYD Foundation (Gang Reduction & Youth Development) gave us an opportunity to interact with a program that’s influencing the actual future of our city through its youth. Then, in the spring, we looked on our past, as we were honored to produce the main titles and in-film graphics for the documentary short “Auschwitz,” directed by James Moll and produced by Steven Spielberg, which chronicled the history of the infamous Nazi death camp.

Both projects gave us a sense of connection to the wonderful people we worked with at the GRYD Foundation and with the team behind such a powerful project as “Auschwitz,” but also to our creative community as a whole. And our resolution for 2016 is to do this again. Since two of the biggest influences on us keeping resolutions are incorporating them into our everyday processes and inviting others to join in with their goals, we encourage you all to give in whatever way you can, be it your time, talent or resources, to a cause you believe in. You might say it’s our newest creative philosophy.


Best of The Year – Think Like A Tourist: Yurt Style

New Year’s Eve is all about reflection and renewal, so we thought what better theme for our last post of the year than to feature one of our most popular (and favorite) posts from this year — Think Like A Tourist: Yurt Style. So whether you’re yurt is a literal one or symbolic this holiday, we hope it leads you to the creative rejuvenation you’re seeking and inspires you to kick off the New Year with a fresh, open heart and mind.

Think Like A Tourist: Find A Yurt

Creativity often flows through us and into our projects, campaigns and ideas. Part mystery and part an ability to focus intensely, creativity in popular consciousness remains a murky mystery to most. We may not know what creativity is exactly, but we do know we want it.

Neuroscience continues to pull apart what was once the mythical and peculiar brain activity of ideation, imagination, and creation. Early results suggest a small but powerful shift in our thinking. We should frame creativity through the lens of  “skill” rather than a character-based temperament, nature or disposition. Creativity isn’t something people epitomize or resemble, but a tangible skillset with corresponding characteristics.

And given our traditional definitions, thinkers and educators have focused less on how to sharpen creative thinking skills and more on the best ways to “funnel” our chaotic emotions, thoughts and unconscious snippets.

What cannot be studied or scanned in the neuroscience lab is curiosity. That quality we humans should always have; the desire, interest and hubris to tromp into our world and explore every crevice, and piece of technology or experience around us. #thinklikeayurt

Oishii designer Amanda Trovelarecently stepped out busy L.A. life and dropped into a yurt in Malibu. Yurts are tent-like structures that come from the ancient Turkic peoples. And while going nomadic isn’t necessarily what we should — or could — be doing full-time, yurt-living is an increasingly popular mode of escape as it is a symbol of individual freedom and clear-headed thinking in an age of enforced distraction.

We think yurt life is an excellent tool to Think Like A Tourist.

Are you ready to reinvigorate and #thinklikeayurt?


Your Holiday To Do List: Relax, Recharge and Renew

The end of the year is near, and while our schedules are slowly filling up with holiday parties and travel plans, we’re also enjoying a period of winding down. As we wrap up 2015 and prepare to face 2016 anew with all of the challenges and opportunities it may hold, this is a perfect time for a creative breather — to reflect, reenergize and reorient for what’s next. Here’s five tips for using this opportunity to recharge and reset yourself creatively.

  1. Daydream – The stress of constant deadlines, managing projects and pushing through the mundane to achieve the great catches up to a creative. Sometimes, we all just need to space out a little and let our minds wander. Letting your mind relax, freeing it up to make its own free associations can produce those “eureka” moments.

  2. Do Nothing – Taking daydreaming one step further is the power of, well, just doing nothing. And what better time than the holiday break, when you may find yourself with several unscheduled hours or — if you’re really lucky — days, to indulge in just being. Being present, being mindful, being there. Doing nothing, can actually help you do anything.

  3. Read a Book – Need a quick recharge? Picking up a book that piques your curiosity, whether it’s a true crime thriller or the history of logos, has many benefits for your brain and your creativity. From improving your concentration and vocabulary, to stimulating your brain, it’s the perfect way to relax, while still keeping your mind active.

  4. Embrace Your Family – As we’ve discussed this year, Modern Families are a big, sticky, tricky mess that can be rewarding and invigorating like nothing else. Families know us (and can test our nerves) better than anyone else and spending time with them can help us reconnect with our true selves and our true creative centers. And feeling grateful for them is pretty good for you too.

  5. Get LostGet outside, get lost and reset your thinking. Our ethos is “Think Like a Tourist” for good reason. Thinking like a tourist forces your brain to take in and process new information as it comes rather than skipping over the familiar bits, because, if you can truly put yourself in that mindset, none of it is overly familiar. Outsmarting your thinking habits, the short-cuts you take is key to change your patterns and inspiring yourself.





Decoding Modern Families

Anyone who celebrated Thanksgiving with their loved ones or who’s planning an upcoming holiday dinner knows it’s hard to please every family member. Perhaps no one understands this better than marketers. With continually diversified options for what screens families watch, the choices compound the task of reaching each family member. So, we were thrilled when PromaxBDA gave us the opportunity to share our take on the constantly changing definition of the modern family and how best to emotionally connect with them.
Head over to Brief to read the whole piece.

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