CommArts Q&A

“Beyond the Bells and Whistles” – a Q&A between Communication Arts and David Schwarz, Creative Partner, HUSH

CA: How do you ensure that a client’s branding is consistent across diverse platforms, from video, graphics and technology to environmental signage?

DS: First, we had to build within our agency the structure and processes for cross-pollinating creative minds to flourish. We’ve had to define everything from how teams are assembled, to seating arrangements that optimize collaboration and free-flowing discussion and institute both a non-hierarchical process of concept generation and a reasonably hierarchical process of creative and strategic direction. We believe great ideas can come from anywhere—from any discipline and from any person within the company.

For example, our teamwork on Nike’s Camp Victory experience at the U.S. Olympic Trials represented three major takes on “fast,” from data to competition to the visceral feeling itself. Without a culture of diverse thought and alternative design tactics, we never would have revealed that the use of data and sound can be compelling ways to express an abstract concept like “fast.”

CA: At Xlab in New York this November, you’ll present on “Blurred Lines: Brand and Content.” What are the takeaways you aim to give the audience?

DS: The projects I’m presenting showcase a particular type of creative model—one defined by multidisciplinary, Renaissance creatives who think as fluidly in code and content as they do in structure and light. No one discipline outweighs the other. No one voice is louder than the other. Rather, the creative challenge sits at the core of a design process that focuses inward from all angles.

Where some would start with pen to paper in a traditional graphic design approach, or from structural forms in an architectural approach, the HUSH team might explore a brand through sound or material before even looking at visuals, or might leverage architectural space and structure for a project more aligned with traditional narrative storytelling.

Three projects, from large commissions to self-funded works, will demonstrate this creative approach. I’ll show how our three-part, ever-present point of view (art direction, digital and the physical) push and pull each other in a creative tension that generates work that’s tough to pin down.

CA: What skills do young designers need to succeed today?

DS: The ability to move fluidly from big to small, and small to big. Small detail makers and craftsmen will have a place in the future, but they should also be large conceptual thinkers who aren’t afraid to dream big. This asks a lot of schools—how to teach students the fundamentals without getting bogged down in the weeds, and how to teach conceptual thinking without losing the ability to create a solid portfolio.

Those balance of those skills will help people succeed in the kind of practice we run at HUSH. Our team is continually asked to think in this elastic way. Some of us refer to it as “headphones on” and “headphones off.” It’s a shorthand for the time spent focused on your own work and the details of making, and then coming up for air to share, stir up excitement, get feedback and iterate on a higher level, with a larger team.

It’s incredibly hard to do. The mind doesn’t switch instantly from activity to activity. It needs a bunch of gradients or crossfades from one type of mental workout to another. The faster creatives can learn to control that change, the more successful they seem to be in today’s creative industries.

CA: How is the rise of technology helping or hurting the brands you work for?

DS: The rise of technology is an unequivocally powerful force, and most often a positive one. Our clients’ appetites for harnessing new platforms and systems is sincere. In most cases, it also represents a huge opportunity for us to explore as designers.

However, technology can often become a shiny object that generates a lot of misguided demand. Clients seeking pure technology plays, except in a few very specific instances, risk a lot of investment for potentially off-strategy results. Everyone reading this has probably gotten a call when their client says: “Can you guys make holograms?” or “We want to do an Oculus Rift project.” These aren’t problematic requests in theory, but the issue arises when clients seek new technology for technology’s sake. We try to reposition the conversation: “First, what are you trying to achieve? What’s your dream scenario?” from a brand standpoint, and then integrate technologies that can best aid in that pursuit, if needed.

That, in a nutshell, is the practice of design. If you skip ahead to the medium or the technology without a process to get you there, you face big risk. We love technology, but we are pure designers at heart. Yes, holograms and the Rift and Leap Motion and WebGL are all viable and powerful. But they are a means to an end, not the end itself. We will forever wrestle between the fundamentals of design and the potential of new technology.

Original article here: