Ideas for ideas

How do you get to great ideas? Crowd DNA's creative delivery knowledge leader, Eric Shapiro, shares some pointers from a recently attended talk which, among other things, referenced Spandau Ballet, Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies and Manchester's Hulme Crescents estate - and yet all made complete sense...

Hugh Garry has one of the more enviable jobs in media. The ex-BBC producer runs Storythings, an agency that helps clients find new ways to tell their stories, mainly through digital media. Recently, he helped Crowd favourite Gruff Rhys develop an app to complement his new book and aided MOMA in New York in improving their online video offering. Hugh’s job involves consistently coming up with great ideas. In the most recent of the increasingly Crowd DNA-blogged Shoreditch House lectures, he turned his attention to this very topic and advised on a few ways of helping us think more creatively and to come up with great ideas more frequently.

Ideas are a complex blend of serendipity, facilitating the connection of disparate experiences, and opening your eyes to the world around you. The most challenging element of Hugh’s talk involved grasping the concept of allocating time to facilitate these processes. Staring out of windows more often was recommended, as was going on long walks and, perhaps more extremely, taking a year’s creative sabbatical away from the office. Good ideas can’t be forced to happen, but there’s things we can do to increase the odds.

Initially, this strikes as very luxurious. It’s a lovely idea to leave the office and go for a walk around, but sometimes stuff needs to get done, right? Well, yes and no. Good ideas hold water, therefore taking the initial time to come up with something solid will save time in the long run. Furthermore, it’s great ideas that keep agencies like ours relevant and worth their salt.

Why the picture of Spandau Ballet? Among a whirlwind of colourfully diverse cultural reference points, Hugh pointed to them as a case in point when it comes to losing the effortless and the serendipitous, and instead forcing the issue; thus gravitating from just about the coolest thing on his radar as an 11 year old, to bland pop filler by his mid teens.

Nobody wants to end up like ‘Heart Like A Sky’-era Spandau Ballet. So maybe I’ll get out of the office for the lunch break after all.


We resurrected this one from our old blog (it's just too intriguing a notion to discard). Data cuisine: bringing research to life in a manner that's humorous and revealing in equal measure, explains Crowd DNA managing director Andy Crysell...

From hacking events to music innovation seminars (and, of course, the odd DJ), the Sonar festival in Barcelona is not short of stuff to get you thinking differently. But we weren’t necessarily expecting to encounter a session on data visualisation – particularly one that involved food.

Susanne Jaschko and Moritz Stefaner’s data cuisine project for Sonar saw them work with a group of 15 people at the Center Of Contemporary Culture Of Barcelona, collecting statistics about the city and expressing them via new recipes, prepared with the assistance of professional chefs. It’s an interesting and radical realisation of the oft discussed challenge of bringing research to life – humorous and revealing in equal measure (though obviously not so easy to knock up when a client deadline is looming).

You can find out more about their work here. Visualisations cooked up to date include a fried dorada, with sections prepared in different ways to represent emigration from Spain (battered fish for the UK, with a wine sauce for France, cooked in beer and parsley for Germany etc); the sex lives of folk in Barcelona depicted through noodles; a cocktail made with measures to represent suicide trends; and an unemployment Pan Con Tomate.

Crowd DNA’s toaster and microwave will soon be put to the test.