Ed on Controlling the Creative Process

if everyone is trying to prevent error, it screws things up. It’s better to fix problems than to prevent them. And the natural tendency for managers is to try and prevent error and over plan things.

– Ed Catmull (via scottberkun.com)


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    • Ya, it’s all fun n games until 100k gallons of oil starts spewing uncontrollably out of the ground.

      While it is possible to over plan, not planning at all is asinine.

    • Oil spills? This guy is talking about Creative work, not drilling into the ground. I think that “not planning” means something totally different in this context, don’t you think?

  • I don’t think this is always the good way. It costs a lot of money to solve problems on the fly.

    So, if you are on a piece of art or have a big budget with high quality execution expected from the client, I guess this is true. Just let the flow…

    But if you are on an industrial production with very short deadlines, like a news based daily animation or on a full length movie with tight budget, then anticipation is a way of finishing the job without losing money, your mind, or credit.

    I think that a balanced error prevention politic based on experience and workflow likeness doesn’t kill creativity. It structures it.

    But well that’s just my opinion.

    Also, isn’t this sentence a bit out of context, because I don’t understand if it is purely creative or technical…

    Anyway, inspiring sentence.

  • In my experience, a lot of managerial problems can be solved before you even start designing.

    I think you can overplan but at least going by a blueprint upfront (and sticking by that blueprint) is better than going by none at all and then having the rug pulled out from under you halfway through and then having to do something quite a bit different than what you were doing originally.

    It’s nice to have a lot of creative freedom upfront but not if you end up having to do it all over again. The more questions you ask, the better off you become; you need to know the client’s constraints and if there’s any leeway to break those constraints (especially when it comes to budget, design). At least if you have some kind of design plan, clients can’t pull out the rug under your design because they signed off on it originally. I’ve had a few jobs myself that the client said “show me something cool” and they ended up micromanaging the entire thing. Some clients give you leeway and that’s awesome but for every one of those people, there’s 10 more that don’t understand the design process and you end getting screwed.

    Managers seems to like to get involved at the very end so it’s important to get the decision maker(s) in your initial consult as soon as possible too.

  • Here here,

    Recognise what you saying, and reading here in the comments. Past months in the process of getting more seriously in business and in getting work done, playtime is over. And yeah, I need structure for it.

    I found it’s sometimes hard to stay focused with all kind of information popping up during the day, email, twitter, facebook and also working in an creative hub where spontaneous conversations occur.

    I like to make a list in the morning so I know what has to be done during the day and decide the order of doing it along the day.
    Planning it too strict never works but I need at least a few flows a day getting things done. A headset works really well for me, also shutting down google desktop, msn and firefox.

    But I have to say, I often sit on the couch with a laptop answering emails and checking interesting blogs. But that’s also something that’s hard to avoid when running your own business, so much to do. I don’t really mind, as long it’s not every night 🙂


  • Hi Nick, I have always found that making mistakes whether it be in school, work, or your life in general has always been looked down on.
    My name is Leigh and I’ve just opened my own daily blog called LeighTV where I express my passion for doing & making cool shit haha!
    Hope to hear from you nick!

    Best Regards


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