Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull shares fascinating and valuable insight about one of the most successful creative companies in history, Pixar. How the creative team had to intentionally iterate and reorganize itself to maximize benefit for the creative process and best serve the audience. It contains fascinating and insightful anecdotes about the creative process as it pertains to the business of entertainment, while elegantly telling the story of Pixar's evolution through the experiences of co-founder Ed Catmull.
If you or someone you love plans to, or already is, making a living by creating digital media, or anything creative and team related, this book is essential.
The most memorable moments of Creativity, Inc. are when Catmull points out that the creative process is almost inevitably messy. This personally confirms many of my experiences working with even the most successful creative team. Early on in my career as a game designer, I always assumed something was terribly wrong with the project, team or organization I was a part of. Sometimes there certainly were indeed problems, but even on the most well-prepared and organized endeavors, the process can feel more inefficient, indirect and haphazard than the idealized, smooth creative process that we somehow expect from the "making of" documentaries and books.
The creative team process, even when run by the best and the brightest, will rarely result in an amazing, perfect creation throughout from the beginning, but rather, may frequently seem uncontrollably messy and at times, even cataclysmic. But this doesn't necessarily have any reflection on what the final product will be at the end of the process- nor how it will be perceived by the audience. Even seasoned and brilliant pros like those at Pixar, start out with an initial pass at something that almost always, as Catmull puts it, completely "sucks." It is through the practice of careful, candid discussion with an established "Brain Trust" that they are able to turn those initial passes into something brilliant that ignites the spirit of millions and often wins awards. How the Pixar "brain trust" works and why it is so valuable is, for me, the most important and valuable insights in the book.
As most creatives, I find myself continually drawn to the lore of influential tech figures like Steve Jobs. In Creativity Inc., there is a great deal of material regarding Jobs; it is candid but gracious to the memory of the late Apple co-founder. Those of us interested in Jobs have access mounds of material about his mercurial launch, fall, rebirth and evolution into a respected leader in Apple and NEXT, but not nearly as much detail is documented regarding his close and apparently quite healthy relationship with the team at Pixar. It is interesting have a chance to see him through the lens of the articulate, fair-minded author (Catmull.)
The book is valuable, because it casts a light of optimism upon the challenge that so many creative teams are facing as we adapt to utilizing ever-evolving technologies, methods and marketplaces to create economically sustainable works of human expression. Creativity Inc. tells a great story of how technology and the human spirit combined to change animation forever and create some of the most memorable works of storytelling, the world has ever felt.
I chose to listen to it on Audible, but it is available in many forms.