Turn on, tune in and broaden your horizons

A remarkable book went on sale today, one with a potent message for the creative business. A treatise on how to win work? A glossy tome showing glorious designs? No. This mini epic has little to do directly with design. Titled Utopian Nights, it sums up 34 evening talks held at Newell and Sorrell’s London office over the past six years.

Anyone close to Newell and Sorrell will know about Utopian Nights. Friends, clients, even rivals have listened to a speaker usually from outside design. Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham, the UK’s first astronaut Helen Sharman, Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt, ex-hostage Brian Keenan and biologist David Bellamy. They’ve all been there.

By publishing those fascinating insights, Newell and Sorrell is giving them a wider audience – and reminding us that feeding the mind recharges the creative batteries.

In his introduction to the book, John Sorrell recalls Tony Hancock’s classic Blood Donor sketch, observing how you can end up with “an empty arm” working in the ideas business. For him and his wife Frances Newell the remedy is “a transfusion of inspiration” from sources outside design. Hence the talks.

That remedy is obvious, but how many other designers do anything about it? Many are so locked into the business they believe it is the clients’ mission to kill creativity, failing to accept their own responsibility for jaded design.

Some designers are keen to immerse themselves and their teams in non-design activities. Significantly, these tend to be the more creative. But too many others don’t recognise the need for external stimuli, forcing flagging creativity through regular late nights and early mornings with a weariness that shows through in low morale and lacklustre work.

It doesn’t have to be as grand an event as the Utopian Nights, but you owe it to yourself and your clients to step outside the frame occasionally. Time spent well off-duty can be as profitable as hours at work. Well done, Newell and Sorrell, for showing the way.

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