Fostering creativity in the fourth industrial revolution

We are entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). What does this really mean? Lynette Dicey, Grid’s South African marketing editor and journalist in the marketing industry, discusses the creative possibilities of our times.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – defined as a fusion of technologies and a blurring of the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres – has been dominating headlines and debates in recent years. Not only has it given rise to an unprecedented pace of innovation causing widespread disruption in every conceivable industry, but as technologies fuse it is transforming the way we work and requiring vastly different skills compared with the past.

The 4IR disruption

What does this really mean? According to the World Economic Forum, the First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now the Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.

The advertising and design industries will be no exception to this disruption. The 4IR will impact creativity in two primary ways, maintains Yatish Narsi, chief experience officer at South African-based advertising and communications agency Grid Worldwide. The first concerns how people consume creativity, including the distinctive assets that the advertising industry has long created for traditional mediums.

The brand experience is no longer focused around what we used to create around, he says, which has had a fundamental impact on how brands are designed. “Take Amazon Alexa for example. Colour, form, typography and all the other distinctive brand assets we traditionally employ are now redundant on account of voice interaction. As brands seek to become more and more integrated and seamless, their need to stand out becomes secondary to their need to fit in. We’re moving to a world that is less about the design you can see, to one that is driven by design you can’t see.”

The second impact of the 4IR relates to the tools that the industry will use to create. The role of creative industries is already being redefined as technology encroaches on spaces that have traditionally been inhabited by human creativity. AI-powered logo generators, copywriters and illustrators are starting to make their way out of innovation labs and into the mainstream. Brand agencies risk becoming defunct as these autonomous creative platforms make their way into the hands of consumers.

Software is already in place to produce royalty free soundtracks using artificial intelligence.

There’s little doubt that this will significantly disrupt the music industry and its royalty income stream.

“These tools will continue to advance at a rapid rate,” says Narsi. “However, if integrated correctly, they offer radically new potential for the creative disciplines.”

Despite the fact that the African continent is characterised by an inconsistent supply of electricity and low internet penetration, and not all the continent’s citizens have access to education and healthcare, let alone clean water, the impact of the 4IR will be felt as much here as anywhere in the world.

Impact of the 4IR on developing economies

South Africa will be impacted by the 4IR as rapidly as any other country globally, insists Narsi, adding that in some respects the continent has last mover advantage and the ability to leapfrog certain technologies.

In its favour is a large youth population, which makes it likely that 4IR technologies will be adopted even faster than in some of its more developed global counterparts.

Those working in branding, advertising and other creative fields have traditionally considered creativity through a fairly limited lens. “Is there a future in banner ad designs? Probably not,” says Narsi. “However, the principles behind creative disciplines will continue to be relevant as long as we’re solving problems and addressing realworld issues.”

And while technology will make certain jobs redundant, it’s likely to force the industry to become even more creative. “Technology has democratised creativity, and while this will no doubt threaten some people, with more people focusing on creative solutions the world can only be a better place, given that the chances of finding great ideas increase exponentially the more ideas that are produced,” points out Narsi. In fact, brands that successfully intersect at the point of purpose and meaning to become iconic and live in culture have the ability to visually articulate the face of the future, explains Grid Worldwide chief executive, Adam Byars.

Underpinning all the agency’s work is a proprietary investment creative operating model it calls ‘make it mean something’, a concept that is increasingly relevant when it comes to considering the role of brands in the future.

“Despite the plethora of technologies now available, the one critical skill that will continue to be sought after, along with problem solving and critical thinking, is creativity,” said Byars. “And while there’s little doubt that technology will replace what we currently do, this will allow us to evolve our role in the creative process and enable us to do more. The impact of the 4IR will be felt across every brand we service, but perhaps more importantly, it will dramatically impact how and what we create.”

Source: The Drum


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