Creative Bites: Stuart Macmillan

02: creative bites, creative bites



What was the reaction you got, the advice you received the very first time you showed your own book?
“My first partner and I worked on our book non-stop for months before showing it to anyone. We had scrupulously crafted pieces for every medium (this was easier back in the day when ‘digital’ just meant banners). We made sure we had examples of long copy, short copy, no copy, big clients, student clients (Slim Fast, Tobasco, K-Y), brand, retail, DM…everything. We were sure we could tick every box a creative director could come up with. Turns out we forgot one thing. None of the stuff really ticked our boxes. We were so focused on trying to show how useful we could be to an agency that we forgot why we wanted to be in the industry in the first place. Our first meeting lasted an hour and we trashed every piece in the book after that. If you don’t start off making work that you love, then nobody else will love it.”

Do you prefer to look at work in a digital format, such as on a laptop, a tablet or an iPad, or do you prefer a physical portfolio?
“I admit I have a bit of nostalgic love for the old black portfolios you used to see being lugged around town and I honestly don’t care what format your work is in (unless you’re trying to get me to read long copy on your iPhone). But with so many fantastic ways to share your work online, where feedback is free and immediate, I just don’t see why anyone would bother doing it the Mad Men way.”

What are your biggest pet peeves about the work in most junior portfolios?
“There’s a fine line between fighting for an idea you believe in and clinging to a dead one. If I trash your favorite idea it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it just means that I don’t like it. It’s up to you whether or not you take my advice. But if it gets trashed by the next three people in line, kiss it goodbye and come up with a better one.”

How important is it for a portfolio to be highly polished?
“If you’re a writer, then your portfolio can be a bunch of post-it notes for all I care. AMV BBDO designed their entire site like that a few years ago to show the clarity of their thinking and it worked beautifully. If your passion is web design then post-it notes probably aren’t going to cut it. Either way, it’s important that you show creative directors not only that you can come up with brilliant ideas but that you have the passion and ability to craft them into brilliant work. ”

What would get your attention more, a portfolio full of amazing ‘traditional’ work or pretty good boundary stretching work?
“No successful agency solely produces ‘traditional’ work anymore. The media clutter is so overwhelming today that traditional simply doesn’t get noticed. Not by clients, not by their consumers and definitely not by award juries. That being said, there’s no reason a newspaper ad can’t be boundary stretching. And if you can crack that, then you’ll get more views than a tired flash mob stunt will.”

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