In praise of parameters.

For many creative types, if anything is possible, nothing is. A provocative over-statement, perhaps, but it’s often true when trying to create work, art, music, poetry, and baked goods.

Endless possibility is often creatively debilitating. I mean, where to start?
For me, it’s parameters, as in “let’s tightly define the parameters of this project.”

Classical poetic forms? Parameters.
A cogent Creative Brief? Parameters.
A stretched canvas? Parameters.
Grandma’s rye bread recipe? Parameters.

Without parameters, there’s no wall to push against. No creative handcuffs to overcome. No rules to bend, ignore, or outright break. For art directors and copywriters, there’s nothing worse than a Creative Brief that has no defined parameters.

But one critical warning: all parameters are not created equal.
There’s always one that trumps all others.
I call this the “prime parameter.”

An example: a trade show presence. By its very nature, even with an unlimited budget for creative and execution, there’s a prime parameter that commands what is, and is not, possible: time. All other parameters are subservient to this one. And if you think otherwise, you better have a time machine come the night before the show and your booth graphics are “in transit.”

<em>"If she thinks I'm staring copy before receiving the prime parameter, she is sadly in needs of recalibration."</em>

“If she thinks I’m starting copy before receiving the prime parameter,
she is sadly in need of recalibration.”

As a Creative, I have a love / hate / mostly hate / “please, don’t leave me!” relationship with parameters. Without them, it’s a waste of time to even “get started thinking” about a project. Come back to me when there’s a defined budget, timeline, and client-blessed brief. But I also LOVE railing against them (e.g., “@#$%%^! If we only had a decent budget / timeline / client /planetary alignment we could do so much better work!)

You know the old marketing metaphor about the triangle of time, cost, and quality (“Choose two, and we can do it”)? Well, it’s true—and an attempt to get the client to understand the necessity of defining the project’s prime parameter. Even though the metaphor suggests there are two key parameters, in reality, there’s only one (and that one has definitive effects the other of the two).

What’s your prime parameter? Cost, Time, Quality, Award-winning, Impress my Boss; these are all examples of a prime parameter that creatives can work with. And cheat against.

So figure out your project’s prime parameter. Then we can all get to work.

– D.P. Knudten > Chief Collaborator > COLLABORATOR creative

©2017 D.P. Knudten / COLLABORATOR creative – all rights reserved

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