When Creatives have to bring non-creatives on-board.

I finally got around to reading Robert Pirisg’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you haven’t read it yet, let me say right now this is not a post about spirituality, soul searching or a review of the latest Ducati…

One of the key concepts he delves into that I found most relevant to my line of work had to do with Classical vs Romantic thinking.

Pririsg defines Romantic thinking as:

“The romantic mode is primarily inspirational, imaginative, creative, intuitive. Feelings rather than facts predominate. “Art” when it is opposed to “Science” is often romantic. It does not proceed by reason or by laws. It proceeds by feeling, intuition and esthetic conscience. To classical thinkers, romantics can be seen as frivolous, irrational, erratic, untrustworthy, interested primarily in pleasure seeking. Shallow. Of no substance…”

He defines Classical thinking as:

“The classic style is straightforward, unadorned, unemotional, economical and carefully proportioned. Its purpose is not to inspire emotionally, but to bring order out of chaos and make the unknown known. It is not an esthetically free and natural style. It is esthetically restrained. Everything is under control. Its value is measured in terms of the skill with which this control is maintained. To a romantic this classic mode often appears dull, awkward and ugly, like mechanical maintenance itself… Nothing is figured out until it’s run through the computer a dozen times. Everything’s got to be measured and proved. Oppressive. Heavy. Endlessly gray. The death force.”

Does this remind you of particular departments or individuals you work with?

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier post, “Creatives, you ultimately work in sales…” , one issue I’ve seen again and again in agencies and businesses is the clash, or really lack of understanding, between creatives and non-creatives. This leads to arguments and frustrations on either side. And no, that guy who thinks your idea is crap isn’t necessarily an idiot or a jackass; more than likely he’s thinking in a completely different manner than yourself. He’s speaking in an entirely different language of priorities, perspective and/or what he considers “good.”

This seems stupidly obvious when looking at it written out, but even I still get caught on this dichotomy of thinking when an idea or design I’ve presented is hitting a wall of “no.”

So how do we get beyond this…?


Half the battle with tension between disciplines is pure ignorance of what the other discipline actually does within the company. What their day-to-day work entails. How their success is measured within the discipline, the company, or the industry at large. If you are having difficulty getting through or if you think someone from another discipline isn’t “getting you” or your approach, it’s time for an education session. Let them know what you do, who you report to, what those people expect of your work, and be sure to include your perspective on they can get the best out of anyone working in your discipline.

Example: the idea I repeat the most to people who are not working in creative includes, “I solve business problems in a creative manner; I am not a Photoshop jockey. Instead of spending time figuring out and telling me how to fix something, let me know what problem you need to be solved and I’ll solve it – that’s why I’ve been hired.” It’s shocking how many times this has reset relationships with other non-creatives. And I advise you to ask the other person how he/she would boil down their role, especially in relation to the project you both are working on.


When you are under pressure with tight deadlines and budget, a lack of understanding between teams can be amplified. Everyone is feeling it, not just you, no matter how cavalier someone might seem about frustrating or devastating feedback. Once again, they are approaching the issue from a different view point and a different set of priorities. And understand that they are on the hook too. If you feel they are putting undue pressure on you or making more work for you instead of doing their job better (from your perspective!), first, take a breath and count to 10. THEN, as calmly and sanely as you can, let them KNOW the position you are in, what can be reasonably expected as output and how that lines up with the overall objectives for your discipline for that project.

And if you think they are STILL taking the piss (this is assuming you’ve done your education session), then feel free to raise it with your boss and/or theirs.

We’re All in it Together

Ultimately, if you are in a well functioning business, whether in-house or agency, you are all ultimately chasing after the same thing – success for the company. REMIND YOURSELF of this every time colleagues not in your role get your back up. If everyone from all departments can go back to that one central notion, it might ease a lot of departmental tension. Yes, there are egos and politics to contend with – it might seem that most people are really only out for themselves, but in the end, their success means success for the business which should benefit ALL of you. There is no point throwing people under the bus because you either don’t understand or appreciate their roles in the company’s success. If your education sessions haven’t helped, then talk to someone high placed in the company to explain why a particular discipline or person is important to the company success. If that doesn’t work and you still feel like you are working with a bunch of immature, selfish wankers, then it’s definitely time to either get yourself some therapy or move on to a company whose process and culture gels more with how you want to work.