Dion Hughes, a creative director, on the secrets of creativity

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Dion Hughes: "And at some point, a lot of us get the creativity beaten out of us, discouraged. And it becomes a muscle that isn’t flexed again."

Creativity often seems like magic. But according to Dion Hughes, it should be thought of as more akin to science.

Hughes, an award-winning creative director, says he believes that creativity can be broken down into its essential parts and learned. He promises to reveal his secrets in a talk April 8 sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the American Marketing Association.

We all start off as creative beings, Hughes said, but somewhere along the way society snuffs out the creative spark in many of us.

“When we’re kids, that’s our most creative time, because we don’t have any filters. We’re just being human, we’re exploring the world and playing,” he said. “And at some point, a lot of us get the creativity beaten out of us, discouraged. And it becomes a muscle that isn’t flexed again.

“And for others of us, we’re able to develop those natural elements of being human. And at some point, the ones who have had their creativity turned off, turn to those who have developed those skills. And it looks like magic. We look like wizards.

“And it’s really just that we’ve continued to work on those skills.”

Hughes and his team at Persuasion Arts & Sciences audited hundreds of books on creativity. After boiling down all that information, he came up with six essential steps that lead to creativity.

“I’ve spent plenty of time with art directors sitting there staring at a blank sheet of paper waiting for inspiration to strike,” he said. “And you realize: We could save a lot of time by being more purposeful about how we approach inspiration. There are a lot more ways you can spur your brain.”

Another common misconception, Hughes said, is that of the swashbuckling creative who singlehandedly develops the brilliant campaign that saves the day.

“Ideally, you’re not doing this in the black box, behind closed doors,” he said. “You’re developing it with your client. It’s not like the [creative] brief comes in, we go away for six weeks, and we come back with the big ta-da. We work together.”

It’s not often that the magician reveals his secrets. If Hughes can really show me how to avoid staring at that blank sheet of paper, I’ll be in the front row.

Event details

“Heel, Creativity: How to Make the Messy World of Ideas Behave and Do Your Bidding”
Tuesday, April 8, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Persuasion Arts & Sciences, 16 W. 26th St., Suite 200, Minneapolis
For registration and pricing, visit www.mnama.org

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