Dick Fear| Data Scientist | ‘Logic, Science, Right Brain’
It’s a ubiquitous concept: a division which starts in school and is perpetuated throughout life over countless different environments. By the time we finish school many of us have developed the idea we belong to some defined position on this imaginary scale. It can even become a lens through which we view our own personality — how often have you heard someone say they don’t ‘get maths’ or that they are not ‘an arty type’?
We at Black Swan see this dichotomy as a fallacy. Worse than that, we see it as harmful. It introduces limits where there should be none — not that we should be doing each other’s jobs — but far too often these groups will resist and not even attempt to understand each other because the other side is just not ‘their thing’.
We, however, believe that these groups have much more in common than they realise. In fact, while the tools may be different, we think the pure skill of the data scientist is virtually the same as that of the creative. For instance: The data scientist typically receives a flexible brief, then has the freedom to use any number of tools to achieve a result. The tools are mathematical and programmatical in nature, but there is no limit to the way in which they can be combined and employed. In fact, the difference between a passable and a great data scientist is down to how they manipulate their toolset, more than how familiar they are with the tools themselves. One of the main advantages of deep familiarity with a tool is simply that it frees up headspace for creativity.
Recently Steve (Steve King, CEO) asked me to ‘come up with an equation’ to describe consumer behaviour. The task was a purely creative exercise. Sure, there were rules to follow, I had to obey the rules of algebra, things like 1+1 = 2. I also had a goal. The rest was up to me. Now imagine a creative was asked to ‘come up with a illustration’ to describe shopping behaviour. No one would disagree that this was a creative exercise. They would, however, have rules to follow. To draw a 3D box certain rules for angles and lines need to be obeyed. There would also be rules of perspective and colour. Even subtleties like the drawing of a beautiful face are subject to underlying rules such as symmetry and ‘the golden ratio’. Notice that most of these are mathematical and geometrical. One could say that artists have an instinctive knowledge of maths!
So, we scientists and artists are not so dissimilar. Our metaphorical paintbrushes look very different, but in both areas genius really lies in the ability to ‘think outside the box’. To make mental leaps and connections between disparate concepts, regardless of whether those concepts are numbers or colours. That is what Black Swan values.
Scott Bedford | Creative Director | ‘Creativity, Art, Left Brain’
I’ve always felt slightly awkward (only very slightly) calling myself a ‘creative’, or in fact describing my team as the ‘creative’ team. It feels arrogant wearing that label, surely creativity is something that anyone can lay equal claim to, whether it be icing a cake or decorating their house? Not many of us though, would describe ourselves as a ‘scientist’ (regardless of how good we’re were at molecular gastronomy!) unless it really was in our job title.
As proof of this, most of the creative teams and agencies I have worked with have magnanimously at conceded ‘anyone’ can have a great idea (even if they would fight ferociously to ensure that ‘good idea’ came from them and not the client service team!). The reverse, though, is often not so true. ‘Creatives’ are nearly always presumed to be the enemies of good reason and logic (in some agencies special people are hired to try steer them in the ‘right’ direction). Well, this also isn’t true. I’d argue that ‘being creative’, is quite a cerebral process, one that taxes all parts of the brain equally.
Creativity, in the commercial (rather than fine art) sense of the word, is about walking the line between obvious and unexpected. We are trying to develop technology, communications and services to meet a human need but in a way that engages, delights and surprises – a process that’s like trying to be both wise and wacky! I’d go even further, I’d suggest that in today’s connected, convergent (complicated) world – the modern creative, is more storyteller than seeker of ‘big ideas’. And, no one would argue, that authors are lacking in intellectual prowess or creativity.
Certainly, the ‘creatives’ who work at Black Swan, are no strangers to logic, reason, and intellectual thought. We might carry the ‘creative’ baton (and be good at drawing, designing and copywriting) but we also add to the intellectual capital of the business in the same way as someone with ‘scientist’ in their title would.