Category: creativity


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.


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.





Gratitude and Engagement: A Link to Be Thankful For

Next Thursday, as we all (hopefully) take a day or two off to sit down with family and friends for a wonderful meal, we will be provided a touchstone to give thanks for all that we have. This year, we at Oishii have a lot to be grateful for: our wonderful clients, amazingly talented team and the opportunity to do what we love every day.

But our goal this Thanksgiving is not just to spend one day feeling gratitude, but to practice it on a regular basis. As we’ve stated before, gratitude can improve overall physical and mental health, including creative problem-solving and memory, as well as strengthen our relationships with friends, family and coworkers. In fact, studies have shown that positive emotions, like joy and gratitude “encourage us to engage with our environment, try new things, play, and generally serve to ‘broaden and build’ our lives.” Sounds a lot like Thinking Like A Tourist, actually.

In this fast-paced and often competitive industry, it can feel more natural to express frustrations about project deadlines and budgets than to express gratitude for everyone who’s coming together to make the project happen, but showing appreciation for employees and coworkers is the single highest driver of engagement in the workplace. Need a more selfish reason to give thanks? Expressing gratitude for the people we’ve surrounded ourselves with allows us to reflect on our genuine appreciation for our situations and feel the stress-busting power of joy. And, the more often we express gratitude to our co-workers, clients, employees and employers, the more genuine and natural it becomes.

So, why wait until the turkey (or tofurkey as the case may be) is roasting in the oven? Why not take just five minutes today to reflect on someone whose dedication, hard work, kindness or friendly smile has made work just a little more positive. Let yourself feel genuine gratitude for that person. And then tell them. You’ll both be thankful you did.


‘Tis The Season to Form a Connection

Ah, the holidays. The shopping lists have been made, the plane tickets have been booked. Even Christmas carols are starting to get some airplay. But, for those of us working in branding and marketing, perhaps what’s most ubiquitous about the holiday season is the plethora of emotional branding that’s rolled out this time of year. But don’t get us wrong, although it can be a bit schmaltzy when it feels forced, if you’ve given your brand a clear, emotionally resonant narrative, it can be very compelling.

And the best way to tap into a clear narrative that your audience is most likely to relate to is to incorporate what cultural shifts they may be experiencing at this time. As I wrote about in my recent piece for MediaPost, “Cultural Strategy: Why Brands Need To Know Their Changing Audiences:”

Today’s audience is craving a real connection, and authentic stories that represent the changing demographics of the American landscape are one of the most powerful way to establish that connection. Stories tap into the emotions we all share. Stories are universal ways of telling our personal view from the individual and tying it all up with what’s going on in the city, country and globe. Our job is to create stories of possibility and resonance.  

And, what better time than the holidays, when so many of us are joining our families and loved ones, than to tap into that bond. Afterall, Family Values and Excitement of Discovery are just two of the 16 “hot button marketing” topics that appeal to consumer’s emotions to draw a response. Studies have shown that forging this type of emotional connection is a more effective measure of advertising effectiveness than traditional means, such as ad recall.

So, this winter, no matter what holidays you or your brand are celebrating, make the most of the season by forging a real emotional connection with your audience. If you need any more inspiration, then check out some of the most popular holiday ads of all time.


Creativity Doesn’t Happen in 0s and 1s

Ah, the professional creative. Is there any other behind-the-camera profession that’s as romanticized, misunderstood and yet, still desired? The deadlines are short, the hours are long and the competition is fierce. But most of us wouldn’t change it for the world. There is, after all, a reason we’re so fascinated with creatives. We assume their minds are somehow quicker, more thoughtful and talented than most. But the truth is, it’s a job like any other.

And once you monetize creativity, the demand and expectation becomes higher. Something that once was done for the sake of job and artistic validation and reward now comes with a price tag and a set of deliverables. Instead of treating creativity as an art form, we begin treating it like a machine, expecting a certain and consistent output. But you can’t have a computer analyze your new logo and tell you it’s got to be 14% bigger and just a tad more cyan, and you can’t use an algorithm to build a new visual strategy. When that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of why you first got into this industry, whether you’re an individual, overseeing a team or running a company. Here are four tips to help you keep sight of why we love what we do.

Savor the Victories
As we’ve previously said, we’re incredibly proud of the recent refresh we did for children’s network Sprout and taking time to reflect on successful projects and what we learn from them is important for any creative. Not only will you feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in your work once you’re able to see the finished project, but also when you’re having creative doubts, being able to turn back to something you know went well can motivate you in your next task.

Remember, We’re Only Human
A machine can run on zero sleep, zero fuel and never needs to leave the office, but humans cannot. In order to stay creative, we need to step away. It may seem counterintuitive when you’re facing a big deadline, but if you need to spark an idea, stepping away might be the best solution.

Be Realistic
Yes, you have THE idea, the award-winning, ground-breaking, studio-launching idea that will change everything… except it would require three times the budget, twice the staff and at least an extra six months, when you’re already down to one. Don’t be discouraged. You still have a great idea, it just might not be the right idea for this project. Or, maybe it needs to face a few challenges to work. Challenges can turn into solutions and make you a stronger creative.

Stop Fearing Failure
When it’s your job to come up with original ideas on a regular basis, it’s easy to fear failure. After all, if you’re being paid to do what you love, it’s easy to slip into the mindset that we’re always just one project away from ruining it. Or, as artist and author Christoph Niemann addresses in his truly inspiring 99u talk, what if “I’m not good enough?” “I’m out of ideas” or “My work is irrelevant and soon I’ll be broke.” Spending time dwelling on the possibilities of failure isn’t going to get you anywhere. Spending time investing in your own creative growth will.

It may not be the stuff of Mad Men, but we are still lucky to be in this industry and to be creating. Ultimately, our clients believe in us enough that they hire us for an idea…Can a computer do that? Not yet anyway.


Does Your Company Dare to Go Teal?

Recently, The New Republic published a very in-depth (and lengthy) inside look at online shoe retailer Zappos’ radical decision to do away with all managers. There is a lot of interesting information about the company’s transition, what it means for their future, and how it’s affected the notoriously positive work atmosphere, but the part that stuck out to us was how Zappos is striving to be a “Teal Organization.”

As The New Republic explains, the phrase comes from the book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux and the colorfully named term corresponds with one of many stages in the evolution of human consciousness and its influence on our organizational paradigms. When it comes to organizations, at the base level of this thought process is Red (aggressive gang and mafia-like organizations); then progressive of that is the highly formal and organized Amber (government, military, some churches), followed by Orange (investment banks, multinational corporations), which focuses on innovation, progress and development; Green, which seeks to build upon the achievement mindset of Orange by adding meaning and purpose, and finally at the top of the hierarchy, Teal.

Teal organizations are sort of the Buddhists of the business world, meaning that ideally, according to the author, “Teal organizations [seek] to empower its members to be creative, independent, adaptable, and self-directed… [and] do away with hierarchies of people and of power and replace them with a hierarchy of purpose.”

Although there are drawbacks to this type of organization, especially for massive companies like Zappos, we couldn’t help but find some inspiration in it. Afterall, the three basic traits of a Teal Organization are self-management, wholeness, and a deeper sense of purpose — three traits that we wholeheartedly support and strive for at Oishii. As we’ve previously stated, we believe any paradigm for success starts with nurturing a team of creative entrepreneurs, and trusting and valuing their contributions and supporting their desire for meaningful work.

So, while we’re not quite ready to do away with managers (our EPs keep us sane after all), we do think there are some positives to be learned from Zappos going Teal.