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Thoughts on creativity: Innovate or stagnate?

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  • Leading annual report design and production house Optima Designs reflects on what it takes to stand out from the crowd


The Optima Design profile states ‘All it takes is a revolutionary idea...’

Call them design revolutionaries if you will. Their mandate is to create audaciously bold work that makes their clients’ products rise above the others. Striving to be revolutionary time after time means being fully open to change, fresh ideas and daring ways of doing things. It means approaching even standard, run of the mill projects in novel ways. 

However, it’s not easy to change (clients’) minds, and from their perspective it’s tempting to stick to the conventional tried and tested formula, rehashing the same recipe over and over again. Thus, as designers and publishers constantly seeking to push the envelope of creativity, the challenge they face is overcoming resistance to the idea of change. Whether it’s an individual (client) or a group of people (company) they expect and encounter pushback and resistance at every turn.


Thinking out of the box

Effectively communicating the benefits of trying something new is key to the concept of change.

How easy is that conversation? From repeated experience they know all too well that it’s not an easy one. Often people are open to the idea of ‘seeing’ the proposed new concept, but then most often, they’ll want to go back to doing it the way it was done before. The familiarity of the conventional is always safer and more comforting than the new and the decidedly unknown.


Leap of faith

Design professionals crave ‘creative license’ or simply put, the freedom to run with bold concepts that are cutting edge yet have the client’s best interests at the fore. In the case of annual reports for instance, it is easy to get stuck in a rut and reproduce the same safe design concept year after year. They remind clients that it’s important to keep an open mind and have an adventurous outlook. You can have boundaries, but they always encourage clients to be willing to open up to new ways of doing things every year.


Daring to be different

During Optima’s five-year journey, they’ve had their favourites, those clients who pushed the envelope and achieved some ‘firsts’ in the industry. For instance, People’s Leasing PLC’s 2015/16 Annual Report, titled ‘Invictus’, was the first Augmented Reality (AI) Annual Report in the industry. By scanning the respective cover and pages that said, ‘Scan Me’, PLC’s story of an ‘unconquerable spirit’ is told through a video which plays on the phone.

ExpoLanka’s Annual Report 2015/16, titled ‘Way to Grow’, was the industry’s first plantable annual report. Made of different seeds used to create a unique paper for the cover and breakers of the report, these components could be planted, and they sprouted!

More recently, with Kelani Valley Plantation PLC’s cover, done for their 2017/18 Annual Report, their factory waste tea was used to fabricate recycled paper that they used to make the hardcover for the report, which was titled ‘Growth Beyond Measure’.

Talawakelle Tea Estates PLC had an Annual Report in the shape of a tea cup and it was titled ‘Stronger’. Here too they have played with tea leaves in all kinds of ways, the latest being embedded into their cover, showing the three main grades, for their 2018/19 Annual Report, titled ‘Cultured’ and just published. 

Lanka Clear has shown a keen interest in demonstrating their speed and accessibility also in a literal way, with time pieces and mobile puzzles as hard cover as in their, 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 Annual Reports.


Let’s get disruptive

It goes without saying that a creative team has to do the research and homework required to present a new way of doing things. One has to understand the client/business intimately, study new trends and research the success of proposed novel ideas. For instance, today an annual report can be done digitally, online, 3D, recyclable – the possibilities are diverse, even for this humble, staid document.

In the world of technology, the term ‘disruptive’ refers to a groundbreaking innovation that has the potential to revolutionise the way we live and do business. The ultimate example is of course the internet. Can we imagine a time when it did not exist? It is the vehicle that transported mankind from prehistoric to futuristic in the blink of an eye.

Technology is increasingly intersecting with the design, print and publishing domain promising an exciting palette for the creative community.

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