Sir John Hegarty’s book There Are No Rules – the advertising giant’s take on creativity – is a great insight into the workings of a successful creative mind, packed full of inspired analysis and advice.
It left me with a new word. A word which has crossed my lips multiple times since I finished the book.
Zag. Zagged. Zagging. What is this magical word?
Well, you’ve all heard of a zig-zag.
If to zig is to flow on life’s grooves, head downstream with the current, continue with the flock; then to zag is all about moving in a different direction – against life’s steady flow, it’s about standing out from the crowd. And nothing says it better than Hegarty’s own copy on the classic Levis billboard add (see image above): “When the world zigs, zag.”
And how does one zag?
Well you could start by searching, seeking inspiration from unorthodox, unexpected sources to bring something fresh to the medium you’re working in. Why not dance about architecture (to defy an often misquoted adage)? Spread out your feelers and see what there is to appropriate from other art forms or cultures, the worlds of science and nature – Something ELSE, something OTHER. Zag away from the usual, the predictable, the tired, the norm. It’s a great philosophy if you are looking to produce fresh ideas in a world of homogenised stodge.
After reading There are No Rules, I began to think of previous disciples of zag, compiling a list of those who have been an influence on my own work. Below is a short, and by no means exhaustive, sample of my personal Heroes of Zag. Take it away boys:
- David Bowie – a man who lived his whole life under the flag of zag, particularly Ziggy (Zaggy!?) Stardust his otherworldly alter-ego through which he brought mime, performance, fictional backstory and fancy-dress to the world of rock.*
- Captain Beefheart – a true Zig-Zag Wanderer. His stand out moment being the album Trout Mask Replica where he moved away from desert-fried blues to blend avant-garde jazz with wild surrealist poetry.
- Charles Bradlaugh – unorthodox politics and atheism in Victorian England.
- The Beats – zagged against what had gone before, experimentation a key recipe.
- Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – considered to be the most influential album of the 20th century, and coincidentally a big moment in the history of zag too!
- Frank Gehry’s design for the Guggenheim Museum and Jørn Utzon’s design for the Sydney Opera House (the latter inspired by the segments of a peeled orange).
*I’m also compelled to bring up Bowie’s song “Seven Years in Tibet” where elevator muzak is spliced with industrial grunge in the middle of his electronic dance album Earthling.