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Big Ideas

Eddie Brannan – Think and Do

Veteran magazine Creative Director Eddie Brannan muses on the natural relationship between a healthy business and healthy creativity.

There’s a certain kind of magazine that defies categorization.  It’s fashion, it’s lifestyle, it’s design, art, celebrity, culture – what really matters is it’s beautiful to look at and hold, and it creates a sense of longing to live between its pages.  This is the kind of magazine that London-born, New York-based Eddie Brannan creates.  He has lent his vision as Creative Director to Trace, The Fader, Blackbook, and currently City Magazine, as well as special projects for clients like Alexander McQueen/Puma, Lexus, Perrier Joüet, Absolut, Möet & Chandon, and Jacob & Co.   We sat down with Brannan to learn more about how he accomplishes “visually defining a state of mind.”

Brannan’s impressive career is clearly a result of undeniable talent.  But it also helps that once he has an idea, he does not hesitate to make it happen.  He explains this quality: “I have an art/fashion newsprint publication I put out occasionally called Something In The Way. I conceived it on a Sunday night, called the six people I wanted to contribute on Monday morning, and two weeks later we were holding copies of the first issue. We were invited to be a part of Visionaire’s Mega Zines exhibition. I am a great believer in not second-guessing strong ideas. Think/do is my manifesto.”He is also a firm believer in a collaborative, back-and-forth process, seeing the value that arises from putting more than one head together, and from being open to feedback.  As he tells us, “I am very much about taking a curatorial approach to working with talents one respects and admires. Being primarily editorial/print-based, the idea of ‘creativity’ is not simply about making things look good, but also about making them function well. For this reason my aim is always to instigate conversation, both internally as part of the process of creation, and also in the external response, because feedback and reflection in turn fuels the next cycle of ideas. Two and two pretty much always equals five under those circumstances. If not you’re doing it wrong.”

The idea of ‘creativity’ is not simply about making things look good, but also about making them function well.

Crucial to a successful collaboration is the recognition that each contributor plays a unique and essential role, informed by his or her individual perspective.  Brannan explains it this way: “One thing I keep in mind is an example of an MBA program I read about, where the professor would take the students to a symphony space, and have them sit in the front row. A symphony orchestra would play a short piece. The professor would then break the class up into four groups, and assign one to the percussion, one to the strings, one to the brass, one to the woodwind. The Orchestra would play the same piece again, and the professor would then rotate each of the groups through each of the sections of the orchestra and have them listen to the piece again. Finally they’d return to the front row of the seating and listen to it again. Through this the class hopefully learned that each component in an organization has differing responsibilities, differing levels of emphasis, times to lead and times to follow. It’s as useful a metaphor as any I’ve come across, and one I always keep in mind.”

Brannan’s creative influence is evident in every piece he produces.  But luckily for his publications, he believes that, at least in the magazine world, art and business can live in harmony.  As he says, “A healthy business encourages strong creativity, doesn’t hamper it.”

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