Business In Archviz

By Simon Oudiette

The myth of creative freedom

Let's address something that never happens even though we wished it happened more often : full creative freedom. 
Now let's take a contrarian approach, and try to see why this is not something one should wish for! Once we understand that, we see creative potential everywhere, and we stop asking for more "freedom" because it actually isn't what really matters. 
Damn Simon, what are you smoking?!

What works generally feels like

It's a common trope in any so-called creative industries that sometimes clients are too constraining and that artists or designers can't express their full potential. 
It is true that sometimes clients will be micromanaging every decision : "place the camera here, look like this, we need the sun coming from here, and some smiling people staring right at the camera, in the foreground please". 
Seen like this, having a bit more leeway could definitely be appreciated. Maybe there was another way to frame the project that would have had more impact. Maybe the lighting choice was not that smart (full blown artificial light in the middle of a daytime image?). Or maybe that couple right in our face in the foreground is not really adding anything. 
All this though, is always up for conversation, even with the most close-minded client. It litterally is our job to push the envelope by exploring extensively a brief and a project, and then propose options and give the right keys for the client to weigh every options. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no, but it's usually worth trying.

What artists are usually after

There comes the extreme idea of asking for full blown creative freedom. After all, I know what I'm doing. I know how to make cool images. I just need the client to let me try out stuff and explain why my options are better. 
Even though I mentioned in several articles that artists tend to focus a lot on the technical aspect of images when craft visuals, they seem nonetheless to be driven towards this ideal of "creativity carte blanche". 
This seemed to be the most straightforward way, after personal work, to showcase what you can do and make cool looking images. 

How you can be too free

Taking a step back, and playing a bit devil's advocate, I'd like to raise some typical drawbacks that can appear when you have full creative freedom. 
  • Losing touch with the brief
    • One typical issue that can quickly arise if your client let you too free, is that you'll lose touch with the flimsy original brief your client gave you. 
    • After all, when you make images, you're here to deliver specific images that will need to create specific impact and convey specific information to the end viewer. 
    • Getting too caught up in potential options can lead you to focus on other topics that actually don't even matter to the client, hence why it's important to really discuss extensively the brief with the client to make sure that nothing is missing.
  • Going overboard with unnecessary detail
    • When you're too free, you might start focusing on things that don't matter. I often see that in work of students that have a quasi-obsession with how realistic their images look, but don't seem to care about what is in the image in the first place. Imagine spending hours on an image for a client thinking you're making it better and better only to discover that you completely missed the mark on what should the image be about because you had too much creative leeway. 
  • Not setting yourself the right constraints
    • Just like it is impossible to make a successful image without a clear intent, it is impossible to do anything without some sets of constraints. And when you're "free", you might actually be able to put on yourself a set of "wrong" constraints. As mentioned earlier, the brief is the first and foremost set of constraints you have to digest. If it's too light, you can then add your own spin on how to tackle the project. Setting the right constraints is akin to choosing an art direction. But if you don't choose wisely, you might be emprisoning yourself into something that is bound to fail from the get go. 
  • Focusing on beautiful images instead of successful images
    • Kind of along the same line again, I always like to make the distinction between a beautiful image and successful image. A beautiful image is one that will ... well, be beautiful. But it stops there. A successful image is supposed to be both beautiful, and convey a specific intent (the one the client needs to drive home their architectural concept). The thing is, sometimes successful images call for tameness and restraint while generally speaking "beautiful" images are more catchy, dynamic and over the top. 
  • Not having structure
    • Similarly, if you're not used to work with much freedom, you might just not even know where to start, what to focus on, and more generally how to tackle a small brief. This can basically lead you to make images that will be less impactful than the ones you could have done with a much more constrained brief from the client. 

How to find freedom within constraints

So maybe freedom is cool, when we know how to properly devise a set of constraints that make sense for our projects and make our playground big enough to have fun, but constrainted enough to not get lost. 
How do we do that? 
  • Rip the brief - conversing
    • It's not because the brief your client gives you is 3 sentences long, that they don't have more in their head. It's your job to extensively talk about the project and really lay down the actual boundaries of the brief you're being hired to work on. 
    • If you don't know what you're trying to achieve, you will not be able to make any compelling images. And if your client doesn't really know exactly what they want, they can reach more clarity through a properly-lead conversation with you.
    • Conversation is key in properly ripping the brief.
  • Master the fundamentals - learning
    • Understanding the fundamentals of composition will help both in expanding the boundaries of the constraints, and to find more freedom within those constraints. 
    • What do I mean by that? 
    • Having clarity about what are the type of questions you should ask yourself when making an image, understanding how to find answers to those questions and how it translates in a visual language is key knowledge to make the most out of the brief you're working on. 
    • If you don't really understand all the components that come into play when making images, how each of these pieces interlock with each other, then many things will feel like constraints while actually at a sublevel there is plenty of space for experimentation and play. 
  • Cultivate references - exploring
    • One reason sometimes projects can feel constrained is because we don't have a landscape as wide as we should of the possibilities. The best way to expand your mind on any topic, is to look for references. Learning how to find references and how to integrate them in your work while retaining and nurturing your own style, is key to finding freedom and leeway within any given brief. 
    • I won't go into much depth on the subject as this is litterally and entire Diamond section of my course and spans several hours of content, but one very important tip I would give is to strive for finding references for your work outside of the field of archviz. Look for photography, painting, fashion stuff, etching, cinema, dance, music, opera mise-en-scène, etc.
As usual, once we go a bit deeper, everything is a fricking mess and is not as straightforward and simple as one would think. 
Creative freedom really is something that can bring a lot of trouble if you don't have the proper grounding and background to actually benefit from it. Understanding the importance of extensive conversation with your client to co-create the right brief, having a deep understanding of the fundamentals (here is my course on the subject, wink wink), and keeping an eye out for everything happening in the world that can be a potential reference to refine your style, are key skills that need to be honed and refined constantly. 
So next time you have a constraining brief, make sure to keep your mind open to all the leeway you actually have under the surface. And if you suddenly have that awesome project with a lot of leeway on the creative direction, make sure to not go astray by first properly talking with your client. 
Hope that helps

Want to learn how to leverage the full depth of archviz concepts into your future visuals? Check out my course From The Ground Up
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About this article

It's a common trope in any so-called creative industries that sometimes clients are too constraining and that artists or designers can't express their full potential. But what if we can actually also be too free?

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About the author

Simon Oudiette

Founder at Horoma

placeSofia, BG