08 Feb 2015

Miami Ad School X Google Firestarters

Creativity in a Constrained World

Emily Berger, 5th quarter copywriting student at Miami Ad School New York

A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of Miami Ad School New York students and I left our backpacks behind to grab a front row seat at the Google Firestarter’s event, “Creativity in a Constrained World”.

There was free booze and mini sliders that tasted like heaven on a bun (is it just me or does free food always taste better?). And, by the way, the Google offices are just as cool as they’re hyped up to be - think like, a corporate, eco-friendly spaceship. Google perks aside, I was most impressed by the sheer awesomeness of everyone attending the event. Each name tag I looked at and person I spoke to was accomplished, smart, and vaguely intimidating.

The theme of the night was based on Adam Morgan and Mark Barden’s book, “A Beautiful Constraint”. Each speaker focused on constraint-driven problem solving, and how constraints can lead to creative solutions.

Adam and Mark both spoke and other speakers included Tom Marchant (Co-Founder of the Black Tomato Group), Dr. Louise Waters (Superintendent and CEO of Leadership Public Schools), and Porter Gale (Former VP Marketing for Virgin Atlantic).

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Here are some highlights from each speaker:

Adam Morgan & Mark Barden (Co-authors of “A Beautiful Constraint”)

Adam, an English-accented dapper guy, walked on stage and immediately started doing the Mick Jagger “rooster move” with his hands above his head and knees spread. Turns out, Mick Jagger came up with that ridiculous move because he had only a small square of stage to work with at the beginning of his career and he needed a signature dance to get him noticed. Exhibit A of creativity within constraints, amiright?!

He went on to give more examples of creative solutions born from constraints and one of my favorites was the story behind “The Cat in the Hat”. It turns out Dr. Seuss was given only 200 words from his publisher and was told to use only those 200 words to write a children’s book. This, of course, led to the wonderfully repetitive book that we all love. Who knew?!

Tom Marchant (Co-Founder of the Black Tomato Group)

Tom Marchant launched The Black Tomato Group with absolutely no marketing budget, so, they had to think outside the box when trying to launch their services. Fast-forward to today and The Black Tomato Group is an award-winning, internationally known travel company with multiple brands. Also, as a creative, I couldn’t help but notice their awesome logo—definitely worth checking out.

Dr. Louise Waters (Superintendent and CEO of Leadership Public Schools)

It wasn’t long ago that the Oakland School District was really struggling. Kids were dropping out left and right - their self-motivation just wasn’t there. So, Dr. Louise Waters set out to change this. What was a fast solution to give students a more personalized, engaging education? This question lead to the creation of a wildly successful app, “ExitTicket”. The app works as a personalized student response system and helps aid personalized learning through real-time data. 

Porter Gale (Former VP Marketing for Virgin Atlantic)

Porter started at Virgin Atlantic when they didn’t even have a license to fly - talk about building something from the ground up! She spoke about the importance of relationships throughout your career “your network is your networth”, and also about continuously asking yourself what you’re passionate about as a way of shaping your career path.

Porter spoke about “going for it,” telling the story of a bunch of Californian high schoolers who reached out to Sir Richard Branson and actually miraculously got the chance to meet with him, simply by asking. Porter went on to encourage everyone to reach out to the people you’re afraid of and put yourself on the line to get what you want. Because, that’s the thing with going for it...you just might get it.

Google Firestarters was awesome for everyone attending, but for me and the other Miami Ad School students the event was that much cooler. Sure, it was a chance to look semi-presentable, not lug around our laptops, and network with the big guns - but there was a whole other element to it that excited us beyond surface level perks. The accomplished professionals at Google Firestarters are exactly what Miami Ad School students strive to become. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day student grind at school, it’s also important to take a break from the classroom, get inspired by others, and be reminded of what we’re working towards.

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