Young Creatives: The Art of Work

Fidelis shop owners spawn, raise, feed, and educate MANY offspring.  It’s true. We do.  So many children. Last week, one of the seven kids approached the agency requesting a “personal brand.” He is 13 and isn’t pushing a product or service: he just wanted a graphic that represented himself.  He’s like Prince, I guess? He furnished us with his drawing and requested that his older brother (summer shop intern) design a logo file based on the drawing. It was a great discussion point with my son: 

What is ART?  &  What is a LOGO?

Now. Don’t worry. We won’t delve into an exhaustive exploration of what constitutes art. No. Not here. Entire graduate courses revolve around this question. That said, the best, most concise definition of art I’ve ever encountered originated from the mind of our friend, artists, and professor Joshua Bienko.  Josh explained that he feels compelled to create something out of his brain because he wants to see what it would look like/sound like/ feel like in the world.  So, he has an idea for a painting, and then his mind starts detailing all the possible little things that would make up this piece. Eventually, he MUST see what it would look like in physical form in time and space.

When I heard this, 12 years ago, over backyard pilsners — it felt like the best definition of art I’d ever encountered. It still is.  (HERE are other remarks on the subject.)

In my opinion, this is the divergence coordinate that exists between ART and creative WORK.  Of course, creative work is “artful” in that it requires the creative genesis of the artist’s mind.  It requires vision to anticipate the beautiful outcome before design places an idea, a melody, a scene into existence.  But creative work must accomplish. A design must perform. A video must communicate as well as delight.  This interplay is the exquisite tension always at work; it is why a design “speaks to” or delights one person in the room, and why it seems to disappoint another. The “art” in the creative design cocktail causes a room to swoon in ecstasy or distort faces in disgust. Without the artistry, we’ve only added to the visual clutter, the modern noise, the sickening row of strip-center detritus. As Tinker Hatfield (the famous Nike AirMax shoe designer) states in the Netflix series Abstractart is for me, design is for the client.  That is a perfect way to think about the distinction. He goes on to say that he carefully cultivates artistic expression for personal reasons outside his office space.  No doubt the time he takes nurturing that creative verve produces fruit in his professional design work.

The sweet spot for a designer, videographer, or rhythm guitar player is when all the right elements converge to actually SAY something, when the work of art moves the masses.  The beautiful angel wooing the audience can put on work gloves to chisel out a message on the hearts of men.  Power. Influence. Rather than delivering a well-researched white paper on the dangers of dehydration, Gatorade’s ad agency dances and twirl’s their audience through their heart-pumping cinematic ballad and visual pop-wow.  “Pop-wow” is a technical industry term. Not really, but you get it.

As to the “personal brand” request that began this post: it turns out, my son just wanted to see what his design would look like out in the world. He made art.  He told me he didn’t need it to accomplish anything. I respected that. We designed it anyway.  He wants stickers so his eyes can see it in more places — on his skateboard, on his bathroom mirror, and his notebook.

I told him he should be careful: other people might begin to like his art so much that they associate his stickers with the man himself: the 13 year-old artist. He may create his own market for his own stuff, and then other kids might say they have to have more of these STUNNING stickers for their little world.  He might unwittingly become Kanye.