There was an old TV show in the UK called Blankety Blank, where the panel would have to fill in the blank of a sentence or saying with the correct word. Often this would result in some rather abstract and hilarious double-entendre. So, in the spirit of TV nostalgia, and as a fitting prelude to the rest of this article, I give you my very own Blankety Blank – but there’s no cheque book and pen at the end.
The Blankety Blank is “Hello, my name is Matthew Flaherty and I am a __________ Designer”.
The ‘blank” I am referring to is ‘Creative’.
If we take the dictionary definition of that word, the noun would be ‘a person whose job involves creative work.’ This is good news for me. My role at SAP in South Africa is one that involves a lot of creative work.
The adjective definition for ‘Creative’ is ‘relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something’.
While it is not for me to correct the definition, I feel I should point out that the description does not cover the plethora of emotions I go through each day; ranging from “You want me to do what by when….”, all the way to “And here is something I like to call Triptych in Blue Number 7, it’s part of an installation I call Never Mind the Pollock’s”; as I said, wide-ranging emotions.
Let me say this first. I am extremely lucky. I get to create and design pieces of art every day. Not that I am chiselling away at marble or rigging sharks and farm animals in formaldehyde (which would be super cool). Instead, I get to create business art that is seen and used by the awesome people at SAP, and the awesome customers our awesome people at SAP engage.
This ‘Art’ is to create business stories and visualise them in different media. Make moments of wonder, moments that show our customers how much they mean to us, and moments that have on occasion gotten high fives and rounds of applause.
This luck I referred to earlier, or perhaps its stubbornness (not sure which), has driven me throughout my career. From a young art and design student, then various paying jobs, onto several consulting firms, then finally to the mothership of SAP itself; where I somehow managed to turn myself into what I am now.
And what I am now, is what I always wanted to be. I was just too afraid to let myself accept that this is what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Creative Designer.
Ever since I was small, I would draw, doodle, and design. I remember creating a movie poster when I was about 9 for a movie called Olbo. Our dog was called Ollie, and Rambo 3 was out on VHS (look it up if you’re under the age of 30), and I drew a six-packed, machine-gun-toting Yorkshire Terrier, in the style of the Rambo poster. Either proving that I had a desire to design from an early age, or it shows that I have some other issues I haven’t adequately dealt with yet. Let’s go with the former for the sake of this article.
I have been in my current role at SAP for three years. In that short space of time, I have delivered hundreds of pieces of design work. Going from zero to a million kilometres an hour so quickly it made my head spin. I spent the first year proving myself wrong about myself more than I cared to admit at the time; because I hadn’t accepted that I was a ‘Creative’. I was ‘Creating’, but I did not value myself enough to handle the “Creative” tag.
The second-year was spent correcting the mistakes of the first, and indeed, making more understandings of what it meant to be a Creative Designer, and more importantly, what it means to be a Creative Designer at SAP. Yet I still could not accept using the word ‘Creative’ to define my role – though I was doing it very well.
And, as with every trilogy, comes the third instalment. Fortunately, it’s more Toy Story 3 than Godfather Part 3 – in that the third year has been a year of change, growth and acceptance. A fitting bookend to the first two instalments of the franchise (not counting the glorious Toy Story 4, which I look forward to aligning with my 4th year in this role next year – but hopefully you get the point).
As this third year draws to a close, I have accepted that I am a Creative Designer. I have accepted that I can stand next to other Creative Designers and not feel terrified that they have skills I can only dream about having. I have accepted that I have a talent for doing things differently, for creating moments of madness that my colleagues help to shape into creations that not only have merit but meaning and soul.
To be a Creative Designer at SAP, and this is purely my own opinion; you need to be brave enough to tell it like it is, bold enough to make ridiculous suggestions, and bonkers enough to follow through on your outrageous ideas. In making moments that matter with our customers, a Creative Designers role should be to add the WOW factor, bringing the business story to life.
I feel that this work is not a job; it is the transfer of energy. That energy transfers into a design that is creative and inspiring. I believe that design has the power to change the world. I believe that when a Creative Designer works with the right team, boardrooms are no longer BORED rooms. And PowerPoint is not the enemy.
But I digress. Now I can use the word Creative, and say I am a Creative Designer without fear.
So, to close this article as I should have opened “Hello, my name is Matthew Flaherty, and I am a Creative Designer. ” There, I finally said it.