Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Sheet Wonders

Below are entries for an art contest at the Hirshhorn Modern Art Gallery. Artists had only one rule, but it was a big one: they could only use one sheet of paper.

When it comes to creativity, we often think it's best to have no rules, no limitations, no guidelines even. Isn't that when the magic happens? Well, judging from the works of art below, it seems this isn't always the case. In fact, high-level creativity often comes in response to a problem or a boundary. The "problem" for these contest entrants was that they were confined to using one sheet of plain white paper. This limitation, however, clearly served to provide focus and prompt the artists to look at a common item from a new angle. Most of the artists, it seems, embraced what was allowed instead of focusing on what wasn't. There were no rules around cutting or folding, for example, which is what creates the cleverness for most of these pieces.

What on earth does this have to do with advertising? Well, believe it or not, this type of creative problem solving is exactly what advertising is all about. Clients have parameters and guidelines--things like budgets, target audiences, media preferences, and pre-existing branding. Often, at first glance, an advertising brief can seem very constraining and creatively hindering. However, this is the very purpose of an ad agency: meet all the mandatory items on a brief in a way that's completely new and creative--and increases sales by 7.5%.


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