How do you spark and nurture creativity within a corporate organization? It’s easy to get trapped in organizational silos, standard processes and daily routines. Everyone knows the feeling of being stuck, staring at a blank page and not being able to break out, to change perspective, find inspiration and create something truly new.
Having an open mind and space to let your creativity flourish is important in any job – but what if you work in design and your job is to be creative every damn day? If you create product and experiences, something functional and beautiful for others to love, you need a place to experiment, to play, to make things and break things – a sandbox.
Calling All Creators
The idea to set up such a creative playground was born in response to adidas’ ‘Creating the New’ strategy which lays out a clear intention around cities, speed and open source. Under the leadership of Global Creative Director Paul Gaudio, the design team recognized the immense potential in setting up an open source creative hub right in the middle of one of our key cities, channeling on-the-ground exploration and the influence of a wider creator collective into inspiration for the entire brand, shaping adidas’ creative direction.
Choosing Brooklyn for the first Creator Farm enables our design team to connect with and become part of the creative culture that is synonymous with New York. In March 2016, a small core team moved to Brooklyn, taking the first steps in a temporary space and one year later in March 2017, the team of 19 full-time employees, including apparel and footwear designers, storytellers, engineers and innovation experts, moved into the permanent studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The door has always been open for creators – those part of the brand family and those curious about us – and we’ve created a three-month rotation for adidas designers to explore creative concepts and develop their design skills.
I met Paul Gaudio to talk about the Brooklyn Creator Farm and how it can fuel creativity and innovation across the entire brand.
You have described the Brooklyn Creator Farm as a ‘place for creators to create’. Can you explain what you need to build such a place?
Creativity requires time and space to flourish. This is exactly what we have created in Brooklyn. Within the space, we have given the rotating staff, full-time staff and visitors all the tools they need to explore – a full maker lab, a collaborative and open environment, and access to the culture of sport and creativity that only a city like New York can offer. Of course it is the people that make it go and the work we bring into the space that makes it a powerful tool that fuels us.
Why is working at the Brooklyn Creator Farm different from the traditional way of working?
Working at the Farm requires a mindset shift. The people working there at any one time are from all over the brand – breaking out of their traditional processes and silos and collaborating with new people with different perspectives. This is exciting, and leads to new discoveries, new approaches and new creative influences in the brand.
We are never done – always a work in progress – always asking questions.
How do you ensure that the Brooklyn Creator Farm doesn’t become an ivory tower, but is plugged into the external and internal creator network?
The Farm is an open source creative hub. It is a great place to bring new ideas in from the outside, or even new ideas from one part of the brand to another. One recent example is the Farm working directly with our basketball team to reimagine the basketball shoe. People from design, development and product marketing are collaborating with designers on rotation from adidas Originals, running and training – but also folks from James Harden to Lincoln High School athletes, to cut this new path across sport culture. We’ve worked in a similar fashion with our skate team and women’s team, collaborating with influencers like Mark Gonzalez and Karlie Kloss. We also work with local artists, designers, students, universities like Pratt or FIT and museums like the Brooklyn Museum.
How do you manage to convey the inspiration straight out of Brooklyn into all parts of your organization?
The internal design rotation program is really the best way to ensure that all designers are getting the opportunity to have this new experience. Not only do we see the utility in placing people and projects there, but it’s also a great development opportunity for young designers to learn and grow, or even more established ones to break out of a rut and change perspectives. We have formal development programs that each rotation class participates in and they then rotate back into the design community and share their learnings, insights or experiences. With each rotation, the number of folks who have had these experiences, or who are touched by them, grows.
What is your vision for the Brooklyn Creator Farm in 5/10/50 years?
I see the Farm as a concept. Ideally we have more of them, across several key cities. This will increase our creative footprint and allow for even deeper connection to consumers and culture – this connection is what will propel us in the future. I do imagine that what the Farm(s) become will always be evolving as we learn and grow.
How will adidas change through the Brooklyn Creator Farm?
Like a true creator, we will continue to learn and evolve – we will get smarter, closer to culture, consumers, athletes. The Farm will play a key role in this – breaking down old paradigms, opening up new ideas and new ways of working and giving our internal creators new opportunities to learn, grow and experience those fresh perspectives on the world. I imagine a design team that is even more open and collaborative, but also even more distributed around the globe – living and breathing sport culture.
The Brooklyn Creator Farm: A place for creators to create
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