We strive in everything we do to create engaging and innovative experiences believing that if we keep making great things and keep learning from our mistakes, we will succeed.  In our efforts to constantly improve ourselves, we strive first and foremost to find better ways to unlock our company’s full creative potential. Creativity is our most valuable resource, but like anything else of value if it’s not tended to properly its potency will stagnate and eventually the spirit that gave your company an edge will falter.

It’s a tough balance.

Questions like:

  • How do we continue to find business success while maintaining creative independence?
  • How do we bring in enough money to continue to innovate without becoming merely a work-for-hire service company?
  • How do we focus on business success without letting short term growth and profit stifle and supplant our agile, innovative and artistic focus?

There are no easy answers, and everyone has their limits and preference in terms of how to resolve these issues.

We don’t claim to have all the answers but the types of small, creatively intense projects we discussed in “Other Creative Adventures – Part 1” is one thing we’ve found that really really works for us. As creatives, sometimes you just have to unleash without taking more conventional business concerns in mind. It’s our way of fertilizing the crops.

If you’re a creative company like us, if your key resource is out-of-the-box thinking and maintaining an artistic spirit, we believe you have to set aside time every week to do something that has no concern for profits, revenue, market trends or anything else. Once a week you have to infuse your company and employees with moments of pure creative freedom through raw, unencumbered creative projects, and if appropriate, unleash what has been created to the world. Doing so not only helps morale and maintains that all too important creative spirit, but it also ensures you maintain your edge.

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A glimpse at some of the art released through #HerArtHisWords

Bringing Life Back while in a Creative Flatline

This approach didn’t come to us naturally, and it’s not something we’ve perfected yet but it’s something we thought we’d share. The idea originally came out of an attempt to break through a chronic creative flatline experienced by the company founder’s, Corey King & Danielle King in late 2014, after months of focusing on a challenging “course correction” that impacted a project that had already dominated their attention for the better part of 3 years. The result of those attempts to re-energize turned into a weekly collaborative project between the founders, designed to help them maintain their edge (and sanity). That project has turned into the visual and written social media collaboration titled #HerArtHisWords”. Its success in helping their own creative processes, drove them to open up similar opportunities to everyone working at ZenFri.

Here we’ll dive into the process of that collaboration and what it has taught us about managing creative endeavours.

Rules of Engagement

The original concept for what became #HerArtHisWords (which at the time was called “#HusbandWordsWifeArt”) was simple enough. Once a day on a rotating basis either Danielle would provide Corey with a 3200 x 3200 pixel image she had created through alternation/collage of public domain works that Corey would add write a “tweet sized” piece of prose to, or Corey would lead with the writing having Danielle use it as inspiration for creating the image.

The below images was originally release on November 26th 2016, and later re-released as part of #HerArtHisWords on August 4th 2016:


“The water began to taste of ash, while the sun, unaware of our folly, warmed all the world.” #HerArtHisWords

A photo posted by Corey King (@corey.zenfri) on


Unlike many other similar “word and image” posts on social media, they opted not to super-impose or integrate the words into the image so that both components could be taken independently of each other. The idea being that both elements are seen as in conversation with one another and not dictating or imposing content on each other.

Whatever they created was to be released online the same day it was completed.

The idea was to create something quick, cheap and within tight limitations that also spoke to the original artistic vision and purpose of the company.

Though initially they tried to coordinate the overall meaning of each piece, overtime it was found to be more interesting, enjoyable and productive to allow the process to be open ended and interpretive. Whatever art Danielle provided would be openly interpreted by Corey, and vice versa if the prose took the lead.

Once they began working with this more interpretive format, they agreed to take the release formula one step further by releasing each piece regardless of its creative or artistic “success”. While this came with a certain creative risk, it also helped foster an acceptance of experimentation and failure. At its best it also helped create pieces that were elevated by an enhanced or totally altered meaning created through the synthesis of the collaboration.

 


 


“Trust that my dazzling deception is not of thy self, but to keep you from myself.” #HerArtHisWords

A photo posted by Corey King (@corey.zenfri) on

 


 

This format quickly infused each day with something creative and collaborative generated without any expectation or specific purpose. A pure form of “art for art’s sake”. However, the rigour of trying to produce something fresh every day, regardless of what was going in the rest of the company eventually created its own kind of pressure that was ultimately unsustainable.

As our first game approached launch, the project was abandoned.

Creative Fuel – Revised 

Around October of 2015, Corey and Danielle were able to take some time to examine the lessons they had learned over the years and envision where they wanted to take the company in the future. They were either going to stay the course by remaining dedicated projects of the company’s own internal conception with a focus of first party development and project ownership or they were going transform the company into a more conventional and potentially profitable creative studio that focused on taking in client projects while amassing the resources needed to build something even more groundbreaking than their past projects.

They decided firmly to stay the course but wanted to make major changes to company culture and alter the processes behind how work is created. They wanted to make sure the creative freedom and flexibility at the core of the company was able to permeate through every project and offered to everyone working on a ZenFri project in hopes of resolving the eternal battle between business and art.

As they began building for there next big project, they looked back at “#HusbandWordsWifeArt” and saw it as a template for how to operate their new culture. If that type of activity worked to help their creativity and productivity it may well help everyone else’s as well. It was then they reinstated their own personal approach to creative exercise and #HusbandWordsWifeArt was born again as #HerArtHisWords.

Below is the first new post created for #HerArtHisWords:


“The unrelenting gaze snuffed out all other worldly desires.” #HerArtHisWords

A photo posted by Corey King (@corey.zenfri) on

 

However, to better balance this type of work with all the other demands of business, the project was scaled back to a weekly content release as opposed to daily, and the ability for anyone else working on a ZenFri project to spend time working on their own creative project once a week was adopted as company policy.

Other changes to the collaboration came from more creative rational. Changes to the format included:

  • More rigorous restrictions on the way work is produced. Whereas before the prose component had to fit into a tweet, now the image as an attachment, prose and hashtag all had to fit into a tweet, and no discussion about the meaning of the piece was allowed between Corey and Danielle until after it was released.
  • The process was simplified such that the visual component always came first, and was then augmented with interpretive prose.
  • The hashtag was changed, both to take up less characters (which had become more precious), and to make sure the content was to be framed in a less personal or intimate format. The work isn’t about a married couple, it’s produced by them.
  • Old works created under #HusbandWordsWifeArt would be revised and released to fit the new format.

The below image was originally published December 18th 2014 with the caption:

“The climb is perilous. Yet, in those raving altitudes where the air is thin and loneliness cuts through tundra, your luminous visions of the future will push you to summit.” #HusbandWordsWifeArt

To make it fit within the new format rules the text was altered to read:

“In raving altitudes, where loneliness cuts through tundra, luminous visions push you to summit.” #HerArtHisWords

 


 

Where are we Now

Though #HerArtHisWords is designed to be a fun, creative exercise; something to do for the sake of doing it and to keep creatively agile, a new or revised piece has been released by ZenFri each week come rain or shine since October 13th, 2015. Though it’s released to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter it has received the most traction on Instagram with over 800 followers at the time of this writing, and some recent images receiving over 80 likes.



 

Over the summer the #HerArtHisWords project has generated some off-shoot experiments that go beyond still images and tweet sized text, with two, 1 minute+ motion paintings animated by Danielle, that are accompanied each by an original spoken word poem by Corey King. We look forward to sharing those with you once they’re complete.

As to what this kind of project means for the rest of the company and our future, while #HerArtHisWords is a collaboration between the founders, we will continue to spread the spirit of freeform, un-encumbered creativity throughout the company.

As we ramp up for our next large scale project that’s slated to begin in early 2017, we hope to share with you other random acts of creativity generated by the growing team here at ZenFri.

Oh and before we leave you, here is the most recent release of #HerArtHisWords:


“Amid the tumultuous frolic, you could scarcely see the sorrow he was attempting to tame.” #HerArtHisWords

A photo posted by Corey King (@corey.zenfri) on

Thanks for checking out #HerArtHisWords and keeping up to date on everything we create here at ZenFri.