The value of creative partnership

—Ian Mirlin on the very special chemistry that arises when two creative minds come together in just the right way—

The value of creative partnership is an important subject that has all but disappeared from our industry in-box.

It was little more than a month ago, that The Message paid tribute to the work of Graham Watt and Jim Burt on the news of Graham’s passing. Watt/Burt is a good example of a powerful creative union of its time.

And last week, we had news that the highly respected creative duo of Peter Ignazi and Carlos Moreno has come to an amicable end. I wish them both well and have no doubt each will continue to do exceptional work.

The state of creativity in our business has taken a battering these last years.

As our agency CEO’s continue to evaluate their assets in an effort to stay financially successful and creatively inspiring, they would do well to keep in mind the ROI delivered by a solid creative partnership in terms of its short- and long-term payback to the agency, its contribution to the agency’s stature in the industry, and of course, the value derived by the clients they serve.

Some of us will remember a time in our business when creative liaisons were more the norm than the rarity. Page through a few of the old Art Director’s annuals (page through the book, don’t Google the book) and you’ll be struck by the appearance of the same partnered names repeated year after year.

It’s said that where two equally passionate and committed partners give themselves over completely to their work, it is not the two of them that produce the brilliance, but rather it is the “third person” made real by their partnership that’s responsible.

Instinctively, this rings true.

I once heard Steve Martin riffing on the fact that some of the world’s most legendary creative partnerships came together through sheer serendipity.

‘What if Laurel met Costello and Abbot met Hardy?’ he asked, ‘Laurel and Costello? Abbot and Hardy? Doesn’t sound right does it?’

What Steve was saying is that whatever we do in life, it’s not us who find the perfect partnership.

It is the partnership that finds us.

And so:

If you’re a young and rising star still toiling at the office at 10 p.m. most nights, and you can’t figure out why you and the person across from you with the layout pad or the laptop care so much about the idea you’re trying to crack, maybe, just maybe, she or he might be the other half of what you didn’t even know you were looking for: your born-to-be creative partner.

If this happens, hold on tight to one another and trust the chemistry that lies beneath.

Ian Mirlin is one of Canada’s most respected and accomplished creative talents in a career that spans almost five decades. He is the creative director at Crowdiate and a long-standing instructor at OCADU.