“You’re too close.”
That’s the advice my first creative director gave me in critiquing a project. It is also, he explained, the value an agency provides to their clients: distance and objectivity in communication. Never the less, every passionate creator has arrived at some point in their work where they are too close to a project to remain objective. When that happens it can be difficult to see the path forward that will make the result the best it can be. We need to personally find a different creative perspective, to flip the image, and see it and understand it differently. Much like a reflection, the image is the same, yet looking at differently often provides new insights. Sometimes we can accomplish that by stepping away and coming back to the project at a later time. Ultimately outside sources can apply their fresh eyes to the project in ways that the creator can’t—and unless the work is a personal project, outside forces will be the judge on whether you’ve succeeded or not.
One of the aforementioned creative director’s favorite techniques was to take a printout of the proposed layout and physically place it in the media where it would appear, typically a magazine or newspaper. By seeing and experiencing it in its final environment, you get a more accurate interpretation of what is working and what changes need to be made.
Personally, in the writing phase, I like to put myself in the audiences’ shoes. I ask myself a series of questions that often go like this:
- What do they want?
- What would they think of this?
- Am I answering their questions?
- Is it funny? (Shut up, you’re not funny.)
- Is it cute? (Argh, I hope not. I hate, hate, cute.)
- Has this been done before?
- And so it goes …
In order to accurately answer these questions, I rely on personas that I have created for the audience. These provide information that answers the serious questions—what do they want—as well as providing insight into what their interests are and might hold their attention. If possible, I like to collaborate, discuss and share the ideas with someone who might actually be in the audience. (I hate to call them targets. I also hate “email blasts,” but that’s another story.)
Here are some approaches that the team at Wilson uses to overcome their biases when they feel that they are too close to the project.
Jason Kimerling, Video Editor and Producer
For video projects, I always invite others into the edit suite to view my current cut and ask for their feedback. Sometimes moving the order of interviews or swapping the location of a block of B-roll footage makes sense and helps to tell the story better, but you might not realize it if you’re too close to the project. You get comfortable with the flow and order because you’ve seen it multiple times. Because you know the story, it makes sense to you, but the audience is likely to only watch it once or twice. An outside perspective can tell you if it works for them the first time they see it, which is what really counts.
Vicki O’Neill, New Business Director and Account Lead
I have three ways I like to change my perspective. First, I step away from the project. Sometimes a little distance allows you to see it differently when you come back to the project later. Next, I ask others what they think. We are blessed with a variety of creative talents internally at Wilson that are willing to share their expertise. I also like to research what others have done in similar instances. This can be an excellent catalyst to my projects, as well as preventing us from inadvertently and unintentionally copying ideas from somewhere else.
Jessica Prater, Art Director
I take a step back and remind myself that the project is for the client and not myself. Like most in commercial design and marketing, it’s pretty rare that I actually would be in the demographic of the intended audience. Taking a second to imagine it from their perspective helps to realign my vision to the clients. After that, I ask for someone else’s input on the project. A second set of eyes can be invaluable.
These are just a few of the personal ways the Wilson team ensures that their creative perspective is just right for the intended audience.
To see more of the final results, check out the work section of our website.See Our Work