The creative species is evolving. Where the lone illustrator, animator or graphic designer once toiled away at a drawing board or Mac screen, putting in the hours until the delivery of a final project, the new breed is venturing into the live arena.
The ideas of live art and performed design are not new, but these days big?brand marketing and ad campaigns are catching on, increasingly showcasing the creative process as well as the final work. Campaigns are no longer just about high-production-value ‘a-ha!’ moments, but about the ‘making of’. And whether showcased live or in behind-the-scenes videos, the creator often features in front of the lens.
YouTube is full of such clips – snappily edited and slickly produced in time-lapse or real-time, and disseminated by content-hungry fans via social media.
Earlier this year, Coca-Cola launched its London 2012 Olympic Games campaign with a YouTube video featuring street artists Neil Edwards and Hadley Ever painting a giant mural, while Nike Tennis’ Roland Garros campaign, created by Wieden + Kennedy, included the live, interactive painting of large-scale portraits of tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal.
Design lab Monorex has been using the ‘live art’ vehicle to drive its work and brand for nearly a decade. Recent projects include Coca-Cola’s Live Beat campaign, and live painting for Hugo boss by artists Alfa and Stika. “Over the past eight years, we’ve found ourselves at the front of the bus with regards to live art entertainment advertising, and this is something we are very proud of,” says founder Terry Guy. “Only after various collectives, artists and independent brands tried and tested it did the big brands get involved.”
Technology has played a huge part in moving the creative process centre stage. The internet has brought great transparency to consumers, reckons Adrian Stannard, partner and creative strategist at agency Guided. Advances in technology allow brands to showcase processes more effectively, via live streaming and social media platforms, so customers can watch, comment and share.
Creative partnership Good Wives and Warriors, aka Becky Bolton and Louise Chappell, have readily responded to the increasing demand for performed creativity, and are nowadays more often than not asked to record their process as part of illustration commissions. “Most campaigns seem to want to have the ‘making of’ alongside the finished product,” they explain. In fact, much of their work gets painted over quite quickly, “as people seem to rate the performance more highly” than the finished piece, they add.
Their recent poster campaign for Tiger Beer included a slick video of its creation, and the duo also contributed to Absolute Vodka’s Absolute Blank campaign last year, which showed designers and artists customising large-scale vodka bottle-shaped canvases.
Illustrator Dale Edwin Murray, on the other hand, has only recently ventured into live illustration – his vector-style of work doesn’t obviously lend itself to the live medium. But he did some live doodling for Google’s Think Quarterly publication, and in March he was one of 11 illustrators involved in Ted’s Drawing Room, an interactive, live-streamed illustration project for fashion brand Ted Baker, created by Guided.
The experience was “completely opposite of what I usually do”, says Dale. “I was a little bit self-conscious at the beginning, but once I was half-way through the first illustration, I was in my own little world.”
He believes the shift towards showcasing the creative process marks a departure from the slick, computer-generated imagery of the 1980s and 1990s. “There was very little of the human hand that you could see in most of those images,” explains Dale.
“As time progressed, there’s a lot more naive drawn imagery where the artist’s hand is very visible. [Showcasing the creative process] is almost an extension of that. It’s probably a bit grand to call it a democratisation of art, but there is a sense of trying to bring art to more of a mass market.”
Showcasing creative processes also ties into the popularity of ‘lifestyle marketing’, with brands often focusing on ‘real life’ trendsetters and creative professionals, believe Becky and Louise. “Using us in the ‘performance side’ is the same sort of idea,” they say. “Brands really want to associate with the creative process.”
One example is a recent project by live painter and illustrator Miss Led. She conceived and created a ‘making of’ video for Lynx. The film featured her creating a large scale poster, and narrating a personal story for the brand’s Angels Will Fall campaign. “Lynx was trying to widen its target market, branching out to a more ‘edgy and cool’ consumer group,” she explains. “Each of my proposed ideas involved a performance element as I felt that the street art style would translate well for this project.”