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Andrew Barnum, Head of Billy Blue

Andrew Barnum graduated from RMIT University (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and then started work for McCann Ericson, Sydney. Today besides working as College head, Andrew has completed a master of arts, put out a CD/CD book as a singer-songwriter and travels around the world meeting Billy Blue’s partner schools.

April 24, 2007

"We’ve had a student exchange with Berghs going on for about six years. Schools tend to be really big in scale out there in the world but Billy Blue and Berghs keep championing a smaller more intimate and focused learning environment. We have a lot in common sharing a strong commitment that we’re working for a social and commercial purpose. There has to be a deep communication aspect in all our work. Both schools are connnected to the world and are a part of the industry drive and the industry collectively as a whole."

At present Andrew is completing his own master of arts (by research) called “redefining creativity”. "It’s 60,000 words at the moment, says Andrew with a proud voice. A new form of Creativity is what’s it”s all about today, you have to work to promote that. It’s all about problem solving, and it’s about being “expressive”. You really have to learn to become a creative person if you are going to work with other people and be successful within the complex prevailing conditions. Creativity is not something that comes within your genes. It’s not a personal trait. The redefined Creativity is a measureable, rational measurement of innovation.

"Up to this point people have been keen on making so-called “creative ideas” for producing a lot of fun products and “stuff”, but now we have to be creative to sustain our complex society. We have to be more balanced and I think there is a new sense of responsibility and advocacy. I can feel that more people are trying to “do good.” Something we may have not seen since the sixties. And Berghs is on the same page as Billy Blue. Sweden and Australia are quite similar, with two healthy, sometimes messy democracies.

"At Billy Blue students get to work with the industry and be taught by top industry people. At Billy Blue students get a good sense of how creativity and communication is fostered. I believe it’s most successful as a group activity where you can measure innovation by building great ideas together, not just building your personal ego. To see the students and their industry partners thrive through “thinking and making”. Coming up with great ideas and prospering together, is a beautiful thing."

"We teach individual skills, because you have to have expressive craft, then its a collaboration where you seek different ways of solving certain communication problems. Then there’s feedback, and an opportunity to respond to that. You have to able to defend your work and make a good argument for your decisions. All these parts of the process help you grow personally but also build the group dynamics. Because group dynamics is how you learn to be creative. You bring your own individualism to the group and you’ve got to learn how to do that. It’s very important to seek out the social nature of the way we humans work together. And remember that “every idea is a good idea until it’s proven bad."

"The whole digital world has changed the hierachies in the way we work today. Before it was very formalised. Things were passed along in traditional, linear ways. This missed out on a lot of good input. You’d like to think that both the low and high guy on the tree could make their points. Today with the internet it’s more natural to share your ideas and ask for opinions. Because innovation is not going to happen unless things can come from all and every direction. You want to enhance the discussion and I think the web has contibuted a lot. When I think of the future of communication, we all have dreams. Everybody has a life experience to share. So the nature of all our humanity must be expressed - not only products and promotion. The descriptor would be something like “Social Design”. Where human experiences lead to service design that delivers us a better experience of life. We’re looking for a more inclusive, more personal approach today.

Creativity is an experience that happens between people. The tools we have are there to get it all down and into production. A computer is more or less like a washing machine. The internet is also “non-thinking” - you must speak to people to honestly engage with them and create something meaningful. I think it’s important to have strategic conversations that go a little beyond the rational ones. It’s not always what you make that’s interesting, it’s what you think first that generates change.”

"In all of these areas, I believe there lies a whole new currency. To unpack problems and see what the real design problem might be, not just what it seems to be on the surface. Before we decide if it’s a new logo, package etc. There “might be something else”, “do you really know?”, “maybe we should start.” Designers want to question things and that”s good for the companies and the society. Thats very important if you really want to affect your customers. People are looking for differences, things look so “samey”. As a designer, I believe we should work hard to engage “upstream” in the pocket of CEOs. That’s where the kernel of a project starts, and where decisions are made. This is where designers need to be working to affect real change.

"My last words for all you wonderful people trying to get into the world of communication: Be very delicate regarding who you get involved with, find people you trust, find out what you have in common and can share. Likemindness is very rare, but when you find it, embrace it."