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We Need More T-Shaped Creativity

by David Armano  |  
May 9, 2006

Interactive Marketing needs a holistic approach to creativity that blends big ideas with simplicity....

You've probably heard of the term "T-Shaped People." Not sure who exactly coined the phrase, but the first time I heard it was from IDEO's Tim Brown.
The notion is simple–cultivate people on your team that have a core competency, but can easily branch out (like the shape of a T). They ideally possess traits such as curiosity, empathy and aren't afraid to ask why. And there is a distinction between this type of individual vs. a "jack-of-all trades." The core competency and branches are complimentary, with the branches being secondary strengths. It represents breadth and depth of skills.
Here's a brief but true story of where some T-shaped thinking could have been leveraged. Our creative team recently got together to review some of the work being done out there in the Interactive space. One of the examples we looked at was a Puma mini-site. Oooh's and Ahhh's could be heard as we made our way through the experience. Clearly there was a big idea here–it was clever, it was fun, had well-written copy, and was differentiated.
Only one problem. Halfway through the experience, no one could figure out how to get back to the starting point. So, we simply gave up and moved on to the next example. It was a Debbie Downer moment. You could almost hear the wah-wahhh.
Sad but true. How could such a compelling experience go wrong? It was missing a piece of the "T"–in this case, usability. What Interactive Marketing needs more of is "T-shaped creativity".
T-shaped creativity means starting the creative process with some key insights to inform a creative/experience strategy, which in turn leads to a big idea and concept.
But it doesn't end there. The interactive experience needs to be useful, usable and desirable in order for it to work on multiple levels. Take out one piece of the "T" and the experience is incomplete.
Notice anything about the "T-model"? Usability is dead smack in the center. It helps connect the other branches–yet when we set our creative teams off to create amazing experiences, we often under-emphasize usability.
As we look to Web 2.0 and beyond, T-shaped creativity is needed more than ever. The more interactivity, motion, and rich media embedded in the experience... the more critical it is to champion work that is on brand, on strategy, creative–and easy to use.

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David Armano is a practitioner of Experience Design and a creative director for Digitas. He blogs about creativity, innovation and design at Logic + Emotion. David is also a contributor to FutureLab, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix  and Royal Academy of Art, The Hague

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  • by Hee-Haw Marketing Fri Aug 4, 2006 via blog

    The Fix Is In 5 (5) Integration doesn't mean you can do television AND radio.Advertising, Public Relations, Customer Service, Operations, Interactive...Then Media, Creative, Account Service, Account Planning, Accounting (yes, even accounting)...Then advergaming, exper...

  • by Elias Mulugeta Sat Dec 15, 2007 via blog

    need to know

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