• Scott Sinclair

The importance of a rationale when producing creative.

Updated: Jan 16

As a client have you ever found yourself in an embarrassing situation, presented with muddled half-baked concepts that have clearly gone off-piste? Or perhaps you might be a creative sat at your desk wrestling with multiple ideas all at once as you slowly run out of time as you slip into the dark abyss of panic? Whether you're a client or creative, this article might help you navigate the creative process.

Image by Juliana

Boom, all fired up and ready to go

Charged and ready to go, you’ve just stepped out from a briefing session, the grey matter buzzing with a mix of thoughts and ideas, you can’t wait to get cracking. The biggest challenge post briefing can be determining how much work to produce at the conceptual stage. Fundamentally the goal and ambition are to produce an outstanding piece of creative that’s relevant, novel and ultimately resonates with customers. A good place to start is to reduce the number of ideas and tame the creative brain. This means culling great ideas by spotting the outstanding ones. The reason for this is it’s all too easy to get distracted by too many ideas or versions of a design as you disappear into the creative abyss burning time which ultimately costs money.

There is also a danger that the work will lack quality due to being trumped by quantity. More importantly, showing multiple concepts to a client can confuse and bore them to death in equal measure. Too many ideas that attempt to cover every base can convey to the client that you don’t know what you’re doing and usually means the brief is incorrect. Less in this instance is definitely more. As a rule of thumb try and stick to a maximum of three ideas.

Before getting too bogged down in the ideation process it’s best to map out the creative routes, or channels in which to think and then stick to them within reason. Your start points can come from formal scamps, napkin doodles over lunch or scribbles in a notebook. Assuming the single-minded proposition and brief are correct you should have some solid ‘nucleus’ of an idea ready to explore further. Depending on the client or the internal team you can attempt to get buy-in at this stage from all key stakeholders before burning too much time or budget. This methodology can also prevent emotional burnout as the team is not too heavily involved in any given idea at this stage.

K-pow, off we go

Whether seeds of an idea are produced off the back of the initial client meeting, agency briefing session or inspired by a conversation you overheard in the coffee shop it doesn’t matter. The next and most important step is the rationale or narrative. What’s the big idea? It’s usually best to start out by writing a narrative, that emotive piece of copy, usually a paragraph or two that sets the scene and in essence explains the concept in story form. For example; ...over the mountain, he powers on... down into the valley, he never stops. Feel the force of the ACME Boost Bar. A rationale, on the other hand, is used to describe the idea in literal terms – for example; This concept uses unicorns as a metaphor for ACME beds, which depicts your customers will be off to the land of nod in no time. The fundamental principle for both the narrative and rationale is the same, they set the scene for the preceding creative.

The rationale or narrative at this stage will need a little refining further on down the line, but the principle of this methodology is the rationale or narrative also serves as a foundation to steer the creative as the idea gets developed into a logo, adcept, direct mail piece or a digital asset. Some prefer to write the rationale/narrative after creating ideas or designs. That’s fine, each to their own as long as you get a successful result. However, doing it first allows one to use the rationale/narrative to sense check the idea, making sure everyone has understood the brief. It also helps keep the team or individual focused on the idea without deviating too far of course.

Shazam, let the magic happen

Once you’re happy with the rationale/narrative you can begin the ideation process. The ‘sandpit’ in which to play will be clearly defined at this stage. The ideation process usually starts with lots of relevance with a little bit of novelty as you travel over the ideation bell curve. To truly get that great idea it’s best to keep going into the second bell curve of the ideation process. It’s not unheard of for people to give up, burn out or run out of budget before hitting the second bell curve. However, it’s worth it to keep going as this is where relevance drops off and you get more novelty ideas. The trick is to balance relevance with novelty – too far and the message becomes abstract. Too relevant and you’ll put the ‘ting’ in marketing! Clearly, there are commercial constraints that determine how much time is spent on initial creative – however, if you start with a good brief and have a clear understanding of what’s required then the solution should already be in front of you. This is the stage where the magic happens and a concept is born.

If you would like to take your creativity to the next level then get in touch today.

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