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Mark Zukor

Ten Ways Creatives are Like Jedi Knights

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In honor of the upcoming Star Wars film, we bring you:

Ten Ways Creatives are Like Jedi Knights
1. They both dress funny
2. They take pride in fighting for what’s right
3. They see Yoda as a role model
4. They take themselves way too seriously
5. They have strange friends
6. They seek truth, justice, and free meals
7. They can create things out of thin air
8. What they do sometimes seems like magic
9. They are independent, quirky, and somewhat odd
10. They’re really into Star Wars

Maybe there’s actually something to this coloring book craze after all.

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You may know that adult coloring books are one of the hottest things around these days. As I write this, they make up four of the top ten best selling books on Amazon. Yes, coloring books! A lot of people, sociologists and psychologists included, have been weighing in on the reason. So I figured, why can’t an unqualified, armchair psychologist like me take a swing at it, too?

People say the act of coloring is relaxing. It allows for a kind of focused effort that takes them away from their nagging To-Do lists. It’s an inexpensive escape from life’s stresses. A time machine to childhood. A mental vacation. A simple form of meditation.

Sure, coloring is all that stuff. But I think the best part is that it’s so dang easy. Most people appreciate the need for a creative outlet. Problem is, learning an instrument takes skill. Knitting takes skill. Painting takes skill. Not to mention years of dedicated practice.

Coloring takes crayons.

And that’s about it. No months or years of frustration and angst. Just a black and white sheet of paper and a good old box of Crayolas.

Yet there’s still a creative component to it. You need to make color choices. You need to have a bit of hand-eye coordination. It’s physical and mental. You can do it anywhere, on any budget.

The key to happiness in any creative endeavor is the ability to focus on process rather than product. To enjoy it for the sake of doing it, without stressing out about how it looks, or sounds, or whether you’ll sell it or become famous from it.

With coloring books, the expectations are nil. Heck, if toddlers and monkeys can do it, why not a full grown adult? Coloring reminds us that it’s okay to enjoy the process. Like when we were kids. Like when we did things because they were F-U-N. Without judgment. Without purpose. Without any goal to work toward. Not because our jobs or our egos or our livelihoods depended on it.

Everyone should have something like that. A creative pursuit they practice for pure enjoyment and nothing else.

I admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve peeled back the lid on one of those 128-pack boxes of crayons. But maybe I should.

I’d probably be a lot less stressed out.

Want to inspire more creativity? Think inside the box.

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I don’t know how many times I’ve been given an assignment from a well-meaning client or account executive who didn’t want to put restrictions on me. “Do whatever you think makes sense,” they say. “I don’t want to stifle your creativity.”

I understand the thinking behind this. And I appreciate it. But the problem is, creativity needs limits. You can’t come up with ideas in a vacuum. Creativity is problem solving, and a problem has parameters. If you want to help the creative process, make sure those parameters are clearly defined and communicated.

No matter the type of artist—painter, sculptor, writer, designer—he or she needs a structure to work within. What an artist does within that defined structure is where the creativity comes in. But giving an artist full control is paralyzing.

Creative people like to break rules. But that assumes there are rules to break.

As much as we don’t like to think we want rules, we do. What’s the problem? What’s the budget? How much time do I have? Who do we need to reach? What’s the brand voice? Give me a box to work inside of and I’ll find a solution. But a problem without a box is overwhelming. The possibilities are just too vast.

Rules don’t just help us focus our thinking. They also provide context and a frame of reference. A box lets us know if we’re on the right track. It allows us to evaluate what we’ve come up with and change directions as needed. Given too much control, we don’t know if what we’re solving the problem or not.

Even though it may be counter-intuitive, having rules actually makes creative people more creative. With a clear set of limits, there’s a certain freedom we feel to take chances and push against the walls. But without walls, there’s no resistance. And it’s tension that drives creativity. Without tension, there’s no inspiration. No excitement. No energy.

So please, if you really want to assist the creative process, don’t give your creative team a blank canvas. Give them a nice long list of rules. The more the merrier. Cram your creatives into a tiny little box. Force them to push back and pound their heads against the walls.

Oh, they may grumble and whine and complain the way creative people do.

But ultimately, they—and your clients—will thank you for it.

I hate marketing. And that makes me a better marketer.

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I’ve been a graphic designer, art director, and copywriter for a good twenty years and each year my hatred for marketing seems to grow. Okay, to be completely truthful, I don’t hate ALL of it—just most of it. Bad marketing makes me angry. It’s obnoxious, annoying, offensive, boring, and downright insulting to my brain cells. I hate it so much that I listen to CDs in order to avoid radio spots. I race to the bathroom when a TV commercial comes on. And I actually watch the Super Bowl for the game, not the ads.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t become a plumber instead.

I guess it’s because deep down I believe in the potential of marketing. Marketing helps businesses grow. It builds awareness for lots of good causes, great products, and other things that people benefit from. Not only that, but when done artfully and thoughtfully, an ad or direct mail piece can be a thing of beauty, even rising to the level of—dare I say it—actual art.

Because for every turd out there, there’s also the opportunity to do something groundbreaking. Something meaningful. Useful. Entertaining. Surprising. And brilliant. Something that doesn’t merely add clutter to the world, but actually enriches it. Yes, it’s possible to create marketing that moves people, inspires them, even changes their lives. The potential is always there. And that’s part of the thrill and the challenge of what we do every day.

They say the average person is bombarded with approximately 2,000 marketing messages every day. That’s 2,000 opportunities for us marketers to do something better—to educate people, make them laugh, offer them something in a fresh way.

At least, that’s the goal. And the fact that all the bad stuff makes me so angry fuels that goal even more.

Because part of me still believes that if done well—by maintaining respect for your audience, holding onto high standards, and fighting for what you believe in—marketing can indeed help make the world a better place.

In the meantime, if any plumbers out there need a logo design, give me a call.

My first day – Mark – microblog

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In honor of d.trio’s 15th anniversary we’ve asked all of the current employees to write two microblogs. One about their very first day at d.trio, the other about where they were 15 years ago.

 

I’d worked with d.trio for many years from home, but started coming into the office officially last summer. It was a great first day—and totally worth putting on pants for!

Apple Pay: Time to Say Goodbye to Plastic Cards?

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By now, you’ve probably heard about Apple Pay, the new payment service from Apple coming to an iPhone 6 (or Apple Watch) near you this October. Like most of us, you’re probably wondering what it is and how it works. And so to get you up to speed, here we bring you, Apple Pay 101.

What is it?

A mobile payment and digital wallet service that lets users make payments with their iPhone or Apple Watch at retail locations and online. It replaces having to swipe magnetic stripes at credit card terminals.

How does it work?

Apple Pay lets Apple devices wirelessly communicate with point-of-sale systems. Just select your card in Passbook and point your device at the payment point, using your fingerprint to authenticate the transaction. Simple as that. You get started by entering your account info manually or taking a photo of your credit card with your phone. The data is stored in Passbook.

Is it secure?

They’re saying it’s safer than those old-fashioned plastic cards you’re carrying around. That’s because it keeps your information completely private. Nobody ever has to see — or keep — your name, account number, or security code. And if you ever lose your phone, you can immediately suspend all your information through your iCloud account or the Find My iPhone app.

Time will tell how many people adopt this new technology. But given its high degree of simplicity, convenience, and security, it looks like Apply Pay may be here to stay.