Sometimes creativity really can be child's play

How producing a kids' book gave a pair of creatives a new lease of life.

Sometimes creativity really can be child's play

Being a creative is easy. You just have to think of an idea that’s never been thought of before. Get it through the creative director, executive creative director and chief creative officer, who’ve seen every idea under the sun. 

Make sure the account team is happy. Make extra sure it’s within budget, on brief and achievable in the timings. Execute it in every media channel. Convince the client to buy it. And the client’s boss. 

And the client’s boss’s boss. Get it through research. And then your work gets made. 

We’re joking, of course. Getting something out the door is hard. That’s just part of the job. Fortunately, we’ve developed the thickest of skins to match. But the itch to get something good made intensifies every day (too many skin references?).

During a particularly dry patch several years ago, it felt more like a rash than an itch (definitely too many skin references now, we’ll stop). 

So rather than run the gauntlet and wait for permission to make something, we just went ahead and started a project for ourselves. Because we could.

And given that we have brains like children, it was the natural next step to make a children’s book. Now we realise we’re not the first creatives, and we certainly won’t be the last, to rattle off a kids’ book. But we like to think that this one’s a teeny tiny bit different. 

Because it’s a book where kids have to colour in the pages to finish the story. Yep, it’s interactive. And not in the zombie-face-up-against-the-iPad-screen-for-hours kinda way. 

The Designosaurs: the Day the Colours Washed Away is a rhyming story book featuring three friends called Rexi, Teri and Dip, who love to paint, draw and be creative. They live far, far away in the most colourful land. 

But then, one day – SPOILER ALERT – a huge storm comes along and washes all the colours away. Boooo!

It’s at this point the book switches from story to colouring book. With all the pages turning black and white, the Designosaurs invite the reader to help them colour the world back together again to complete the story and save the day. Yaaay!

We wrote and illustrated the entire book and lost count of the amount of amends we’ve done. Turns out that, without a deadline or account team, we could keep tweaking forever. 

Once we’d had the idea and got it all together, the next step was to actually make the thing. This is the moment where we’d like to pause and give thanks to all the producers out there who make stuff happen. 

It’s one thing to think of an idea, it’s a whole other thing to get it made.

We had to become experts in book sizes, paper weights, printing presses. In the end, we went with Amazon Books, which makes us sound modern and techy when, really, it’s because they would handle publishing, printing and distribution (for a HEFTY cut btw). 

The good news is, we’ve sold hundreds of books and saved hours by not being in the Post Office queue. 

What it all boils down to is that we're happiest when we're making something. Call us crazy, but we think creatives should create.

Though this isn't some side-hustle crusade. We’re not saying people need to be working all the hours and not having a life. 

In fact, the book’s taken us several years for exactly that reason. We’ve both moved house, moved jobs, got engaged, got married, had kids and lived life in the time between thinking of the book and publishing it. 

What we are saying, however, is if you're feeling a little frustrated with what you're making (or not making), wherever you are, just make something else that you do like. Creatives have become too subservient. You don’t have to ask or wait for approval. We promise*.

The Designosaurs won't be keeping the Booker Prize jury up at night. It won’t be studied by future generations as a literary or artistic marvel. But it might help a parent get their kids to sleep. And we reckon that's worth a hell of a lot more. 

So if you know someone who’s got a little one, first of all be kind. They’re tired. Then buy them this book.

Or if you’ve got kids yourself, buy this book and treat yourself to FIVE WHOLE MINUTES of peace and quiet. You’re welcome.

*Maybe check with legal first.

Pete Ioulianou and Ollie Agius are senior creatives at Saatchi & Saatchi UK. The Designosaurs is available to buy here.


Campaign UK

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