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I chanced across the book ‘Ki – Spiritual Force’ this week in the British Museum. It documents the Kabuki inspired collaboration between David Bowie and Sukita Masayoshi. The books preface explains, “Spiritual force defies explanation. We experience it in silence and without fanfare. Spiritual force touches us and flows from us, like ripples in a still pond. Spiritual force is concentration and inner energy…spiritual force is the fundamental secret shared by artists and is the reason art so vitally inspires”.

You might buy into this, or you might think it’s nonsense. I’m a believer.

So what? Well, as someone whose job title is ‘creative strategist’ I’m going out on a limb to say that sometimes there is just a bit too much strategy presented to clients, and equally, sometimes not enough silence. I’m not alone in feeling this – a recent client survey by the DBA of ‘the four worst types of design agency’ notes an irritation with ‘Strategy Overkill’ – “The agency that bombards the client with strategy, whether it is necessary or not. However, the creative execution of the strategy disappoints.”

Why does this happen? Perhaps as design has become more business-like, so measuring and framing the depth and worth of creativity offers a comfort blanket to client and agency alike. But what began as a demonstration of rigor often now takes over, like a cuckoo in the nest. To mix metaphors it snuffs out the creative spark the client wants to see, sucking all the oxygen from the room.

The truth is, great work solves problems – so the best design is naturally strategic. But the exact reasons and thinking behind a solution might have come from a random, intuitive or artistic place. Harder to sell, but often the case. Over-wrought strategy that seeks to deny this is as nonsensical as suggesting the answer came from a place of secret spiritual energy. I guess for clients and agencies alike, the antidote is to have more faith in instinct. To explain less, and feel more. And to sometimes let the work do a little bit more of the talking…



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