Creativity is an ever-changing process of discovery and development and there are many different structured and unstructured ways to approach the creative journey. However, you might find the following structure useful when developing your ideas towards creating a cross-platform digital engagement project.
You can split your creative process into four sections: Research, Play, Create and Test.
Alongside audience research (see the page Understanding your audience for more information), there are two different types of research that you should undertake: platform and creative.
Take a look at the platforms you are considering for your digital engagement and how you might use them to engage with your audiences. Consider the language of the platform, its audience and the style of content. It is important you understand the platform you are using and become familiar with the content. You need to become part of the audience of a platform by using it before you can become a creator for it. Research the platform’s strengths and weaknesses and ensure you consider the platform’s accessibility.
Context is key when it comes to creative research. You want to understand and discover the exact story you are telling and its relevance to your audience. Creative research allows you to make these connections between the idea, the audience and the voice you will use for your particular engagement. Your creative research helps you understand what is at the heart of why you want to engage with an audience; your intention and what you want an audience to feel.
Let your research take you into unusual places, as you never know what might become creatively relevant later on. Then work towards a more focused understanding of the work you are creating.
At the end of the creative research phase you should be able to define in a sentence or two:
- What is at the heart of the story you are telling
- Your intention
- Themes and ideas
- What you want your audience to feel
Use these as your creative guide or brief that you can refer back to during your project.
You’ve done your research, you have a sense of direction for the idea and a brief for the content you are making. Now it is time to get playful as there are thousands of ways you can respond to the idea that is forming. The vital thing to learn is the ways you can play within your given platform(s).
Explore your chosen platforms’ creative features and test the limits of what is possible within them. When you begin in a platform’s creator mode for the first time, you can start by adding random content. This content doesn’t have to be what you plan to use, this is purely an exercise in learning the mechanics of the platform. Depending on the platform, you may need to set up a separate private account so you can post content without it being visible to the public. During this time you might discover limitations within the platform which means you can’t do everything you had planned. You may have to think about how you adjust your idea or realise the chosen platform isn’t right for the particular project you are working on.
Remember to review your work regularly as if you were the audience and review your creative brief to make sure the vision of your project stays on track.
Writing creative content is a strange process. Some days it will flow naturally and other times, you will sit with a thought with no idea how to express it. This is all part of the process and allowing time for an idea to incubate can be better than trying to force it onto the page.
Remember that the first draft is the worst draft. When you write or create content for the first time, write it in a relaxed way knowing that there is a process of editing, testing and refining that is still to come. This will enable you to turn the more critical parts of your brain off and fill the empty page. The importance of the first draft is about playing with its form, its voice and what you as the creator find interesting.
Do any new themes or ideas emerge as you are creating the first draft? Note them down and discuss them with your collaborators or colleagues.
Now it is time for someone else to look at the content you have created and begin a process of feedback and redrafting. Remember you can share ideas early and things don’t have to be fully realised before you begin to redraft or rethink them. It’s important that you work with collaborators to help you make your ideas a reality. Even if this is just a colleague who can read through draft content and give you feedback on what they liked and what they would change. From here you can shape your second draft to share with an audience.
If you are approaching a new platform or your content involves interaction or navigation it is vital to test it with a potential audience. This may be the wider archive staff and volunteers or even friends or family members. Whoever they are, it is good practice that they represent the audience you want to reach where possible.
Once you have an initial draft of your digital engagement, you can give it to a test audience. This is about seeing how people respond and if this aligns with your assumptions. Testing also enables you to discover any technical issues before your project is live and discover if any places need clarification or further guidance. For example, does your audience need to be introduced to the platform or are they already familiar with it?
Testing content is about breaking content. It is a quality control on what you are making, finding the weaknesses both technical and creative. It can be useful to form a short series of questions for your test audience to respond to based on what you feel you need to know. You can then take this feedback and make any adjustments before finalising the project and sharing it with the world.
An archive is creating a digital exhibition on a web platform that is new to them. They want to understand if what they have created is easy to navigate and how an audience responds to what they have built. They invite a test audience to experience an initial draft of the project, sending them a link to the website and then arranging feedback either via a video call or survey. As they are using a new platform this enables them to understand how the audience chooses to interact with their website and discover any assumptions they have made about the audience’s understanding.
It’s a good idea to think about how you are going to evaluate your project within the early stages of creation. Are there any particular audience targets that you have? How will you measure your project’s impact?
When measuring your impact in terms of audience, focus on the growth of your audience rather than the exact number of people reached. Be realistic. You won’t suddenly reach hundreds or thousands of people just because your content is now digital. So keep your aims realistic and achievable.
If you increase your existing digital audience by a small percentage, then this has a positive impact on future content. If you can identify that you have reached new audiences, then this development is significant and can be built upon. Growing an audience takes time and requires publishing content consistently rather than producing one-off projects. The evaluation process is about capturing what you learned creatively, practically and about your audience. You can then implement these learnings when you approach your next digital engagement venture.
Since 2017, The Space has been working on a project to create more recommendations for organisations in the industry to have a better grasp of intellectual property rights and what is required for digitally publishing work. The following toolkit outlines things that need to be considered when publishing work online.