If you haven’t been watching it at all, don’t worry. For a start, it’s bound to be on I-Player, but also I wouldn’t actually recommend watching it in full. Despite three months' filming, the material is very thin and painfully spread out over six episodes.
In fact, unless you are a goldfish or similarly stricken in the memory department, it’s impossible to watch a single episode without a finger on the fast forward button because the same scenes are repeated three or four times.
The bits that are worth pausing and watching are when Philippe Starck sees and comments on the work presented to him by the young (and, in the main, unbelievably clueless) designers.
(For the uninitiated, the programme follows an Apprentice-like format where the designers are competing for a placement in Starck’s agency and the chance to see their idea for a product and brand brought to life).
What’s great is that Philippe Starck doesn't really comply with the expected Alan Sugar role and behaves exactly like a Creative Director does.
(If you haven’t seen Philippe Starck in action before, watch him here on marvelously unconventional form on TED talking about his approach to design. Do watch it. In fact, if you’re short of time, abandon this post and just watch the film instead. It’ll take you 18 minutes to watch and provides plenty of food for thought.)
He swears a lot. He's rude. Unpredictable. Undecipherable. Demanding. Unbending. Despairing of his students. And of course, usually spot on in his judgment.
I have to admit it was cathartic for me to watch him berate his bungling students as they make every mistake in the book in their dealings with Starck (all of which I’ve made myself of course).
There is though an awful lot to learn from the advice Starck gives and not just for creatives. Most of us take some kind of comments from our peers, colleagues or our clients on our work at some point and the programme is an excellent reminder of how best to respond (by showing you how not to). So here are a few key points that stayed with me that might be of interest to you.
You have to work hard for good ideas. Starck's mantra is 'Work, work, work'. At first, his students understood this to mean sitting at their desks for a few hours, throwing together a few rough ideas. Some of them eventually learnt otherwise. What Starck really means is that you have to immerse yourself entirely to get the best ideas. You need to do research, really understand the people you are designing for and keep working on your ideas until they are thoroughly thought out.
And of course, the same applies to fundraising. This last post talked about a particular piece of research and the fine-tuning it enabled us to make to a successful programme. But, more generally, good ideas come from understanding donor needs and keeping in touch with what donors say (here's one way).
In the work we do at Bluefrog, it also means really understanding the work that a charity does and what makes it special. As much as possible, we try and see projects ourselves (geographical locations permitting) and talk to the people who actually do the work. That's how you get real insights you can use to inspire other, as you'll see in this old post.
You need to be able to present your ideas. As well as coming up with good ideas, you need to be able to present them to others. On a practical level, that means being able to draw them up, but also talking them through first with your creative director, then your client. For many creatives, this is one of the hardest things to do but like everything you do, the more you do it, the better you get. And the most important thing is having your own style, which doesn't need to flamboyant or overtly sell hard. As you'll see from the points that follow, Starck's students had to learn that listening is an important part of presenting.
Don’t be precious about ‘your’ idea. An idea is a starting point and can be developed in all sorts of ways. A very small number of Starck's students eventually understood this. Most were precious about 'their idea' and, as a result, were rigid in their outlook. Despite being asked to rethink, they stuck very closely to their first idea and did not take up the suggestions and advice they received when they presented their ideas for others.
A colleague of mine at Bluefrog sometimes says, 'There's no one more creative than all of us'. And working with a group of people who can encourage you and help you (rather than pursuing the cult of the individual) has a number of benefits – better work and more fun.
Be brave. At key stages, the most successful students were actually able to abandon pretty much all the work they had done and start again, retaining only the first kernal of an idea. Being able to radically re-think your work to make it the best it can possibly be is a real asset.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Many of Starck's students hated the comments he gave them when they presented their work. In a way, it's no wonder. Being told your work is 'bullshit' isn't much fun, but a couple of students were actually able to take it – eventually. Most however turned their criticism to Starck himself (not a good idea), complaining about his comments. It's an easy trap to fall into, but I guess you have to try and see it from Starck's point of view and, if he really can't find anything more constructive to say about a student's work, it's because it's really bad (!) and what's he's trying to do is give someone a (literally) rude awakening so that they actually see this for themself.
So I'll end with that today. Let me know if Philippe Starck's key questions work for you.
*If you got to the end of the Philippe Stark talk on TED, you’ll appreciate the significance of these words.