By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)
Austin Kleon is a self-described “writer, cartoonist, designer, and visual thinker obsessed with the art of communicating with pictures and words, together.” Based in Austin, TX, Kleon takes pages of existing text and uses a black marker to block out most of the words, leaving behind flowing verses of poetry. Frustrated with the dichotomy of art and language in the current educational system, Kleon’s revolutionary subtractive approach to creative writing spawns from a desire to express himself both visually and didactically.
About a month ago, I was contacted by a talented student filmmaker named Chantal Eyong. Chantal is producing a mini-documentary series entitled The Method: The Many Faces of Creativity, which identifies different types of creatives and examines the techniques they use to produce their art. After agreeing to her proposal to do an episode on creativity in business, I immediately began gathering my thoughts on things like multi-channel marketing strategies, my favorite corporate projects, and measuring ROI on experiential campaigns. As we discussed my creative background as a pianist, writer, and artist, Chantal asked if she could record b-roll of me performing. What was once enthusiasm suddenly turned into panic (more like stage fright), and I found myself asking: “What does any of that have to do with business?”
The answer, at least according to AKQA Creative Director Mehera O’Brien, is everything.
On May 11th, as part of New York Creative Week, I attended an event hosted by SheSays New York called “Jobs of the Future.” Mehera was one of the guest speakers, and had this to say about her early career: “I was always frustrated by the fact that I was good at so many things, but I didn’t seem to be an expert in any one thing.” The profundity of that simple sentence hit me in the face like a brick and has stayed with me since.
Mehera now proudly refers to her dilemma as “hybridization.” Hybridization is not only crucial to providing world-class integrated media solutions for clients, but it has the power to survive tough economic conditions. Think about it: traditional corporate marketing departments outsource jobs like PR, marketing, analysis, and web design to a number of different agencies and vendors. When budgets get tight, these outsourced services are the first to go. Enter the hybrid professional: a well-connected publicist, social media strategist, and interactive marketer with copywriting and design experience and a penchant for numbers.
Mehera even suggested (possibly jokingly, although she seemed quite serious) completely doing away with professional job titles. “As long as we’re all thinking about the other roles,” she explained, “we’re doing the job right.” One way she justified what some might consider a radical business approach is by positioning title versus value, or having a job that is based on the title versus having a job that is based on the different types of value that you bring to the company. From an employer’s perspective, recruiting for talent may prove to be more beneficial than simply recruiting to fill a role.
True hybrid professionals have interests beyond the office walls. Pastimes such as sports, music, art, and literature demonstrate passion, discipline and the excess capacity to take on any challenge. It’s the transcendent nature of hybrid professionals that make them especially effective in the interactive space. The desire to unify dichotomies, as in Austin Kleon’s case, often results in successful multi-channel marketing strategies. Being able to reach people at a visual, auditory, and overall multi-sensory level leads to brand experiences that stay with the consumer long after the campaign is over.
So as I prepare my performance piece for Chantal’s documentary, I am reminded of the qualifications that got me to where I am. Like Austin Kleon, I wasn’t satisfied with the dissolution of certain creative activities. Like Mehera O’Brien, I realized that success in creativity is the culmination of a diverse portfolio of skills. And I am fortunate to exercise my creative freedom every day as part of the Z Team.