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Five tips to create unforgettable creative work

The creative directors of Superunion draw on their experience and share advice for creating award-winning work


Superunion has created award-winning work for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Here the award-winning creative directors Katherina Tudball and Stuart Radford (who’s also serving on the design jury for this year’s Cannes Lions), share some of their best projects and five observations that helped them create more unexpected and memorable outcomes.

  1. Make bravery a must, not an option.

As creatives, we’re naturally motivated to create work that’s different and unfamiliar and we’re comfortable with that journey, Radford says. Clients, however, aren’t always as open. Even the most ambitious can be fearful of work that challenges the perception and norms of their sectors.

For example, a creative brief may state the client wants a new idea – something that will differentiate it from competitors. Yet in the same sentence, the client may also request a safer option. Many of us have experienced that deflating moment when a client opts for the safe over the brave and more original option. Fortunately, there’s a way to avoid this.

Give the client a reason to seek work that’s completely different and make the super brave work a must and not an option. If you can do this, Radford suggests it will eradicate the client’s need to even see a safer route.

The time to do this is at the start of the process and it can come from a strategic insight. Visual audits, Radford suggests, can give a powerful insight into the sector and sector’s convention. A simple insight you uncover in this process can give stakeholders the motivation and justification to seek a totally new way to reflect an experience.

  1. Question everything (even the basics)

When it comes to design there are some tried and tested rules that we rarely question, says Tudball. Basic no-brainers that help us do our jobs well. If these norms are ignored, it can be a sign of incompetence or inexperience and nobody wants that.

But there are times when it makes sense to challenge the rules and fundamentals, Tudball suggests. Of course, to do this successfully it’s important to understand the classic conventions first. As a quote attributed to Picasso goes, “learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”

By staying true to one idea, Tudball says you can reconsider the established rules through your own lens and identify which ones can be challenged to really support your concept.

  1. Park the practicalities

Ambitious ideas need space and time to grow, say Radford and Tudball. They’re never born fully born and one of the biggest threats to big ideas. We’ve all been in situations where a great idea is killed off in its infancy because of practical concerns.

The initial stage you don’t have the time to develop the idea and so before you know it it’s game over for your idea. It’s imperative that you foster the right conditions. 

When working on a project with clients and stakeholders, collectively commit to the creative ambitions. During the concept stage there would be no expectations on how the idea might work from a technical or cost point of view. If you want your stakeholders to park their concerns, they need to know when those issues will be addressed.

At the outset, Tudball suggests sharing a clear structured process that details the various stages, including when they would deal with the technical parameters. This will give you the opportunity to explore and cover a lot of ground to seek out the most original and compelling idea.

  1. Don’t be afraid of the obvious

Radford says the pressure we put on ourselves can lead us to overlook an obvious and brilliant starting point. It’s all too easy to think there’s a better or more original idea just around the corner. 

In fact, sometimes too much time isn’t always a good thing. Have the confidence to go with your gut instinct and embrace the audience. Stop looking to the side and pay attention to what’s in front of you.

He suggests supporting your instinct with some rational questions to assess whether the ideas work:

  1. Will it communicate the right message?
  2. Will it do so in a compelling way?
  3. Will it differentiate?
  4. Will it be unique?

It’s about what you do with an idea that matters. No idea is born perfect. It’s a journey of decisions. All of the design decisions must stay true to the core idea so you need a description. Not a long narrative, mind you, but a shorter more pinpointed distillation of the idea. This will give you and everyone else on the team a guide by which all decisions can be made.

These simple things can help you embrace an obvious starting point and turn it into a powerful, single-minded and confident idea.

  1. Craft it from great to good

It’s really difficult to be original. In fact, true originality is pretty rare. But extreme commitment to craft can elevate an idea, says Tudball. Over time, certain visual constructs get overused and become predictable cliches. It’s not the idea is wrong, but they can feel ordinary and unsurprising. 

You can take a technique that isn’t original and make it unforgettable through craft. If the appropriate solution isn’t completely new, it’s possible through craft to create the most unforgettable version of an established approach.

As the official Canadian representative of Cannes Lions, the world’s most prestigious and coveted advertising and marketing awards, The Globe and Mail will provide insights, ideas, and takeaways from panels and keynotes over the next five days.

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