The Changing Creative Workplace

Posted by Kendra Futcher on 14.11.17

Long gone are the days when creative gods would sit there in their black polo necks with their feet on the desk conducting the creative brilliance from the comfort of their Hermann Miller chair. Did that ever even really happen?

Our creative workplaces are changing – both physically and culturally. A new kind of graduate is emerging, one who isn’t necessarily desperate for that foot in the door at a big name agency where they would be prepared to do anything, and work as many hours as necessary to earn the title of junior designer. They’re confident, empowered, and knowledgeable and have their own ideas about how things can be done.

Welcome to the world of the millennial.

Combine rapidly evolving tech with the millennial mindset and we really are in a brave new world. Us Generation X and Y‑ers need to catch up, wake up and refresh our thinking. It’s old news that today’s workplace must be flexible, open-minded, innovative and creative.

Moving Brands have recruited intern, Andrea Kerwat on his gap year from university. Consultant Anthony Dale says:

Within weeks of joining us is contributing thoughtful and considered content at a strategic level. He’s very mature, switched on, commercially aware and fast. It’s just one person but if he’s an indicator of the millennial mindset, then more please.

Back in the day, it was standard to do a day’s work and then stay until 2am in the name of that small and low-paid identity project for a fashionable and well-known arts organisation. This is not OK now. Today’s design graduates aren’t looking for a lifeline, they’re happy to create their own. They bring an entrepreneurial spirit, a hunger for all that is new and cutting edge ­– no boundaries and no restrictions.

I developed this spirit later in my working life after years of doing my time for the great and the good. The creative industries had to evolve – they’re driven by technology and hinged on imagination and creativity – together they had to result in a more flexible and fluid culture and approach.

Moving Brand Intern, Andrea says:

My biggest fear while studying at university would be to end up in one of those corporate graduate jobs where one would be stuck in the same old routine for god knows how long. When I got introduced to Moving Brands, I knew I wanted to work there straight away. The very inclusive, creative and fresh mentality of the company struck me straight away.”

My own experience working in house within the Tate & Lyle Marketing department recently backed up Anthony’s observations. I worked closely with 3 graduates with diverse degrees from different disciplines. The common thread was their get in and do it’ attitude – they aren’t held back by hierarchy (yet) and exude strength and confidence. Put them in front of senior people and they don’t flinch, but are instead eager to contribute and voice their opinions. Brand Director, Alissa Clarke says:

Their ability to just find out something and make it happen on any website or platform was amazing. I would hire them in a second because of this. In digital comms we need the ability to understand technology and get in and troubleshoot all day long. You can’t always teach someone that ability.”

But this risk-taking and fearless attitude is there for good reason. Millennial babies were born into a decidedly shaky economic situation that could only have a major impact on their attitudes and perspectives. Chaos was rife around the globe and powerful institutions and individuals were not to be trusted.

The millennial mindset is driven by a free-spirited approach to work and employment that’s fuelled by a thirst for innovation and empowers and enables personal success.

I guess our generation has been raised with an inherent fear of the corporate world where one’s creativity/​ideas/​sense of purpose would get lost in the massive corporate machine… People my age are more entrepreneurial, they want to be their own boss while seeing the impact they have on the world,” says Andrea.

And social media has a big role in all of this, showing graduates and young people how we’d all like the world to be, rather than how it really is most of the time. I wonder if Instagram et al give graduates an unrealistic expectation of the mythological working world they portray? Or do we really have the freedom to create our own professional utopia? The millennial spirit is inherently fluid in every way – when it comes to identity, sexuality, religion and work. Technology has enabled this freethinking spirit to thrive. It’s now possible to have a job and set up a business at the same time; build your own website; crowd-fund an idea through Kickstarter; or create an app that sticks and end up in the Forbes Rich List. The opportunities are infinite.

As we look to the future to a world of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence and machines, creativity and imagination have never been more important. This spirit is without doubt designed for this brave new world. Us Generation X folk have a lot to learn.

Illustration credit: Adrian Barclay.