This is a guest post by Jenny Braudaway – a media culture expert and Marketing Associate at Rand Media Group, a full service, integrated online marketing company based in Chicago. She blogs at the RMG blog, and tweets @sweetfracture5.
Many things have been written about the millennial generation. They have been labeled everything from entitled slackers to tech savvy, new media socialites. They are highly creative but easily distracted, media savvy yet brand receptive. No other demographic is primed for the web like the millennial generation, and no other generation has influenced it more. Oh, and they like to share.
So what kind of creative inspiration can we draw from the millennial generation? Well, if you’ll allow me to generalize, there is plenty.
Influence Over Affluence
Millennials eschew traditional markers of social status. That doesn’t mean they don’t care what their peers think, in fact, they care a lot. But they tend to value influence over affluence. Your average millennial would rather be a blogosphere superstar working from their parents’ basement than a six figure corporate lawyer. In other words, they do it for something other than the money.
Most creatives started for the love of it, but in the thick of the rat race or on your tenth client-requested iteration, it can sometimes be easy to forget. Make it a point to seek out projects that inspire or mean something to you. Aim to be at the top of your game or a leader in your field, instead of measuring things in dollar signs (if you accomplish this, the money should follow anyhow). And never stop learning. There’s nothing wrong with money of course, but money doesn’t nourish the creative soul.
Millennials are serial journalists and curators. They record their thoughts, ramblings and favorite media objects at astonishing rates, and they do it every day. The difference between them and your average serial journalist/curator, is that they do it all publically.
Most creatives know that it’s a good idea to keep some kind of journal with them at all times. Have some semblance of a good idea? Jot it down. See a great texture on that dirty subway wall? Snap a photo. Inspiration can spring from the most minor of incidences or details, so recording those traces of everyday life, no matter how banal, is an important creative exercise that should be practiced as much as possible. Something as simple as an interesting snippet of conversation you heard on the bus, a reaction to an interesting article you read, or even a muddled, half-baked idea can turn into a fruitful source of inspiration later. The trick is to be consistent, and to capture it in one place where you can review it at a later time. Once you make it a habit, you’ll be surprised how natural it becomes.
And another thing, don’t keep it all to yourself. Share some of those random thoughts or ideas with your network. You never know what will spark a conversation thread and lead to something bigger.
Something Borrowed, Something New
All creatives draw from the media they consume and incorporate it into their cultural production. Millennials just do it more overtly (and many times, more playfully as well).
Remixing pop culture is second nature to the digitally-native millennial who grew up in a media-centric and saturated world. Referencing their repertoire of pop cultural images and repurposing them is how they express themselves best. They like to produce it, they like to consume it, and most of all they like to share it. Now, design and culture have always been borrowed and repurposed from previous design and culture, and with great aplomb – ever heard of a guy named Walt Disney? But the ability to do this at the drop of a dime (or more precisely, the press of a button) became ubiquitous right around the time that millennials were growing up. This led to an explosion of user generated content, a heightened form of remix called the mash-up, as well as a new hybrid of media consumer: the consumer-producer.
Contrary to generations before, millennials feel that culture is at their immediate disposal, and they tend to take and remix without abandon. Their remixes can be as simple as engaging in contextual play to more complicated productions which rework the piece entirely. There are of course drawbacks to this production approach, but the fundamental objective is to play with culture, to express yourself through the multi-layered language of cultural references.
Remixes are great creative exercises and idea generators as well. If you haven’t already, try it sometime. As Jean-Luc Godard once said, “it’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.”