Now That Summer's Over, It's Time for a Homework Assignment

But Don't Fear -- You Won't Be Grade

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Early September just can't help but feel like early January. What it lacks in despair and salt stains it makes up for in back-to-it gravitas. It means stock taking, which can be a bit daunting. So, along with buying your pencil case and new cords, here are a few things to do to ease yourself into the serious season.

To read: A book that makes you confront the question answered, winningly, by Crispin's "Whopper Freakout" campaign: If your brand disappeared tomorrow, would anyone care? The question is asked by Robert Brunner (a former director of design at Apple) and Stewart Emery in their new book, "Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company." Any contemplation about brand relevance this fall should start with a question about how you view design. If Brunner and Emery don't grab you, try a different way in with one of these: "The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention," by Donald Albrecht; "George Nelson: The Design of Modern Design," by Stanley Abercrombie; "Paul Rand, a Designer's Art," by Paul Rand; "79 Short Essays on Design," by Michael Bierut; "A Whole New Mind," by Daniel Pink; "The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design," by Marty Neumeier; or "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things," by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

To quit: Awards-show entry-guideline abuse. Ran once? Didn't run? Doesn't represent anything meaningful about the brand you work for? Don't enter it in that award show.

To play: "Spore." Distract yourself from the breathtaking inanity of intelligent-design babble by creating your own universe! Nothing less than creation and evolution form the big premise behind the new game from EA and Will Wright, creator of "The Sims" -- the best-selling PC-based game of all time. If you don't actually play "Spore," it bears study for its scope and for what it represents in the evolution of gaming. The game allows you, the player, to create beings and direct their progress, from soup dwelling to sentience to space travel, world domination or whatever you see fit as all-seeing life architect. It's a technically innovative, potentially complex game designed, says Wright, to appeal to the growing audience of casual gamers, as well as the nuts.

Whether or not the game ends up having that broad appeal, "Spore" marks another turning point for the user-generated creativity it encourages and has inspired. EA released the game's Creature Creator editor in June, allowing enthusiasts to make their own beings ahead of the title's Sept. 7 launch. Wright told Creativity (in a piece on the game in our September issue) that he was hoping for a million consumer-generated creations by the end of this year. What he got were 2 million creatures in the first two weeks (and, of course, a flood of CG-ribaldry, aka Sporn). "At the very basic level, games have always been about user-generated experience," says Wright. "The player decides where to drive or what to shoot at. Now it's at a deeper level. Players are being given the tools to create levels and environments in which to play. The core DNA of games has now opened up."

To look at: Your ad comrades' art. Butler Shine Stern & Partners' Mike Shine, Wieden Amsterdam's Jeff Kling, Wieden vet Jim Riswold, Pereira O'Dell's P.J. Pereira and many other ad types have something in common: They exercise their creative demons with personal art projects. In this month of self-actualization, they inspire us to round out our creative selves.

To resolve: To always look twice before hitting send.

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and
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