You Know, for Kids

As creative types, we are always looking for that "Aha!" moment when inspiration strikes or a solution to a problem suddenly rears its beautiful head. It's why clients hire us frankly. But what happens if inspiration strikes and we miss it or we pick a lame idea while a brilliant one sits in the trash? Remember The Hudsucker Proxy, a Coen Brothers movie from the mid 90s? It's a period comedy starring Tim Robbins as Norville Barnes, an idealistic, naive young man who has an idea that could make his company millions and be his ticket to the Top Floor. Norville reveals his idea early in the film to a co-worker in the mail room by slowly, reverently pulling a folded sheet of paper with a circle drawn on it from his shoe. He gets a blank stare in return. Norville's response is an incredulous, explanatory "You know, for kids!"

Norville's big reveal is met with stunned silence every single time. No one—including the audience—ever really gets it. All they see is a simple circle.

Norville sees the Hula Hoop.

So, how do we evaluate good ideas? After all, virtually every musical genius has a clunker or two in their back catalog and even Steve Jobs green-lighted the hockey puck mouse. Inconsistency is a consistent theme of creativity—those blessed with prodigious talent still miss the mark from time to time. Perhaps the greatest gift an artist can possess is the gift of discernment?

Part of the TBD creative process is to sketch as many ideas as possible and then revisit those ideas over the short term. This engages the subconscious mind and helps facilitate the separation of the mediocre from the bad and the good from the great. Some ideas cross-pollinate and combine to form even stronger solutions. Some ideas are dismissed out of hand. We purposely move to other projects or unrelated tasks along the way—a happy necessity in a small business where each designer is responsible for both invoicing and selling, creating and taking out the trash. Fresh eyes are sought from the other TBD partners and eventually the best options are shown to the client for another fresh-eyed review where the process can start all over again.

We trust in the process, but also never throw anything away. Sometimes a good idea goes unused simply because of taste or timing and sometimes an idea dismissed on Monday is Friday's winner. After all, one man's circle is another man's Hula Hoop.

You know, for kids.