Lessons From The Creative Underdogs

At the 2015 Design Overview in Tirana, now in its fourth year, the emphasis was on underdogs, be it the up-and-coming creative talent of Albania, the challenges involved with working in Greece, or underrepresented groups in agencies. With that in mind, here are three declarations from this year’s guest speakers.

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Be Yourself

Andrew Barratt, founder of Ogilvy Pride, begins his session by listing the six things he believes are essential to making it in the creative industries; intuition, persistence, imagination, discipline, collaboration, and above all, authenticity.

“Being yourself, whether that is in the workplace, with your friends, or as a brand talking to consumers, is fundamentally important,” he says. “Brands are now moving into a space whereby their reputation and communications are simply an outcome of who they really are, which means they need really strong values, they need to show support for human rights and environmental issues, as consumers are seeing that as increasingly important.”

Question Everything

In a sector where you have to innovate to survive, there can be a tendency to follow new trends without really considering whether they are right for you or your client. “Technology can force itself upon you,” says designer Patrik De Jong. “There’s no culture any more, everyone does exactly the same thing.” But the fact that everybody else is doing something is no reason to do it yourself.

Laura Jordan Bambach is Creative Partner at Mrs President, where the agency ethos is “question bravely, answer boldly.” She tells the conference how her team doesn’t a have a single client on its books just for the money; each and every campaign they work on is for a product or cause they believe in. “None of us got into this industry to make crap,” she says. “Be really ruthless, don’t take on the projects that are dull if you can, try to be really tough with yourself about whether you’re doing a good enough job, and whether the stuff you’re working on you really love.”

Bambach likes to ask for forgiveness, not permission, and she advises others not to shy away from conflict or controversy. “Collaboration isn’t always being nice,” says Bambach. “Collaboration is fighting until you get to the right answer.”

Different Is Good

If there is one key takeaway from #DOITCONF, it’s that there is no single “right” way to launch a career in the creative industries. Each speaker came to their current role in a vastly different different way. Yiannis Charalambopoulos says it was a “lack of risk awareness” which led him to co-found the Beetroot Design Group after completing his studies in 2000, instead of applying for internships. Starting a design agency with no experience, and hiring people for their passion rather than their resumes, meant that the Beetroot team “grew up together.”

It was a similarly raw and unformed passion which propelled fellow DOITCONF guest Vasilis Pallas into the field of design when he was just a teenager. He was gigging as a DJ at the time, he tells audiences. He needed a way to promote his sets, and subsequently discovered his love for design entirely by accident.

One of Beetroot’s award-winning campaigns encapsulates this willingness to step outside the norm. Inspired by the beasts of Greek mythology, Charalambopoulos tapped into a troubled country’s rich cultural heritage to make what he believes to be an important social statement. “Being a monster isn’t necessarily wrong, it could just mean you’re different,” he says. “Different is not always bad.”

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