Tag Archives: creative

Vanguard Creative Services Retrospective 2014

Perhaps you are an expert doodler, executing masterful abstract patterns in the margins of the Meeting Minutes. Or a frustrated poet, illustrating mournful truisms for a Tumblr blog. Maybe you sing in the shower for an audience of one — each unrecorded performance lost to the ages. But surely, one way or another, everyone is a secret artist.

This year, Vanguard Direct gave its employees a special opportunity to showcase their diverse artistic talents, at the 2014 Creative Retrospective of arts, crafts and multimedia. Many of our professional designers opened up their personal portfolios to reveal a rarely-seen side of their creativity ­ but some of the most intriguing works were exhibited by Secret Artists who work for Vanguard in a purely non-artistic capacity.

Following is a sampling of our employees’ observations:

Will Lovell, Designer         

At Vanguard Direct’s first art retrospective, people were treated to a look at the creative departments skills outside of the digital world. Page layout and digital design are seen every day in the workplace, but rarely is anyone exposed to traditional mediums such as watercolor, oil painting and photography — the sort of work that hangs privately in homes or kept locked away in closets or basements. Imagine the amazement of a client walking in and seeing all this creative output adorning the walls of the 22nd floor. After all, it’s not something you see every day at Vanguard Direct. It was even said that one client asked if any of the work was for sale. Quite a testament to this department’s efforts.

Samanta Ramroop, Accounts Receivable Specialist

Vanguard’s art show was absolutely amazing and well presented. I love not only your yummy crackers, but Will’s creation really blew me away, together with Miguel’s and Wally’s photos. I felt that everyone that participated did a great job. Thanks for doing such an eventful art exhibit.

Vivian Rosado, Accounts Payable Supervisor

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Vanguard Art Gallery. It’s inspiring to know that we are surrounded by such talented people. It also explains why our customers are so happy with Vanguard. I’m thinking of taking up photography! I love taking pictures as I am the “designated” photographer at home.

Rita Orphanos, Account Representative

I expected something good, interesting, unusual; never did I imagine this extraordinary gallery of unbelievable art by unbelievably talented people. Thank you.

Velda Gardiner, Senior Production Coordinator

Who knew some Vanguardians possessed such unique talent for expressing and portraying an array of artistic vision.

The exhibition displayed a real diversity of skills, media and perspectives inviting us to embrace the artists individually and collectively. While we may not be seeing through the artist’s eyes, each artist shared a vehicle engaging us to capture a special moment or convey an emotion propelling us to feel something and to react in some way. After all, isn’t that what it’s ultimately all about?

Congratulations to what was a successful and appreciated unveiling of inspiring vision. I’ll look forward to the next viewing.

Check out this video of opening day, and check out some of the submitted work. Stay tuned to our next blog to have some insight into the pieces with the artists themselves!

Author: Jay Zilber


How to Encourage and Harness Creativity

In my March post entitled “Only Read This If You’re Really Creative,” I attempted to push aside some of society’s preconceived notions about creativity and suggest better ways to think creatively.

I came across an interview of Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in Fast Company that works nicely with those initial thoughts. Although this article was published eight years ago and Amabile’s research was conducted eight years before that, her findings are as relevant as ever. “The 6 Myths Of Creativity” discusses—as you might guess—six common misconceptions that we all should do our best to expunge from our thinking.

1. Creativity Only Comes From Creative Types

Everyone has creative potential. It’s important that leaders of organizations recognize that and do their best to harness ideas from those who could be most capable. This is not to suggest that everyone is necessarily good at being creative. Professor Amabile recommends that one should consider the following factors: experience, technical skills, talent, the ability to think in new ways, and intrinsic motivation. It’s this last quality that is hardest to find. Having the passion to come up with ideas is one thing, but the ability to continue to push through—even after countless rejections—is the trait one should look for in a creative type.

2. Money Is A Creative Motivator 

On a day-to-day basis, Amabile’s research found that people don’t think about their compensation. And when people were told that bonuses could come from good ideas, they were less willing to take risks. People preferred instead to work in an environment that both supported creativity and was in line with their skill sets. Leaders need to understand where their employees feel most comfortable. If the work is too simple, they’ll become bored; if the work is too hard, they’ll inevitably become frustrated. It’s important to find the right balance.

3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity

Many creative types claim that they do their best under extreme pressure when a deadline is looming. Professor Amabile, however, found the opposite to be true. Ideas are best when they have time to marinate and develop. They’re more thoughtful and robust. In the advertising and marketing worlds, account people should strive to give creatives the time they need to develop a well-rounded idea. It’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs 

If you’ve ever listened to an Adele or Alanis Morissette album, the thought probably crossed your mind “Boy, being depressed really lends itself to creating brilliant music.” While there are always exceptions, the fact is, there is a direct relationship between being happy and being creative. Interestingly, Amabile’s research found that a happy day often led to a creative mindset the following day. Stay positive!

5. Competition Beats Collaboration

There’s a belief that competition fuels great ideas. And while that may be true initially, collaboration and competition are really the best formula. When a person works autonomously, he or she often misses out on valuable information for that project. The sharing of information and the bouncing of ideas off one another is a more effective approach to building the strongest idea.

6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

“Leaner is meaner” is very far from the truth. Amabile and her team of researchers followed 6,000 employees in a company that was going through massive layoffs. The fear and subsequent loss of morale affected creativity dramatically. Six months after the layoffs occurred, people were still shaken up. Layoffs are a fact of life, but leaders have to work extra hard to restabilize the environment.

Author: Eric Swenson

Art and Technology: The Balance of Innovation and Harmony Throughout the Ages

The relationship between art and technology—wide-ranging, polarizing, and constantly fluctuating—is among the most influential factors throughout the course of human history. Certain periods of time witnessed art in a position of prominence; others featured technological advancement. Art and technology have always had a complementary and complicated relationship, but in 2012, this relationship has reached a pinnacle of complexity. In order to interpret the present or predict the future of these intertwined fields, however, one must first look to the past.

By the year 1492—which marks the European discovery of the Americas—Leonardo da Vinci had entered the twilight of his life, but more than 500 years later he is still considered by many to be the single most influential historical figure the world has seen. The reason for such a legacy can be found in the aforementioned relationship between art and technology: to this day he is considered the embodiment of their dualistic role for man. The European Renaissance—ranging (roughly) from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries—is the period of time credited with man’s emergence from the Dark Ages; more importantly to the topic at hand, however, the Renaissance represents the first climax in the relationship between art and technology.

Man’s approach to technology (i.e., science and mathematics) prior to the Renaissance can be encapsulated by one inherent characteristic of the human race: fear of the unknown. In the sixteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus provided the first proof of the heliocentric astronomical model, which proposed a solar system that revolves around the sun (rather than the earth); this radical concept was met with tremendous resistance, and the majority of the opposition originated from the Catholic Church. The Church was arguably the most powerful entity in the world at this time, and it strictly opposed any source of knowledge or truth outside its walls. The recently introduced and rapidly spreading scientific discipline, therefore, was considered an enemy of the Church. So while the Renaissance sparked the rise of technology, the prominence of art would continue for several more centuries.

Graphic design only became a profession in recent decades, but it nonetheless evokes the art/technology relationship from the time of Copernicus and da Vinci. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a field in which art and technology are better united. Graphic designers are artists, but they would not exist without modern technology.

Modern technological advancement—beginning in the twentieth century and exponentially increasing ever since—is unprecedented in both its rapidity and complexity. Cutting-edge technology is only cutting-edge for mere days or weeks, whereas in the past, a single advancement could define an entire generation or represent an evolutionary milestone (see: fire, wheel). The only constant today, it seems, has been mankind’s emphasis upon—and, in recent years, fetishism of—technology, to which art is a distant second. Maybe the Age of Technology will continue for centuries and art will be considered a luxury. We can’t know now, but we can be certain that the dynamics between art and technology, with mankind as the backdrop, will forever remain fluid and mysterious.

Art is no more important to man than technology, or vice versa. Creativity is neither better nor worse than logic. And a time period with more artistic innovation than technological is not inferior to its opposite. Developments in both fields, however, will prove to be infinitely relevant to the business world.

Is a marketing/communication company’s creative department involved in technology as much, if not more, than art? What does the future hold for the industry? What’s the next billion-dollar idea? Because of the way he was able to balance his interests in art and technology and thus excel at both, Leonardo da Vinci was able to theorize on concentrated solar power centuries before the invention of electricity and conceptualize a helicopter long before the steam engine was created. The potential is limitless for an individual, entity, or business that achieves such balance, harmony, and innovation between art and technology.

Author: Ryan O’Connell

Ideas Worth Sharing – How TED Can Help You

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to attend a Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon held at the Yale Club. It was really an honor to hear a few industry leaders discuss the knowledge and insight they have accrued over their many years.

Patrick Fultz, President and CCO of DM Creative Group, claims to read––on average––three hours of industry-related material per day. I won’t question the veracity of his statement but instead extend my kudos for finding the time. As for the rest of us, it seems nearly impossible to keep up with day-to-day work and also find time to learn about the world outside our soul-sucking pod-o’-death cubicles.

If you’re lucky enough to work in a profession you have a passion for and yet rarely have time to keep up with what that industry is doing, you really are missing out. The operational mundanity of our daily tasks takes the wind right out of our creative sails. It’s sad if you think about it.

TEDTalks hope to inspire. And while it’s hard to find the time, if you can, I recommend you check out some of these amazing presentations. These talks help remind me why I’m in marketing. But more than that, you can find awe-inspiring talks about topics you never knew existed. It’s incredibly fascinating and impossible to describe here. Instead, here are a few must-watch marketing and advertising talks that may apply to those reading this post.

Wanna understand more clearly how Apple does what it does so well? Wanna know how to make your business generate more revenue and sell better products? “The Golden Circle” by Simon Sinek helps show why most people approach business the wrong way.

“Life Lessons From an Ad Man.” Need I say more?

Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell are two of the most influential voices of our era. Pioneers and just flat-out smart dudes. Be sure to listen to everything they have to say (and read their books!).



Author: Eric Swenson

91st Season for the Art Directors Club Awards

On May 8, the Art Directors Club (ADC) will celebrate this year’s winners during Creative Week in New York. The ADC has already released some of the award winners’ names and campaigns. I’ve highlighted a few below.

Typically, advertising or design agencies take away the coveted gold cubes, but this year Creative Artists Agency out of Los Angeles ran away with four golds and two silvers for its “Back to the Start” campaign for Chipotle. The agency’s incredibly minimalist website prevented me from learning more about it, but I gather that it is a talent agency that also offers creative services (and connections to a heck of an animation team!):

I was so happy to see one of my favorite spots from last year be awarded three golds and one silver. “The Bear,” an ad for CANAL+ (the HBO of France, I gather), is just flat-out brilliant. Kudos to mega-giant BETC Euro RSCG for still being able to crank out good work.

On May 9, the ads will be available for viewing by the public in NYC. I hope to swing by and check some out. Hope to see you there!

Author: Eric Swenson

Photo-whoops! The Joys of Photoshop Mishaps

Being a creative is tough. Art directors and designers alike have so much to contend with: copy, logos, budget constraints, time constraints, creative director input, account management input, CLIENT input––oh, and the biggest nagger of all, the critic with the harshest and most ruthless taste: themselves.

So it’s no surprise that with all this pressure, mistakes are bound to happen. I get it, art directors––it’s a lot. I’m an account guy with a big, bleeding heart who feels your pain—well, unless you muck my ish up. That is unacceptable.

The rest of the world is going to laugh at your mistakes. I’m sorry, unfortunately that’s just the life you’ve chosen. You’re in the public eye and your mistakes get seen by millions.

And now there’s a forum to see even more. I’d like to point you to a website that is doing its best to find your final art flaws: www.psdisasters.com, a collection of Photoshop mistakes made in years past and available for years to come.

Be sure to check out the Greatest Hits section and see brilliance like this:

Adweek has even gotten in on the fun. The headline from last week’s page read: “Ad in Target Circular Either Photoshopped or Features an Alien.” Love it.

Okay, okay, so there’s plenty to laugh at. Again, I recognize that you sometimes only have 25 minutes to whip something together. That being said, I leave you with a site from people who clearly have 25 minutes to spare:


If you like the images below, you’ll definitely love this site. Check it out!

Author: Eric Swenson

Communication Arts’ 17th Annual Interactive Annual Awards

Communication Arts’ interactive annual winners were selected in this month’s 17th edition of the competition. This year’s panel of jurors spent 10 weeks sifting through and discerning the best 35 projects to be showcased—a job I do not envy.

The projects were divided into five categories: Advertising, Information Design, Entertainment, Self-Promotion and Experimental.

There are some really amazing projects that are worth checking out. Visit the site here for more.

A few picks:


Per Communication Arts: “Overview: When Forever 21 claimed the iconic Virgin Record store in Times Square as its new flagship location, its goal was to stop the 500,000 daily passersby dead in their tracks. The result is a digital display that’s the center of attention on pop culture’s biggest stage. The billboard is broken into multiple LED surfaces at the heart of which is a high-definition main display that features a rotating schedule of content and models that interact over a live video feed of pedestrians. A companion Web site served as a means to connect the Forever 21 community. The online hub allowed users to see the billboard live, real-time tweets and fashion/culture tips that match the brand’s youthful, fast-moving image.”


Per Communication Arts: “Overview: During the holiday season, consumers are jaded by the glut of shallow and meaningless marketing tactics from corporations. Starbucks stood out from the clutter with this multimedia campaign that raised awareness and donations for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa. On December 7, 2009, musicians in 156 countries sang All You Need Is Loveat exactly the same time. The performances were streamed onto screens at an event and broadcast live at StarbucksLoveProject.com and a video featuring all the performances was posted on YouTube. The entire Internet audience was encouraged to get involved in multiple visitor-participation options, each resulting in a donation from Starbucks, including participating in the worldwide sing-along and contributing to a crowdsourced tapestry of Love Drawings.”


Per Communication Arts: “Overview: LEGO Photo, available free at the iTunes App Store, was a component of the 2010 LEGO Cl!ck campaign and the first official iPhone application for LEGO. The app works with saved images on the iPhone and iPod touch and lets consumers immortalize their favorite images in LEGO form. Users can simply choose a photo from an existing gallery or point the camera to snap a photo then touch the screen to watch their masterpiece build. Additional screen taps show each portrait in nine different color palettes. And, celebrating the portraits is easy; users can upload them to social networking pages, e-mail or print them and tweet them using #legoclick.”

Author: Eric Swenson