Look Outside Your Field for Inspiration

Several days ago I was doing some online market research when I recognized a wondrous and disturbing pattern. A pattern of modern advances through automation, the mathematical narrowing of my vision for the sake of a potential sale. I acknowledged the presence of some kind of fancy-pants algorithmic doodad working inside the machine that narrows down my choices into related searches and previous purchases. I suddenly felt restrained. I felt tethered. I felt as if the opportunity for true digital exploration and market research, for the adventure inside the great unknown, was suddenly truncated. While one part of my brain accepted and welcomed the predigested feed of comfortable info, there was another part of me that felt a wee bit worried and anxious. In this new age of “recommendations” and automated Facebook ads we may be in danger of having our identities predefined by our previous searches and purchases. Leaving us no room to open our little minds to new ideas and influences outside of our own limited perspective. Earlier today, I found myself stepping outside my usual research comfort zone of design sites and kitty cat blooper videos, and stumbled upon a blog post regarding tips from filmmaker David Fincher. The subject of the blog was “5 Filmmaking Tips” from the director. And while I’m not a filmmaker, myself, I figured I’d dig in and see what the director could teach me about my field of advertising art. I soon found myself basking in the warm glow of some tasty wisdom nuggets.

5 Filmmaking Tips From David Fincher

Some of the points which translate nicely into our field of expertise:

Give it your best, but stay realistic.

A quote from David Fincher –

“Do the best you can, try to live it down,’ that’s my motto. Just literally give it everything you got, and then know that it’s never going to turn out the way you want it to, and let it go, and hope that it doesn’t return. Because you want it to be better than it can ever turn out. Absolutely, 1000 percent, I believe this: whenever a director friend of mine says, ‘Man, the dailies look amazing!’ … I actually believe that anybody, who thinks that their dailies look amazing doesn’t understand the power of cinema; doesn’t understand what cinema is capable of.”

Film is a collaborative process. It’s dependent on everything falling into place the way it’s supposed to – no one person, even the director, can exercise complete control over this. All they can ever do is put in their best work and keep trucking.

There is a distinct gap between the various flights of fancy that pop into the mind of a creative designer and of what is actually applicable or functional  in the world of print and web. The challenge of day to day designing for an agency can be found in the collaborative efforts between directors, designers, vendors, account managers and the clients. There is only so much we can control, and for the rest of it, we need to keep on trucking, ever open to better processes and more concise communication to move the process forward.

Market Research: Check for different perspectives.

Fincher looks at the set up of each scene with each eye individually – the left, for composition and the right for focus and technical specs.
Why? The left eye is connected to the creative side of the brain and the right is connected to the mathematical side.

While the jury is once again out on the whole concept of left versus right brained-ness, the point is still valid. Multiple points of perspective can give a designer a fresh set of eyes or a new point of view. I often turn my designs sideways to see if the composition holds water from different angles of attack.

Movies vs. Films

A movie is made for an audience and a film is made for both the audience and the filmmakers.

“I think that Fight Club is more than the sum of its parts, whereas Panic Room is the sum of its parts. I didn’t look at Panic Room and think: ‘Wow, this is gonna set the world on fire.’ These are footnote movies, guilty pleasure movies. Thrillers. Woman-trapped-in-a-house movies. They’re not particularly important.”

That said, make sure your movie actually contains a semblance of a plot. A series of scenes where characters sit around and reflect on the meaning of life might as well be a documentary.

Not every website you create needs to be a portfolio piece. Not every client needs or wants a portfolio piece. Each varying company has it’s own specific needs and preferences. A photographer’s website is going to look very different than a dollar store, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some aspect of artistry and craftsmanship in the dollar store site. Each design has it’s own demands, and an artsy-fartsy coating isn’t always the answer.

Take it one day at a time.

At the beginning of the filmmaking process, your project looks like a heck of a giant to tackle. In the middle it’s hard to step back and imagine what the finished product will look like.
“How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time. How do you shoot a 150-day movie? You shoot it one day at a time,” said Fincher.

Breaking a project down to more digestible chunks is something any designer can identify with. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by multi-week or multi-month projects. Sometimes the big picture isn’t necessarily the BEST picture. Remember to take a step in, break the project down, and don’t forget that the whole whale needs to stay somewhere in the back of your mind.

In the End

I’ve somewhat liberated my online market research by spending some time outside of my specific market. If you are feeling bogged down in the narrowing filter of the neo-web, try looking outside your field and open your mind to how people in semi-like fields are achieving success. You may find yourself surfing the latest trends in celebrity needlepoint or dolphin obedience training and learning something valuable. You can gain more knowledge by making an effort to explore as well as conduct market research.