Everybody wants someone who can 'think different'.
At least that’s the mantra everyone’s used since Apple started to run with that slogan circa 1997. Apple does very well as far as companies go; so the idea of thinking different became the most in-demand requirement for start-ups and innovators.
But there's a bit of a misconception.
Most people in need of a different-thinker will think they can find a (for lack of a better word) 'Normal' — and ask them for something different. What they're going to get is an out-of-the-box idea that just ends up in just another box titled ‘slightly less typical’.
Instead, why not go to someone who does their best thinking on the floor under a desk, has meaningful interpersonal relationships with household appliances, and who compulsively gives names to the mice in their apartment. Ask them what their version of ‘normal’ looks like?
For reference, I mourned for my toaster when it stopped working and my house mouse's name is Lord Ashley (they/them).
Yes, you want someone who’s conventional and who can do things according to format. Absolutely. Those folks are essential for stability. But if you’re in the market to innovate, you might be on the lookout for something a little bit more unconventional. The reputation I hope to bring into the world is one that defies convention, as someone who discovers new ways to redefine normal.
Out-of-the box for John Doe is something Andy Warhol would be embarrassed to share with his friends on a slow night at Studio 54. Warhol is famous for his mass recreations of product packaging. His work wanted to highlight merchandising as a form of mass-art while acknowledging that typical art looses value the more it is repeated. His cans of soup and boxes of cleaners were meant to indicate that marketing is a unique form of art where it has artistic value "only" because it is repeated. His aesthetic philosophy shaped the world of merchandising and product packaging.
However! He is not the only eccentric artist who has made a strong impact on the world of marketing.
'Normal' for Salvador Dali was shooting his portrait photograph where a duck would be exploded with dynamite. (Photographer Philippe Halsman advised against it.) But in 1969, when Chupa Chups needed a logo for lollipop wrappers, the founder approached his long-time friend, Salvador Dali, for some input. And to great success!
Before Chupa Chups, wrappers featured logos on the side. It took a Spanish artist who kept an anteater as a house pet to think of sticking the logo on the top — so it would never be obscured by wrinkles. The conventions that we take for granted were established by people who defied the conventions of their own time.
My motivation comes from finding ways to make a project special; I have a hard time just ‘toeing the line’ — I need to go beyond the bare minimum. And though I have high standards for myself, I respect that not everyone thinks or works as I do, and that not everyone should. Good work, especially collaborative work, comes from a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives. Not only do I hold others' perspectives in high esteem, I value their feedback and criticisms of my work. In the same way, I hope others value what I try to bring to the table.
If something made for an audience doesn’t spark any imagination while you’re making it, how can you expect it to capture an audience? I do not feel there needs to be a division or compromise between commercial objectives and artistic value. Both can exist together, even if it does take some hard work to make it happen.
I'm more than willing to put in a little bit of hard work.