In a Guest Blog, Neil Rostance, Managing Director at creative video agency Fat Free Media shares his perspective on how we’re all just chefs at heart.
As creative people, all we want is to create work that we’re proud of. Whatever it is that you make, we want to delight our clients, connect with our audience, and impress our peers.
But there is no science for good ideas, no set path for creative development. Self expression requires a level of freedom, but with a pinch of rules to work within. All of this can make any creative professional feel both in control, yet completely lost. We’ve all been there, starting a project beaming with confidence only to be crippled with doubt half way through.
So can we apply a framework to being creativity that can guide us and give us meaning and order for our workflow? I think we can.
I believe as creatives, we share more in common with chefs and restaurants than meets the eye. We both create something that people consume, we want to impress and delight our customers, we want to show that we have great tastes, and we want repeat business. Chef’s are just creatives in the kitchen, yet if you were to peek into the workings of a professional kitchen you will observe a finely tuned workflow and order to getting the job done to a high quality.
You may assume I would suggest sourcing only the best ingredients for your work. But you’d be wrong. Instead source only the most appropriate ingredients for your work. If you make expensive, hand-made furniture your materials are on show and only the highest quality materials may be suitable. Similarly, a photographer may not need an expensive zoom lens if most of their work is landscapes. It all comes down to how much of a big deal your ingredients are to your audience, and most importantly, if they’ll even notice it’s in the dish.
You will seldom find a head chef that chops vegetables. An important job, no doubt, but as your workflow grows isn’t it better for creatives to spread the load little? Keep your time focused as much as possible on the vision and delegate tasks to other skill-sets. This can mean delegating finance, marketing, client services. Get your kitchen staff working together so you can focus on curating the menu.
Picture the scene, you’re in an expensive restaurant on a special occasion and the waiter places a beautifully cooked cut of fish, and next to it…a Pot Noodle. You would be confused, your trust and admiration for the chef’s tastes would be questioned. Same applies to creatives, if you make exquisite design, why also sell low-quality video? If you make award winning hand-made jewellery, why also sell cheap plastic bracelets? The menu as a whole needs to work together.
When it comes to creating a dish, at the point it hits the menu the creativity is over. From then on, all the ideas and improvisation to make that dish work have been turned into efficient systems to replicate it time after time. For creatives that sell their work, we need to accept that there is a cut-off point for creativity. Accepting this and having insight into the processes behind our work is the key to turning good ideas into profit.
A great dish doesn’t come quick. I often found myself feeling guilty for not being able to rush creative ideas. But timing is everything. We sell ideas; a blend of inspiration, research, development, insight and experience and maybe you should let these simmer for a while. Some dishes take hours before the flavour emerges – some good ideas just need time.
Front of house
How many of you have experienced a rude waiter? Which do you remember most – the taste of the food or the way he spoke to you? Most of us will reflect on the tone of delivery rather than the product. If you’re a visionary creative, but not great with people, maybe consider investing in somebody who is going to personally represent your brand better than you can.
Most high-end chefs would not serve their dishes on paper plates (well maybe Heston Blumenthal would). By the same sentiment, would you ever serve Fanta in a champagne glass? The expensive presentation box a photographer sources for their prints is pointless if most of their customers access them online. That exquisite film you produced may be over-shadowed by the buggy flash-only player online. The plating and presentation of the work is as important as the work itself.
In order to delight our customers, we need to be able to give our creativity a platform and framework to work towards our goals. We see this happening flawlessly in kitchens around the world. Balancing taste, ingredients, timing and process to make a masterpiece. It isn’t just high-end kitchens either, if your creative business model is to create quick, profitable projects then why not emulate the kitchens of fast food restaurants? Take chart music – most artists and record labels are just like McDonalds. They’ve refined their processes in such a way to provide quick, profitable, mass-produced work that is manufactured to hit the spot for a passing customer. No depth of flavour, just a quick hit.
It doesn’t matter if you want to be a high-end kitchen or a fast food stall, the principle of kitchen workflow is the same, albeit for two entirely different audiences. If you want to impress clients that have good taste and will pay more for the pleasure, don’t serve junk food on paper plates. If you want quick, cheap sales for an audience who may not taste the difference, ease off the expensive ingredients and optimise your processes for maximum profit.
We’re all chefs, we all create. The question is, what kind of kitchen do you run?