Creativity at Bullhorn - Bullhorn

Creativity at Bullhorn

Creativity at Bullhorn

Is it hot?
Does it look good?
Are you proud to serve it?

Pretty good reminder if you are a server in a diner. We came across this sign and it got us thinking that we needed something similar. Is our work hot, is it good, and are we proud of it? It is hard to tell sometimes.

The Creativity Manifesto is our sign in the kitchen.

It isn’t only for Bullhorn’s designers and writers, it is for everyone who works here. The manifesto was the brainchild of Adam (AK) and Chris (CJ), our Creative Directors. But, as with all things at Bullhorn, it was then opened up to a larger conversation and systematically poked and prodded, disassembled and reassembled.

Here they are talking about it (my occasional interjections to keep them honest in italics):

1. Great work is built on trust. You must give trust to receive trust.

CJ – While the list may not be in order of importance, this feels the appropriate number one. This is the foundation of all client/designer relationships and it is fundamental to the understanding of how we work and how we make great work. Trust the people around you. Trust their commentary. Trust their belief in you and desire to see you improve. Trust that you can do better. Allow yourself to trust clients and colleagues. They will reciprocate.

AK – I sincerely believe that great design work requires risk. A leap of faith. That can only happen if we trust one another.

Editor’s note: Even though they keep saying the word “design,” we think trust is pretty important for all relationships.

2. Research before creation. Know your subject.

AK – A while ago, I came across this insight from graphic designer Jose Arroyo: “Design is content with intent. Content without intent is noise. Intent without content is decoration.” When we begin a project we must acknowledge what we don’t know. Are we working with financial planners? Modern farmers? Immerse yourself. Don’t be too quick to create. Read, watch, explore. The best solutions start with a great understanding of the problem.

CJ – Knowledge is power. Design does not happen in a vacuum. Research is imperative to the process. Making does not make you a designer. Design involves people and context. It fundamentally requires both the maker and the user.

Editor’s note: You have to picture Adam pulling at the bill of his Oriole’s hat and making a dramatic pause to really get this interaction. And, yes, Chris really did say “knowledge is power.” I was as surprised as you are.

3. Ask questions. Listen to understand, not to respond.

AK – I think our instinct is to be quick to reply. Say things to make sure the room knows how smart we are. Be patient, wait your turn, but constantly be absorbing. A dumb question doesn’t make you look dumb. Being quiet leads to miscommunication.

CJ – And then, when you learn to listen, you frame better questions. You actually understand what you hear. And people trust those that listen; that truly listen. Back to the content without intent quote–a lot of what is said is noise. Listening is understanding.

Editor’s note: Truth.

4. Do not create and analyze at the same time.

AK – This one is an important follow-up to all of that. To truly create, don’t occupy your mind with perfection. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Leave the eraser in the drawer. Delete nothing from your artboard. To get past the old ideas you have to make time to experiment.

CJ – If you’re making and trying to edit while making, you’re bound to fail. You’ll talk yourself out of all sorts of possibilities. You’ll never take chances. You’ll never allow yourself to fail, in a productive way. Give each side of your creative self proper space. Make stuff. Breathe. Wait. Make more stuff. Breathe. Wait. Repeat.

Editor’s note: This is a good one. You cannot write well and edit at the same time. Well, I can’t really edit at all, but you get the point.

5. Go where you need to go to generate new ideas.

AK – The office can be challenging when it comes to creating new work. An open floor plan, it can be great when it comes to work together. For remixing each others’ ideas, for feedback. If we trust one another (Rule 1), then this is a logical extension. You are autonomous and responsible for your work. Bullhorn doesn’t miss deadlines.

CJ – Right. The office is a place for support and collaboration. Get away. Take a walk. Find your spot. Log off. Sit quietly. It’s different for everyone. Come back when you’re ready. Come back often. Make whatever space you need your own.

Editor’s note: For the record, I like to work in the office. I have been jamming to Bitches’ Brew lately. Two drummers. One in each ear. Piano on one side, guitar on the other. Horns. You should check it out. Especially with headphones.

6. Make it smart. Make it memorable.

AK – This rule attempts to combat that path of least resistance inside all of us. We have to push past clichés. Trust that your audience is smart, they will get it. Fads are seductive, but fruitless. Strive to create something new. It will always be a challenge. But a worthwhile one.

CJ – Hear, hear.

Editor’s note: What they don’t say, but is important is that fads and cliches only work in the general. We are trying to solve specific business problems with language and design. We have to work hard to find specific solutions that work in context for specific businesses.

7. Quality is in the details, not the materials or the tools.

CJ – Good ideas are just the beginning. Understanding where to improve and how much to adjust is just as important as the idea. Refinement is the last step in making. Materials won’t get you there. Materials cannot be ideas. Materials are tools.

AK – Don’t convince yourself you need the biggest and best equipment to do great work. The nicest business cards can be let down by a typo. The tools are constantly changing, attention to detail is forever.

Editor’s note: Chris just got back from microwaving his coffee. Take that into account when you decide if what he is saying is valuable, or not.

8. Complaining solves nothing. Worrying solves nothing.

CJ – Fix problems, don’t dwell and fixate on them. If you can’t fix something, ask for help or find out what you need to know to fix the issue. If you have the ability to fix it, you should dive in. That’s how we work.

AK – Seriously. More phones calls less emails. More time in person, less text messages. No one has ever over communicated anything.

Editor’s note: As evidenced from office behavior complaining may not solve anything, but it sometimes feels good.

9. Learn from failure. Own your mistakes.

AK – The work you do tomorrow should be better than the work you did yesterday. Make new mistakes, not the same ones.

CJ – Failure is invaluable. It’s one of the ways we learn. We must have opportunities to improve and grow. This happens when we take chances and calculated risks. It’s how we learn.

Editor’s note: More insight into Chris’ philosophy of learning can be found on

10. Nothing is sacred.

CJ – Take ownership. If you see a way to make it better, make it better. You have permission to do whatever you need to do to improve a system, working process, or methodology. Tear it down. All of it. But do so with knowledge, understanding, and ability learned and refined through trial and error.

AK – Even this manifesto. Maybe a better name should be Bullhorn’s In-Progress Manifesto. Bullhorn’s Working Manifesto. Semi-Permanent. Ever-changing.

Editor’s note: If you have suggestions for how to improve this please let us know. Seriously. If we go through the trouble to make a kitchen sign we want it to be so good that it is like that Notre Dame locker room sign. We smack it every time we go to meeting. Bullhorn–Work Like a Champion Today.

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