June 23, 2015 Harry Bouton

When everyone’s an ‘artist’, what value do creative pros add?

It used to be that high-quality creative work didn’t come easy, or cheap.

To design an impressive brochure, build an engaging web site, or produce a dazzling video, you had to go to a professional with specialized expertise and powerful (and expensive) tools for the job. That’s not the case anymore. The last decade’s technology explosion has essentially automated much of the “creative” process, providing even the most untrained and unimaginative left-brainers with simple shortcuts to pretty respectable results.

Not convinced? Consider the evolution of the camera. Thirty years ago, to get photos that weren’t too dark, grainy or out of focus, you needed to hire a pro with a case full of gear and intricate knowledge of lenses and light. But today a $100 digital camera or smartphone (loaded with sophisticated technology but simple to use) can take beautiful pictures with one click. Throw in some free image editing software, and you’re Annie Leibovitz. The same goes for taking and producing slick videos with inexpensive, HD camcorders.

How about branding, web design and desktop publishing? There used to be a clear line between the uninspired creations of Susie the HR intern, versus the sleek and stylish pages developed by people who “knew what they were doing.” But now anyone can use intuitive design programs and customizable templates to make, for example, a mom-and-pop coffee shop look as snazzy as Starbucks. And it doesn’t stop at creation, of course; the web and social media apps provide everyone with a communications platform to self-publish and share their creations with the world.

Is all this to say that novice creatives can do everything as well as experienced professionals can do it? Are trained specialists and creative agencies becoming obsolete? Of course not. But it does mean the bar has been raised. In a world where anyone can be an artist, yesterday’s “professional-quality” is today’s “not bad for a fifth-grader.” Those of us in creative professions have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, because our clients certainly will.

For firms like ours that serve , that higher standard includes differentiating ourselves by adding strategic business value. We have an opportunity to think deeply about our clients’ brands and tell their story in a way that will resonate with their customers or employees. We can help them understand how creative services fit into their overall marketing and communications programs. We know how to work within brand guidelines, deliver to rigid deadlines, navigate approval processes, and be advisors to busy executives.

More than artists, we’ve become creative business consultants adept at building brand value. That’s something no software program can automate.



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