According to creativity researchers, there are four sides to creativity. Person (personality, habits, thoughts), product (the thing that results from creative activity), process (how you work), and press (environment factors, education and other external factors) all play a part. So, we figured, let’s follow the science to understand your art. Creativity Squared is a feature that aims to build a more well-rounded profile of creative people.
Rick McHugh was recently hired as the first executive creative director for HATCH the Agency in Boston, MA. During his 20-plus-year career, Rick led integrated brand campaigns for BMW Motorrad, Frontier Communications, Party City, Major League Baseball, Merrell Shoes and Dunkin’, among many others. He started out at small, creative agencies in Boston before moving on to Hill Holliday, where he was most recently SVP group creative director. His work has been honoured by One Show, D&AD, Cannes and more and featured everywhere from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to BuzzFeed and Entertainment Tonight.
I grew up in a super white-collar town but in a very blue-collar family. So, I was surrounded by successful, educated people outside of the walls of my home. Inside those walls were a bunch of Irish storytellers. Lightning quick. Animated, obnoxious, emotional, hysterical people. They commanded a room. And the way people responded when they told these stories, the feeling in the room - there was an energy. This power of communication, of being able to tell a story or a great joke or poke fun at someone - it still inspires me.
To me, great work jumps off the page. Or the wall or the screen or the person’s mouth who’s presenting it. That visceral reaction I get when I have an idea or teams show me work, I trust it.
What’s great work? I want to see or do something that’s unexpected. It has to be interesting (sounds pretty basic but if it’s not interesting, who’s going to care about it?). That’s based on an insight and a human truth. It can be funny, gut-wrenching, smart, silly, have a million-dollar budget or no budget. I just want to feel that wallop.
This is a team sport. Or like being in a band. Or being part of a special ops team. There’s great power in bouncing ideas off each other. People with different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences help the work become great. But you also have to make sure that each member of the team has the talent and the passion to be great. To be able to catch the ball, to nail the guitar solo, or complete their part of the mission.
Oh, and presenting the work is vital. I’ve seen so much good work die because of how poorly the work was presented. Get up there and perform. Be enthusiastic. Have some energy.
I think inspiration can come from everywhere – music, a movie, other advertising, the way a person is walking down the street, a night out at a restaurant. I try to stay aware and observe people as much as I can. There’s gold in them hills.
My dad was a working-class guy. A proud marine. A guy who dropped out of high school to earn money to help his family. But for a rough and tumble guy he always thought my brother and I could do anything. So, I always thought, why can’t I do that? This outlook has helped me approach every assignment I get – why can’t we do that?
I’ve also been fortunate to have worked with wildly talented and supportive people throughout my career – Lance Jensen, Kevin Daley, Tim Cawley, Gary Greenberg, and others that would fill this page. As much as anything in my life, they have helped shape the creative person I am and continue to be. Their work made me jealous and pushed me to be better. Their work ethic showed me what it takes to do great work. Their trust helped me grow. So, my advice? Work with the best people you possibly can. These are the ones who will drive you and push you to take the leap. And won’t hold it against you if you fail.