Nikita Mishra
Aug 9, 2023

Beyond labels, Merlee Jayme's 'Create Different' mindbook taps into neurodiverse talent

INSPIRATION STATION: "If there is an autistic spectrum, there’s an artistic spectrum too," says the ex-Dentsu creative on launching the first-of-its-kind mindbook to assess neurodivergent skillsets for the ad industry.

Merlee C. Jayme, founder and Chairmom,  The Misfits Camp. Mindbook's cover design and illustrations: Alexandra Cataluna
Merlee C. Jayme, founder and Chairmom, The Misfits Camp. Mindbook's cover design and illustrations: Alexandra Cataluna

One in five of us has a different brain function. Labels like autistic, dyslexic, having ADHD, or other kinds of neurodivergence can create challenges in a rigid and traditional setup. Exclusions, for the neurodiverse group, routinely begin early with school and don’t end at finding a foothold at the workplace.

Challenges are multitude; often hidden, misunderstood or stigmatised but fortunately not insurmountable. One of the biggest is finding employment—statistics say unemployment for neurodivergent adults runs as high as 30 to 40%, three times the rate for people with disability and eight times the rate for people without disabilities. Recognising the vastness of this untapped potential, Merlee Jayme, former chief creative officer of Dentsu Asia-Pacific and currently the founder of purpose-driven venture ‘The Misfits Camp,’ has created the first mindbook to assess a neurodivergent’s creativity.

Aptly titled ‘Create Different’, Jayme, along with artist Alexandra Cataluna designed this one-of-a-kind mindbook to bridge the divergent’s skills and capabilities gap with 70 pages of fun visual exercises and digital arts with different lessons and evaluations for the neurodivergent creative assessment.

“The book and the work we do at ‘The Misfits’ is a labour of love,” says Jayme, who has held various creative accolades in her advertising career, the most prized being the lead for DEI in the region.

“That role opened my eyes to building the right culture at work and fostering people's kindness and acceptance. I’ve learned so much with my work at The Misfits. Some people perceive the autism spectrum as a flat line with 'less autism' on the far left and 'more autism' on the right-most end. And depending on how a person is diagnosed, a lever moves from left to right to gauge the level of autism. This is far from the truth," she adds.

"The creativity which neurodiverse bring is so unique; their skills, level and focus are all different from one another. It's more in-depth versus linear. One divergent's strength was writing, another was illustrating, and yet another was photography and film. I gave them tests on tracing, illustration, basic painting, and started collating these tests and evaluated how each student reacted and executed them,” shares a very proud Jayme.

“This mindbook book has all that and more.”, she says.

"Some people perceive the autism spectrum to look like a flat line with 'less autism' on the far left and 'more autism' on the rightmost end. And depending on how a person is diagnosed, a lever moves from left to right to gauge the level of autism. This is far from the truth," she continues.

"I find this so interesting because it’s visually explaining to me what the autistic spectrum is. As a creative, this is exactly how I visualise the artistic spectrum. This is a similar colour wheel where different kinds of creative talents are shown around it. A creative person can lean more on writing and more on visualising. The levels of talent differ for each person."

So, how why this mindbook, we ask?

"Because autism and creativity are the 'gift of different,'" she responds whilst stressing the responsibility of the industry to celebrate the differences in personality traits instead of pathologizing them.

As Jayme puts the first mindbook in motion, she is studying the behavioural spectrum of ADHD for another specialised course.

"Similar to the autism spectrum diagnosis, the artistic spectrum will somehow identify the creative strengths of an individual," adds Jayme.

Not the one to do lip service, in line with what Steve Jobs famously said, Jayme vehemently believes, “The square pegs in a round hole—the misfits will change the world.”

You've arrived at Inspiration Station, a weekly look at imaginative and artistic work from creators of all kinds across Asia-Pacific. Step off for a minute to recharge your creative batteries and find inspiration for that next big idea of yours further down the track.

 

Source:
Campaign Asia

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