Taking ideas to another dimension

Mark Ellis

by Mark Ellis

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 12:29


Here’s how it normally works. The client gives you a brief, you view it on your nice Retina 5K 27-inch screen, you get yourself a pencil, preferably a slightly blunt one, and a sheet of paper and you start to think about ideas. You get the picture, a creative pensively staring at a blank sheet of paper on a layout pad waiting for that eureka moment. That’s how it has always been done, well for me anyway. Oh, and it doesn’t have to be a layout pad, it could be a post-it note, a napkin from Costa or the back of a cigarette packet. I have to add that I haven’t ever written an idea on a cigarette packet but that particular cliché does help to illustrate the point of this micro waffle.

We have been conditioned to think in 2D. We mostly absorb media on a flat plane, we write, sketch ideas and watch moving images on a flat surface and that’s how our clients and their customers have nearly always experienced the work we do in the creative industry. Well, now we have a further dimension in the mix.

VR is very much a new frontier for the creative industry. Once only the plaything of the wealthy or very serious (perhaps too serious) gamers, high-end hardware like Gear VR or Oculus Rift becoming is more and more affordable. VR is coming. Gaining an ever-expanding audience, it offers a new unlimited space for creative ideas to exist. The challenge is for creative people to reach out and exploit the virtual world without the rather annoying restrictions of location shoot costs, gravity and not being able to travel faster than the speed of light.

So, what do we do now we have the whole universe and beyond at our fingertips? Well, we still need a brief. We need to work with our clients on the message, as with a press advert or web banner, an immersive experience still has to have a purpose. It needs to have clear objectives and deliver information in a direct and concise way, it needs to be on-brand and it needs to have stand-out. Even with the initial wonder of being immersed in a virtual world, although it is pretty cool to see and interact with an object in VR, it’s not enough to just present the product and expect the customer to be wowed and have a memorable message delivered.

In all, the Creative Agency still has the challenge of making the idea work hard but we have been liberated by VR. There are still restrictions, rules and things to avoid with the user experience but our thinking here at Burrows has already taken us on journeys at supersonic speeds through subterranean tunnels under cities, we have created a personally choreographed display of automotive performance on top of the Golden Gate Bridge and we have transformed engineering, automotive design and motorsport technology into art installations in a gallery created solely for petrol heads.


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So much has changed in the way we work during the time I have been in the creative business, even the way we think. For me, that image of an Art Director staring at a flat sheet of layout paper is far less representative. The creative process on VR projects is not just about what happens when you are ‘in the matrix’, it’s about the show, how you can augment the customer experience before and after the virtual experience and the concept of showmanship is key, think David Copperfield but without the cosmetic dentistry.

The creative process and ideas generation feels much more collaborative and not just as an Art Director fighting the good fight, driving things forward while keeping the vision intact. I have learned to be more fluid about change and better prepared for when the ‘creative rug’ is pulled from under my feet. I have discovered that our technical whiz kids bring new ‘craft’ to the process and the whole team add magic at every part of the journey. I hear the wonderful words ‘we can’ so much more these days and VR really has become the new ‘greatest show on earth’, so here’s to new horizons and the opportunity to work within a limitless medium.

BTW, you can still come up with ideas and write them on the back of a cigarette packet but don’t smoke, it’s really, really bad for you.

Mark Ellis

Senior Creative