What do you make?
What is your product, service, portfolio?
The goal of step 2
In this step, you describe the products and/or services that you make and can offer to someone else. To do this, it can be useful to take another look at your drive. After all, your products and services are often a result of your drive.
We consider your drive and your product to be the cornerstones of your business. To help you present your product clearly and powerfully, we are going to talk about a number of aspects in this step that form the foundation of your work, such as your creative strength, the creative process, the problem that you solve or highlight (and for who), and what it is that makes you unique.
Creative strength embodies three types of power, as described briefly below. If one of these is missing, you will not have a good creative product.
1. Power of imagination
Being able to think of things that do not yet exist. This is often driven by a certain desire – to have or to achieve something. You can train or refine this by practising looking for different, new perspectives.
2. Power of creation
Being able to actually create, produce, make or show the things that you imagine. This often requires craftsmanship, which in turn requires a lot of practise.
3. Power of expression
This is also associated with drive or purpose: whatever an artist makes needs to say something or mean something and – implicitly or explicitly – make these clear to other people. If a product does not say anything to anybody, there will be no audience for it.
Developed by author, educationalist and consultant Lodewijk Ouwens.
The creative process
The creative process is described here because many art academies do not make it entirely clear to their students. However, it can help to describe your process clearly to your client. Your client is often not acquainted with it, and it can help him or her understand the process that you are going to go through together. It also has the benefit of helping you reflect on your own process, and therefore develop further.
The creative process can take various forms, and varies from person to person. Here we describe a very common creative process that, though sometimes worded slightly differently, is seen in various settings.
Phase 0: Scope/topic
What is the theme of your work? What is the issue exactly?
It is important to clarify this with your client (or for yourself).
Phase 1: Gather ideas (research) – diverge
Phase 2: Order and select – converge
Phase 3: The development of one (or more) concepts
During the convergence phase, you should keep asking yourself two questions:
– what is so good about it that it could succeed?
– what are its weaknesses that mean it may fail?
Phase 4: Design
Phase 5: Present
Phase 6: Reflect (+ possible embedding)
The creative process sometimes travels along very short loops, and sometimes long, drawn-out paths. It is also possible to return to earlier phases as one phase ends. Here too, then, the process is first linear then iterative.
The creative process that is often seen in design thinking pathways was developed by Ideo. An example is:
To find out more, google Ideo creative process.
Solve a problem
In this step, it is important that you can properly articulate the problem that you solve for your client, an organisation or society. This applies in particular to designers: artists can get away with highlighting an issue without presenting an immediate solution. Or, they may make something that is so new that it cannot be a response to a known problem.
However, for creative entrepreneurs active in a commercial setting, it is important to define this clearly. Some entrepreneurs even believe that if you do not have a solution, you do not have a business.
Step 2 in the workbook addresses this in more detail.
What makes you, your product or your service unique?
This does not require much explanation. Certainly in a creative profession, it is essential to be unique and you should be able to state clearly what it is that makes you unique. This can be difficult for illustrators and photographers, for example, because how can you explain what you do and why a client should call you and not another illustrator or photographer? The uniqueness could be in your style, the way that you work (the process), your knowledge of the client or the market, or your unique insights. Try to describe this as clearly as possible, but don’t be afraid of leaving certain things out. After all, too may creative professionals want to be everything to everyone, which prevents them from developing their own identity and standing out from the crowd. You need to be able to make it clear why a client should come to you and no-one else.
If you start with your drive, you will already have something that is your own. You then create uniqueness by going through the six steps and deciding where your heart lies, what you are good at and where opportunities are to be found.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
If you have got an idea for a product, first test the market with a minimum version of it to measure the response. After all, you often do not have any idea of what your market will be exactly and what people will like the most about your product. In the beginning you are flexible and can adapt quickly, so before investing money in production and publicity first test the product in the market. This approach is described in ‘The Lean Startup’.
This means, therefore, that you start with a ‘minimum viable product’. This is a product that may not be absolutely perfect but that allows you to see whether there is a demand for it. By monitoring the correct aspects and assessing how people respond, you can make quick changes to your product and test it again. This applies not just to product characteristics, but also involves finding out whether, and if so how much, people are prepared to pay, and in what form; in other words, what the revenue model is. This is called the ‘Build-Measure-Learn’ feedback loop.
Please note, this approach does not usually apply to autonomous art.
Make mistakes as early as possible in the process. The quicker you recognise your mistakes, the less time and money you lose. This means try things out, fall down, and get better step-by-step.
You can now start Step 2 in the workbook. You will first put together your portfolio. Go through the checklist below when you have finished.
A checklist is given below to follow when putting together your portfolio:
The style must be consistent (unless you want to go into business as an all-round designer, but even then you need a common theme).
What do you want to tell; how can your work support this story? Work that does not support the story should be left out.
What do you want people to remember of you (in a word or a short sentence) when you go out the door?
Make sure that you leave a unique experience behind.
Provide rhythm in your portfolio. This starts with a strong opening, moves on to an interesting core and ends with a strong close (do not fall into the trap of putting the least interesting work at the end, as this will be remembered).
Only include good work; if you are not sure leave it out (the client will begin to doubt any mediocre work).
Make sure that the work is up-to-date; only include older work if it contributes to the story (for example because it is part of your development).
Dynamism and variety
Play with different media (use a film, for example, to show how you make your work).
Consider for each case whether your portfolio matches the person you are going to see. You have a basic portfolio that you adapt to the public; a portfolio is never finished.
Make sure your laptop is clean, your file is clean and tidy (undamaged) and your appearance corresponds to the message you want to give.
Make sure that people can contact and find you easily. Leave something behind.
You can find some good tips for your presentations here. The next steps will give you a greater understanding of the various segments and how to approach them.
You need to find a market for what you make. The next steps will give you a greater understanding of the various markets and how to approach them. This is an interactive process. It is therefore quite possible that you will discover in Step 3 (for who) that you need to adapt your service or product to a specific market. You may also discover that there is no revenue model for your product because you do not provide a solution for a problem. In that case, you will need to change your product, or position it so that there is a revenue model for it.