When writing, on the occasion of the 100th post, about Monographer’s Blog, I described my long-term aim for the blog as”to convey more forcefully the benefit of placing publishing within the context of the creative economy in general and of exploring parallels with other creative industries”. This has prompted me to reflect on how it is that a practitioner in one creative industry – in my case, publishing – can learn from people in others. Here’s what I came up with.
One learns in two ways. First, one learns about arts that have a direct implication in one’s own industry. For example, it’s helpful for me to know a little about typography because our typesetters use typography in our books. It’s helpful too to know a little about design because we need to use designers for the covers and page layout of our books.
Second, one learns in a looser way by exploring analogies between other people’s ways of working and one’s own. That is, one can ask of practitioners in other creative industries, “How do they think? How would they go about my business? What advantages might that have?”
These days I go the very few publishing events. The reason I don’t go is that people there will speak the same language that I will. Which means that I know the kind of thing they’re going to say, even if I don’t know the specifics. Which means that I’m unlikely to be surprised. Which means that I’m not likely to learn very much. There are unlikely to be many gestalt moments.
Instead I prefer to attend creative industry events that go beyond publishing. For example, I go to the London Design Festival each year, visiting all kinds of studios, galleries, and shops. I also enjoy attending meetings of the Wynkyn de Worde Society, the members of which are drawn largely from such trades as design, typography, and printing.
In the Greater Cambridge region where I live, we are lucky that there are various mechanisms for meeting other kinds of creatives. One is the Open Studios month (just finished for this year), which provides an opportunity to meet designers, jewellers, potters, illustrators, and so on. Another is CamCreative, which provides forum for designers, web developers, and so on.
This strategy provides an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. The type of information I gain from publishing events rarely gives me that, precisely because it’s being shared amongst publishers: one learns merely what everyone else learns. By venturing beyond the publishing village, one creates the opportunity to learn what other publishers won’t know. It’s like using a different search engine, rather than Google.
The industries I’ve learned most from so far are design and IT (especially software development), both of which have been productive in terms of articulating their approaches to workflow and project management. Designers, especially, sometimes also articulate ways of approaching the issues of usability and user experience.
I suspect I could also learn efficiently from magazine publishing (about which I know little) and fashion (about which I know nothing) – but I haven’t done anything about that yet.
In the remaining two posts I will try to specify exactly what this interdisciplinary learning looks like.