SXSW 2013: 2B or not 2B? Move fast and draw, draw, draw
It’s day four of SXSW and Austin has swelled to full capacity as an army of new faces, sponsors, pop stars, rock stars and keynote speakers join the interactive crew to share their thoughts on music and film. And while the pub banter last was about GirlTalk playing live and Daft Punk’s rumoured secret show, hundreds of startups and Kickstarter success stories were preparing their war chests for presentations and funding requests to be held today.
Which brings me to a few seemingly rhetorical questions that keep murmuring around the trenches. How fast is too fast? Has digital, the overload of information, the unlimited accessibility that comes with a smartphone and a connected social network brought about a society that is so information hungry we’re sometimes forgetting to eat? Would we prefer to check our emails on our mobile rather then spend quality time with our kids? Elon Musk hinted that he was in fact guilty of this family man sin. In defence, did Superman have kids? Did Bruce Wayne ever delay saving Gotham because he needed to freshen up? I think not, and that’s probably because in the race to conquer space, invent an all-new game console, or crack the code for artificial intelligence, it’s people like Elon Musk, Wolfram and Julie Uhrman from ‘Ouya’ (the latter two spoke today) that are solving both the world’s first- and third-world problems by fast social marketing of their relatively simple, marketable ideas.
So let’s talk about fast marketing. Years back this topic might have been considered an oxymoron. With all the planning and thinking and budget requests and consumer management procedures that were thought and actioned many months or even years ahead of a live date, marketing moved at the pace of the world. The thing is, though, that the world of marketing and hardware innovation wasn’t moving nearly as fast as it does today. Crowd sourced funding communities like Kickstarter didn’t exist and open API wasn’t even on the radar. Share information with your competitors? Collaborate with people outside of your business? You had to be kidding!
But now, that’s where marketing is heading. We need to think outside of our cubicle, our country, our category and let an idea loose as soon as it is just that. An idea. If it’s let out any later then that, it’s probably not going to cut it, or will be off trend or a copycat of something launched just the day before.
Von Glitschka, a professional ideas illustrator who tours the Pacific Coast working for agencies and corporates as a hired pencil-powered gun, demonstrated what could soon become the norm for professional marketers looking to explain a complex idea or share an idea with colleagues.
Basically, and sorry to paraphrase, Von’s short words summarised are “shut up and draw”. Von believes the art of drawing and the art of analogue expression by hand drawn thumbnails and sketches needs to sneak it’s way back into the boardrooms and digital design studios around the world. “Everyone should be drawing,” says Von, and late great American graphic designer Saul Bass strongly agreed: “If you don’t know how to draw you’re in deep trouble,” Saul said in an interview with Von filmed decades ago. In marketing that journey means starting with a pencil. A simple idea on paper without typographic detail, without the restraint of a budget, without walls around it that are dictated by IT and infrastructure and systems and data limits (all of which are likely to change out and evolve before your company knows it).
Saul continues: “Learn to draw, or you’ll forever be crippled by not being able to express yourself. Don’t avoid it, but rather exercise it regularly”. And he’s got a good point – a picture really is worth more then a thousand words. What’s more, in a digital age where ideas and marketing and CRM systems are complex and come with technology-based limitations, why be restricted by the details lost in pages of emails? An idea often too complicated to talk through might indeed be better sold as a doodle.
“If you don’t draw you’re automatically culling your ideas, as your know that the idea will take too long to get to if you had to design it to pitch it,” Saul rants on screen, “so if your job is to sell ideas or process, or new ways of doing something, how can you not start learning to draw?”
So where can you start? Well, here’s one quick tip that both Von and Saul can happily agree on: start by thumbnailing! Thumbnails should be thumbnail size. Tiny. They need to be quick, never be over-thought and have as much detail as possible removed. You should always draw more then a dozen thumbnails for the same idea then shortlist the best thumbs to move forward on. Consider this rapid prototyping. Thumbnailing is the easiest form of ideation where your not refining ideas, your mining them. Did you know Alfred Hitchcock was one of the fist directors who storyboarded out the entire movie, just like Pixar still does today?
If you’re now thinking, “I can’t draw, my pictures of ponies looked like sea turtles as a kid,” well, you probably haven’t picked up a crayon since, right? But it’s so important that you do, that you start, that you try to get some of those lost childlike skills back into your briefcase and carry them into the boardroom.
Why? Here are some numbers from a research piece by Von: drawing has the potential to communicate an idea six time quicker then by words alone! Six times!
So if you only use words, the stats are that only 6% of information is usually remembered. As opposed to words with visuals which increases the retention of information all the way up to 65%. The reason for this is because 75% of your branding processing is dedicates to visual orientation.
This doesn’t mean that your next presentation should be death by PowerPoint. Far from it. Rather it means that you should get up, get a marker and make your mark on the whiteboard or a piece of paper shared across the table.
“Our industry might be digital driven but ideas are still best developed in analogue form,” was Von’s final words of wisdom. I agree, but still love my iPad and would suggest perhaps meeting Von halfway by using an app like Procreate or Adobe Ideas.
So go on, get that 2B pencil out and get drawing your idea.