By Cade Martin
As a kid, I spent many a dinner at a table surrounded by friends of my parents, an eclectic cast of characters — sculptors, writers, painters, creatives. That thread of creative community has remained in our offices, our teams, and our collaborations. But that thread feels thinner in this moment.
So I asked, with the purpose of sharing, and of supporting and caring for this creative community in its current, uncertain reality. I asked what people are doing, how they are feeling, how they are sparking creativity. It feels important to share what we do, when we can’t do all our doing.
Reaching out first to some of the talented people I’ve had the good fortune to profile though the Capitol Communicator portrait series. It’s my version of a virtual dinner table of sorts. Grab a chair and listen in to my conversation with Andy Steenberge, Creative Director, Rosetta Stone.
Andy, what, if anything, are you doing differently?
I think it would be easier at this point to name the things I’m not doing differently. Obviously working from home has brought the same issues that have become almost cliché at this point – I’ll assume that no one wants to hear about all the spiders I’ve been called upon to kill in the middle of a video call or just how many TikTok dances I can identify (27). I also never noticed just how much swearing happens in brainstorms, so it’s been fun to hear the creative euphemisms. Truthfully, the biggest difference for me has been how much we’ve had to consider the immediate societal context when creating new work. First with COVID and now with the social movement supporting Black Lives Matter, we’ve had to really take into account the world we’re living in and how it can change in an instant. It can be a real challenge to create bold impassioned content and creative that pushes the brand forward while making sure not to come across as either tone deaf or opportunistic. Our brand has always focused on being a source of positivity and hope, so it’s opened up some very unique opportunities to connect to people with a meaningful message, but with so much changing so quickly, we’ve had to move equally fast to make sure that message is relevant.
Are you staying creatively active?
That thankfully hasn’t proved to be much of a challenge at all. Leading a very talented in-house creative team, we’ve taken this as an opportunity to try unique ideas and create hyper-relevant campaigns and content. Knowing that we can help people look towards a positive future at a time when that’s in short supply, has unleashed so many ideas. We’ve been in a fortunate position for that.
Not to mention, ditching the two hours of commuting each day has opened up all kinds of time for me to grow some existing skills and learn new things I’ve been meaning to for a long time – learning the ins-and-outs of my new camera and steadicam, also playing around with 360° video, and even some good old-fashioned pencil and paper sketching. I’ve heard the phrase “wait, is that thing recording?” more than a few times.
How are you sparking yourself creatively?
I’ve never been one to find much inspiration through industry articles or inspiration sites. Rather, my best ideas always come from interacting with the real world – Listening to new music or funny podcasts. Reading books and most important, watching what people are doing. That’s a habit I’ve had to rework a little, but honestly so many musicians, artists, and companies have taken to the internet to share, entertain, and connect, that I’ve had access to so many talented people I’d never have imagined. I’m also the type of person who has a hard time switching off, but being home has given me the opportunity to be more active with my girls – skateboarding, riding bikes, and a much safer – but decidedly less terrifyingly/exciting – version of lawn darts. I’ve found myself feeling happier overall because of slowing down and spending time with them. So by coming at things feeling a little less overwhelmed, I feel like I’ve broken out of the old go-to ideas and been open to some exciting new ones.
Oh… and coffee. Lots of coffee!