Taking a look at our outlook on challenges, and how they help us to be more creative  

Challenges get a bad rap sometimes, but today we’re owning up to the truth and admitting that actually, we kind of love them. And we’re not the first creative souls to cozy up to adversity; here are two cases-in-point:

Ludwig van Beethoven was largely deaf by age 44. You might assume that hearing loss is a career-ender for a composer, but you would be wrong. Aided by vibrations, he began focusing on the lower notes of the piano, which he was better able to hear. This period resulted in Moonlight Sonata, the opera Fidelio, and six symphonies composed in a style he may never had explored had he given up after the admittedly cruel challenge of hearing loss.

As in Beethoven’s case, sometimes challenge finds you. There are also those times when we go looking for a good challenge specifically to enhance our creativity – or just to prove we can beat it. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway once bet a group of his friends that he could write an entire story in just six words. While this sounds like a (mostly likely alcohol-influenced) moment of bravado even a great writer might live to regret, it’s hard to deny that he was pretty successful with,

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  

The point we’re making here is that whether self-imposed restrictions or unavoidable challenges, we’re firm believers that boundaries, roadblocks, and straight-up problems that can actually enhance and ignite creativity rather than stifle it. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Boundaries are for pushing – but you have to know them first
As we’ve talked about before, the first step in our creative process is to discuss the goals our client has for an event. In most cases, this step is also about uncovering our restrictions. Every event comes with a unique set of objectives, parameters, and both voiced and implied expectations; instead of feeling held back by restrictions, we see them as a chance to find our focus. Once we know our boundaries, we can define that sweet spot where we can open up and be creative. Maybe it’s that we’re lovers and not fighters, but we find that when you’re courting constraints instead of warring with them, they actually encourage you to look for unconventional solutions, resulting in a more swoon-worthy end result.

Calgary Chamber’s recent ONWARD Summit was all about various forms of challenges, and our experience creating an activation for Shaw Business at the Summit was a great example of how parameters can create challenges, but also lead to greater creativity if you let them. Our client needed the activation to command a presence and attract the audience to experience their message. The client also has important brand guidelines, and our solution needed to display the message in an enticing and engaging way, without stepping outside of the brand. With those boundaries in place, we could clearly see the space we had to explore creatively: we focused our time and attention on the structure that would be used to display posters. Our solution found us using an existing inventory item in a completely new way – one we might never have considered if we hadn’t been dancing with a few challenges along the way.

Creative challenge? Create a challenge.
Turns out your mom was right when you were a teenager, and total freedom is not always the best thing for you. Sometimes having no boundaries can actually be overwhelming, and the lack of focus can lead to a perpetual empty page, or alternatively, to endless rabbit trails that don’t lead anywhere. We learned this lesson when planning for our own in-house design preview. With no client-led restrictions or expectations and unlimited access to inventory, we were limited only by our own high standards for wow-factor and subsequently found ourselves surprisingly handcuffed by our freedom. Hemingway was on to something more than just the indulgence of a slightly overactive ego; creating your own constraints can actually help to kickstart creativity when things feel stagnant or a concept feels overdone. Whether it’s as simple as a self-imposed short deadline or limited colour palette, or something a bit more complicated, we can never resist the rush of tangling with a good challenge.

So here’s to all the tight timelines, tricky venues, overused themes, and reimagined props. They might drive us a little crazy at times, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo credit: Bookstrucker