Vivid Ideas brought together hundreds of creative thinkers on stage, and thousands more in the audience, across 18 action-packed days of talks, workshops, conferences and more. With all that talent at our fingertips, we had to reach out and shake down some big insights from these insiders.
We asked them: what is the most vital skill for creative practitioners today?
“I aspire to have the openness of mind which allowed the strength of a leaf to inspire the form of a building,” Candy Chang
They told us curiosity was essential. Artist Candy Chang said to pose your own questions as a guide for your creative practice, and to let answering those questions be the path your career follows. Sara Critchfield, editorial director of Upworthy, said that no matter how brilliant the resume in front of her, she’s looking for that questioning spark in the eyes of new hires (so be sure to come prepared with lots of questions if you’re ever looking for a job at the fastest-growing media platform of all time).
"Art is like sport: you have to train the muscle, find the right people to collaborate with, and fail spectacularly," Adam Zwar
Many of our speakers pointed to collaboration, and the capacity to work with peers across creative sectors, as being crucial to building lasting creative careers: unsurprisingly, this arose most commonly among our film talent, including director and producer Sophie Hyde and Selina Miles, the filmmaker who has become a global favourite in documenting the world of street art. Our makers at Australian Interiors, a stunning survey of top talent in homewares, fabrics, product design and styling, also echoed this sentiment: for many of them, effective collaborations are the key to expanding your audience and making your work better, by drawing on the expertise of those with a different skill-set.
“Less DIY more DIWO,” says Three Farm. Do It With Others. Don’t have three designers, have 500.
Creative thinkers turn curveballs into home runs. Joshy D, founder of cult streetwear label Rebel8, said the ability to adapt to, and embrace change is what has kept him at the top of his game over the last eleven years: creative players need to be flexible to stay fresh, nimble and open to the new opportunities life brings.
Mike Giant, Joshy’s partner in crime at Rebel8, suggests we celebrate the niche and look outside the box: he recommends that creative makers don’t draw from the same well as everyone else (by looking at the same websites and journals as everyone else) and that artists look beyond the here and now for inspiration. Travel back in time, across cultures, mediums and borders. Trust your instincts and build on what is distinctive from your own journey.
"Put your blinders up. Keep it original. The worst thing you can do is look at what people are doing now: I look at art from 1850s - 1930s for inspiration,” Mike Giant
Challenge yourself. Don’t surround yourself with yes-men or people who reinforce your own opinions. Bust through the social media bubble and look for contradictory points of view. Author and radical marketer Ryan Holiday recommends that you connect with other creative people who challenge you - and what better way than by attending events like Vivid Ideas?
Change-maker and Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley challenged us to embrace annoyance, those frictions in everyday life, the things that piss you off, rub you the wrong way. Jackley says our emotions are data, suggesting opportunities: if it bothers you, you’re likely to find other people who want to get on board and change the status quo. Like Holiday, Jackley suggests an open mind and closed mouth are great starting points in the creative process: "Be ignorant. Assume nothing. Everyone has a right to tell their own story. Listen without expectation."
You’ve got to back yourself: Deus Ex Machina and Mambo founder Dare Jennings says you have to believe in your own point of view, and leap into your passion projects. At their In Conversation event, TV-makers Julian Morrow and Adam Zwar talked about the importance of putting yourself on the line, and making the content that appeals to you. Zwar did it by saving money every year to bring his short films into being: one of those shorts ended up being Wilfred, originally produced for Tropfest and then going on to become TV series for Australian, US and now Russian TV. It’s great to get noticed, and to find your community of supporters or a mentor to back you, but the very first step is to back yourself, and to put your work out there.
“You have to have a bit of ego about your business. You have to believe in what you’re making,” Mikhail Gherman
“Polarisation is an excellent form of marketing. If you try to be all things to all people you end up being nothing much,” Dare Jennings
When you do back yourself, you have to stick to it: super producer Liz Watts listed perseverance and patience as the prime creative skills, as did street artist Sofles. Don’t give up, and never stop learning: Selina Miles says being motivated and always building and honing your skill set is what it takes. Anna Rose, founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, says the secret to success is picking the hard battles, and tackling them with persistence, consistency and belief.
"If the odds are against you, it's your job to change the odds," Anna Rose
That doesn't even scratch the surface of all the insights from this year's Vivid Ideas - I've started combing the tweets and I've compiled some Storify overviews to summarise key points from our speakers. Check them out: