A healthy balance between personal and professional projects is the key to success for creatives working their way up the corporate ladder.
This is according to Facebook creative lead Ji Lee, who spoke to Fin24 last week after his speech at the Loeries.
Lee, who was born in Korea, raised in Brazil and lives in New York, says he has a “pure creative approach to problem solving or creating something that will delight people” because of this balance.
“When you only work on professional projects, you may lose that a little bit, because you’re so entrenched in doing things in a professional business way,” he said. “When you do that, there is a danger of losing your emotional connection and relevance with your audience.”
Lee has worked at Google, Droga5 and Saatchi & Saatchi and was listed as one of the 50 most influential designers in America by the Fast Company magazine in 2011.
Getting the perfect job
Being in a conservative advertising environment can be a hard place to be experimental, Lee found.
“People in general don’t want to take risks. That’s where I think personal projects come in really handy . . . (so you don’t get) jaded and frustrated.”
“Personal projects will eventually land you a dream job,” he added. “I work at Facebook because of my personal projects; it wasn’t because of my professional work.
“Creatives who feel they’re not where they want to be in the corporate world, should start their own journey on the side.”
History is on your side
The time is perfect for creatives to unleash their potential, said Lee.
“The time that we live in right now is the best time possible in humankind’s history to be creative as the tools are readily available to anyone, anywhere in the world to express themselves,” he said.
“If you have a passion or idea, you can create anything without spending much money or any money and spread it across the internet using social channels.”
Lee said advertising is not a good or bad thing. “It can be great when it’s relevant, (but) sometimes advertising can be a barrier for people to get to their desired content.”
In 2002, he launched the Bubble Project to raise awareness around “annoying advertising” that was intrusive to public spaces.
“Our communal spaces are being overrun with ads,” he wrote on his site. “Train stations, streets, squares, buses and subways now scream one message after another at us. Once considered ‘public’, these spaces are increasingly being seized by corporations to propagate their messages. We the public, are both target and victim of this media attack.”
He printed 15 000 stickers and pasted them onto adverts around New York, allowing passers-by to write their own bubble quotes. He then took photos of them and posted them in the Bubble Project website.
The culture jamming initiative took off globally and Lee wrote a book about it in 2006.
He told Fin24 that the initiative raised awareness around “visual pollution”.
“Using creativity and humour I want to address some of these issues that we have,” he said. “A lack of humour polarises people when communicating. When you make people smile, they will be a lot more susceptible to thinking differently about different ideas.”