You might never have heard of John Hegarty or his advertising agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), but unless you’ve been living in a cave your entire life you will have come across at least some of the work he’s been involved in. Vorsprung durch Technik? That was him. Levi’s adverts such as the guy dancing in his boxers in the launderette, or Flat Eric? Him too. He has sustained a creative career over an incredible four decades, and in Hegarty on Creativity he attempts to distil some of his philosophy regarding creativity and the creative process.
“There are no rules”, states Hegarty on the front cover and in huge type spread over the first few pages, setting the tone with deliberate irony given his purpose with this book of offering ‘provocations’ (rules in a fancy costume) on how to encourage and maintain creativity. It’s beautifully presented, with fifty concepts spread across the book in bitesized chunks interspersed with clever, witty illustrations in Hegarty’s own hand and laid out with an emphasis on visual presentation to increase impact. On topics from idea generation to technology, ego and money, he’s got advice, suggestions and anecdotes drawn from his long career.
There can be no doubt that the man has had a phenomenal career, sustained far past the point that many ‘creatives’ burn out; as such, it’s fascinating to get an insight into his philosophy and working practices, and it’s hard to argue with the points he makes in the book. What some people might find hard to swallow is the overarching sense of him being a ‘guru’, doling out wisdom to needy petitioners – there can be equally little doubt that his success has led to a certain degree of self-confidence verging on arrogance, which comes across clearly in the book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Nobody wants to read a book by someone without strength in their convictions – we want to hear from someone who knows what they’re talking about and believes in everything they say. Hegarty’s single-mindedness and determination may come across as arrogance at times, but there’s a lot to be said for those attributes in his line of work.
Overall this is a really interesting, insightful look at a range of ways in which people of all kinds can make the most of their creativity and give themselves opportunities to succeed. Very little of it is rocket science, in fact most of the suggestions seem pretty obvious…but sometimes those are the ones we all need reminding of the most. As long as you don’t mind Hegarty’s guru-like enthusiasm and slight sense of superiority, there’s plenty to enjoy here.