2020 sucked in so many ways. And yet in spite of all that happened — or maybe in some ways because of all that happened — we saw some great creative work. Here’s my round up of some of the best advertising to come out of one of the most challenging of years.

Inspired by Iceland I think we’ve all felt like screaming sometime over the last twelve months. This cathartic ad from the Icelandic tourist board encourages you to let it all out. And have your scream released into the wild artic wastelands …

Toyota NZ Remember that slew of ads from the start of lockdown scored with melancholic piano motifs encouraging us, now more than ever, to be together apart — or was it apart together? Well, this spot from Toyota New Zealand expresses our desire for human contact in a way more original format. Great writing, lovely performances. …


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La serie della natura N.1: la mela (the nature series N.1: the apple)

When I design an object and people say, ‘Oh, well done!’, I unfailingly ask myself, ‘Where did I go wrong?’ If everybody likes it, it means I have confirmed the existing reality and this is precisely what I don’t want.

Enzo Mari was not afraid to be considered a contrarian. Along with his pencils he carried his principles with him wherever he went. …


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Leonard Cohen, Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, August 1969

On January 29th 1968 the New York Times carried a review of an album by an up and coming musician. Unfortunately for the aspiring artist it was not a positive one. ‘Alienated Young Man Creates Some Sad Music’ ran the headline, and the article beneath went on to damn its subject with the faintest of faint praise.

Now, I have no idea how you feel about Leonard Cohen. Maybe, like the reviewer, you regard him as a tuneless miserabilist whose words carried him further than his talent should have allowed. Or, like me, you’re one of many millions of listeners who love to lose themselves in the cigarettes and angst of his unmistakable baritone. …


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The Devil devouring the limbs of sinners, an image from The Compendium of Demonology and Magic (c.1775)

This month, as the daylight hours diminish, I’ve found myself making headway on the piles of books which accumulate, quietly over time, like colourful stalagmites, around our house. And there is one in particular which has delighted and appalled me in equal measure.

It is a book about books. If that sounds a little dry, you should know that these are no ordinary books. The Madman’s Library by Edward Brooke-Hitching is a compendium of the oddest, most extreme and most alarming literary creations ever.

There are invisible books, books that kill, books made of flesh, blood and bone, books you can wear and books you can eat. There are leech books, fart scrolls, books which have stopped bullets, books which have poisoned their readers and books made of cheese. There is a Qur’an written in fifty seven pints of Saddam Hussein’s blood and a lawsuit filed by the devil. …


Of all the projects I’ve been involved with since my career in design and branding kicked off some twenty years ago, there are few I feel as fondly towards as the Studiocanal cinema ident. I remember the day we received the brief; the rush of excitement cut through with trepidation at being asked to create a sequence which would run in front of movies for years to come. And I remember walking down the red carpet to the premier of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at the BFI in London to watch the ident go out for the first time. …


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The author mid webinar

Webinar.

Perhaps one of the ugliest words to have been tumbled out of the lexicon of late stage capitalism. Pre-pandemic few people had anything but the haziest idea of what these three syllables refer to. Now there can’t be many of us who haven’t found ourselves sneakily opening another browser window while someone drones on about Post Covid Marketing to Gen Z’s In The Age of Tik Tok or similar.

And yet … when done well a webinar is the best way we have — for now — of imparting knowledge, inspiration and information to other human beings without needing to gather in a physical space. …


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The Great Wave off Kanagawa by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai

If I were to ask you what the determining factor will be in your success or failure as a creator there’s a good chance you’d say the quality of your ideas.

Without a good idea, you have nothing.

Yet there’s something else even more important still; an awareness without which you are destined to fail, even if inspiration is coursing through you.

And it’s all to do with the gap.

By ‘the gap’ I mean the space between idea and execution; between concept and realization. And it is a truth understood by makers in all media that what you end up making with your hands rarely, if ever, captures the glorious luster of the idea as it was in your head. …


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Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

There’s not enough time.

We don’t have enough budget.

There’s no way I’d be able to do that.

If you’re a creative person you know that limitations are everywhere.

Sometimes the boundaries are illusory ones we’ve made for ourselves, born out of self-doubt or the habit of procrastination. Other times we come hard up against brutal fact: you really don’t have the space, the time, the money, the materials or the experience to make the work you want to make in the way you want to make it.

How you choose to respond to these limitations may well become the measure of your success as an artist or creator. …


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Pandemic.

Lockdown.

Quarantine.

All concepts which most of us could have reasonably hoped we would never experience. And yet here we are entering another week of Zoom calls, home schooling, and … is it too early to have a glass of wine yet?

Yet it’s not the first time humanity has been here. In the early part of the 20th century so called Spanish flu was just one of a number of epidemics which swept across the world, devastating populations and requiring people to keep their distance.

Then, as now, brands often struggled to make sense of their place in a world turned upside down. Some navigated the unfamiliar territory with more success than others. …


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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

When I was a kid I used to love writing stories. Or rather I used to love the idea of writing stories. The problem was that my stories would often not be much longer than a few words; I could rarely get beyond the opening sentence. As soon as I had the beginning down I would ask myself whether this really was the best way to begin.

And so I’d go back.

And rewrite the opening sentence.

And tweak a few words.

And then wonder if the original opening had, after all, been better.

Before I knew it the first flush of inspiration had ebbed into a hollow feeling of frustration and all I had to show for my labours were a few sheets of screwed up paper on my bedroom floor. …

About

Richard Holman

I write, think & speak about the creative process. For more inspiration go to www.richardholman.com or listen to my podcast The Wind Thieved Hat on iTunes.

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