Book excerpt: Make Brilliant Work

In an excerpt from his new book, Rod Judkins underlines the importance of showing your work.

Three ways you’ll benefit from transparency

You have a great idea, a bestseller and a blockbuster. Your instinct is to covet it and hide it, so it’s not stolen. But a concept is a seed that needs to grow, and a seed can’t grow in a desert; it needs water and nutrients. Why not share it and let other people help you?

One of the most disruptive forces to emerge from social media is transparency. Individuals and small companies are more open to sharing their ideas and processes than big organizations. Their audience becomes engaged, and in turn, spreads the word. Show what you do, and people become interested because you establish authenticity, trust and credibility.

In the early 80s, I walked into a furniture shop called One Off in London’s Covent Garden, in a crumbling building with bare brick walls and a concrete floor. It was an upmarket shop, and the furniture was skilfully displayed, but it was also a laboratory and workshop where you could see them designing and making the furniture.

One Off was a cross between a steel foundry and an art gallery. The brainchild of designer Ron Arad, anyone could walk in and watch him welding and cutting metal, and talk either to him or to his assistants and even make suggestions.

If you hide your process, people never fully understand your work or the effort that went into it. Let people see into your mind and workshop.

As the playwright George Bernard Shaw said, ‘If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.’

The place emanated a spirit of generosity, and Arad put new ideas out there for everyone to see. Drawings of fresh designs covered the walls. It was a brilliant public showcase and attracted the press and public in droves. Arad was talked about, written about, and built up followers by being transparent.

He didn’t need to spend money on advertising because of his openness; he was splashed all over the media. It was fascinating.

I watched them making a Rover Chair, a fusion of a red leather car seat from a scrapped Rover car, and a bent scaffolding frame. I felt compelled to buy it for £99, although that was a lot in 1981. Those pieces of furniture are now worth thousands of dollars each and are in every major museum.

Recently, I walked into an exhibition of Louis Vuitton’s work in the Strand in London. I’d always thought it was ridiculous to pay thousands for a Louis Vuitton handbag – it’s just a handbag. I assumed people were buying the brand name and the status.

But the exhibition gave you an insight into the creative processes of Louis Vuitton. It showed hundreds of sketches and prototypes; a craftsman had flown over from Italy with his entire workshop. It took you through the process of making a handbag and projected the details onto mirrored walls, pure white figurative sculptures and massive digital screens.

They designed the exhibition for photo opportunities and to share; they were proud of the dedication they put into their work and wanted everyone to see. The exhibition dominated everyone’s Instagram feed for weeks. There were free posters and stickers to take away. I added up all the working hours and resources that went into a handbag and wondered how they could sell them for so little.

If you hide your process, people never fully understand your work or the effort that went into it. Let people see into your mind and workshop. Let them see how your ideas develop, and people will be able to relate to you and your work. If your audience understands how you created your work, they are more likely to buy into it.

  1. Show everyone the nuts and bolts of your project. Reveal how it developed step by step. Don’t sweep mistakes under the rug but show them and how you overcame them.
  2. Transparency helps you build a better relationship with your audience because they understand you better. When you’re transparent, you show you’ve nothing to hide and establish yourself as credible – so people trust you.
  3. Transparency is an essential element of leadership. Ron Arad became a leader in his field and leader of a large company of assistants by gaining their trust with openness. I shared the process of writing and illustrating this book online. Take a look on my Instagram account, @rod.judkins

About the author

This is an extract from ‘Make Brilliant Work’ by Rod Judkins published by Pan Macmillan.

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