1. The incomplete circle.

Welcome to the first blog
 in this 5 minute masterclass series

Thanks for dropping by.

As a guitarist I’d compare these micro-lessons in creativity with trading licks. The communications version of sharing the introductory runs in Chuck Berry’s, Johnnie B. Goode. Or some of Django Rheinhardt’s great hot club vamps. The really good stuff everyone should have in their back pockets.

In other words the best tools in your creative toolbox you go back to time and again.

Every now and then I would wander into my creative department, gather everyone around the pool table and go through a 5 minute masterclass. They helped focus the newer guys and remind the older guys why they were there. They were always popular. Who doesn’t enjoy a little break in the day? But more than that, I’ve been told  how much they helped the creatives I’ve had the pleasure to manage over the years- so I can only conclude they’re worth passing on here. I hope you agree.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 00.42.00

The above is one of the simplest and most enduring visual metaphors shown to me when I was doing the rounds of ATL ad agencies in the 90’s with my big black portfolio of spec campaigns under my arm – trying to slip past one of those heavy castle doors and learn some of the dark magic from the mysterious wizards and witches within.

The mysterious wizards within turned out to be jolly nice chaps with sharp minds, like Will Awdry – one of CD’s I visited for a book crit back in the day.

He drew a little circle with a piece missing on his A3 pad and said, “It’s kinda like this…”

“The elements of your ad (visual, headline, endline) should all tell a little piece of the story – but it’s only in putting them together that the full equation becomes clear.”


So simple. But when you’re cross-eyed-confused about what makes and engaging piece of communications in 2d, this is genius.

It’s very easy to underestimate the power of this little example as there’s so much there.

Firstly it hints at setting up a certain mystery – an unresolved chord or unidentified pattern, that draws us in and engages our interest.

We then actively participate in solving the equation and no matter how simple it is to resolve (remembering that this all happens in microseconds) it still brings a level of satisfaction that is its own reward.

Here’s a literal expression of the analogy in the form of a clever and entertaining ad for Fisher Price anti-slip roller-skates (BMP DDB Needham, cw: Frank Budgen; ad: anyone?).

Anti-slip roller skates

Not to say that this only applies to print ads. Not by a long shot. The same kind of engagement, equation, resolution, reward is found in every kind of creative expression – from songs to scenes in movies, from art to advertising.

For instance, 10cc’s 70’s classic hit ‘I’m not in love’ is another great example. The brilliance of the piece is that we all understand the disconnect between the singer’s apparent self-deception and his real feelings – played out  in the subplot. The ironic truth presented to us in the form of the contradictory behaviour described in the lyrics. We complete the equation by reading between the lines.

The sensitivity in the performance and melancholic emotion conveyed by the minor key give us further confirmation that the character is singing words that do not represent his true feelings.

This is a brilliant piece of writing and insight. We often say the opposite to what we mean – especially in affairs of the heart where we are at our most vulnerable and so most likely to build up a facade behind which to hide in order to protect ourselves. Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart conceived the subterfuge knowing full well the audience reward comes from seeing through the facade; completing the equation in spite of it.  Simplez.

In fact, relative to the ever increasing deluge of typically one dimensional love songs out there, regurgitating cliched lyrical constructions, this is genius.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 00.24.58

Look out for uses of the incomplete circle in the creative works around. You may have to pay careful attention to deconstruct equations that may be so seamless you are barely aware of the part you play in their completion.

You’ll find them in every conceivable creative pursuit – art, architecture, ads, design, music, journalism, comedy, theatre, etc.

Learn how to construct an equation based on the wisdom of the incomplete circle – the perfect expression of something becoming greater than the some of its parts.


If you would like help you with you brand communications please drop me a line at james@thebrandlodge.co.uk 

Share it