Unleashing Creativity for a Common Good: The BBC Creative Jam

BBC employees and students collaborate for design challenge to aid Wac Arts charity.

by Vanessa Dewey

posted on 02-13-2019

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) isn’t only known for exemplary journalism, it also has a long tradition of philanthropy through fundraising and mentoring initiatives.

In Wac Arts, a local London-based charity focused on delivering youth art programming, the BBC found a perfect avenue to exercise its charitable arm. Wac Arts needed help with creative designs for its 40th anniversary, so the BBC decided to partner with Adobe to host a Creative Jam that would bring together BBC employees and local students toward this common good — and enable them to learn new tools and collaborate with teams.

Amanda Farnsworth, head of visual and data journalism at BBC News, says choosing a charity like Wac Arts as the focus of the design challenge was a win-win for everyone involved.

“It means that we have some creative challenge to focus on during the day, but it also hopefully benefits the charity in the end,” Amanda says.

Adobe routinely collaborates with companies to host Adobe Creative Jams, which brings together creatives and designers from cross-functional teams within an organization — and from the local creative community — to learn from each other and to address a specific design challenge.

The Creative Jam is an immersive experience for our customers to not just listen to product updates, but to actually apply what they’ve learned and immediately apply it to a hands-on experience.

Among the many wins that a Creative Jam delivers: business value. “BBC team members will walk away with a deeper understanding of Adobe products, and, most importantly, have a creative day where they think outside the normal news box that my designers work in and think about how they can bring in new ideas from outside,” Amanda says.

Uniting professionals, creatives, and students for a common purpose

Every Adobe Creative Jam is made up of three primary ingredients: the host company, a team of creatives from the larger community, and a design challenge. The design challenge at hand for this team effort: to animate the Wac Arts logo in a way that brought the five values of the organization — equality, empowerment, innovation, excellence, and love — to life.

The BBC recruited students from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and Middlesex University to work with them on this community project.

“It’s a great idea to bring together different people. We’ve got students, we’ve got training animators, we’ve got people from all around the BBC, and they’re all mixed together to form teams to work together,” says Fiona Campbell, digital director of BBC News. “That cross-pollination of ideas of people from different backgrounds is really great because from that kind of diversity of composition comes different ideas.”

The Creative Jam was a worthwhile professional opportunity for the students too, says Jonathan Hodgson, program leader for BA Animation at Middlesex University.

“It’s not only an amazing opportunity to learn about what’s new at Adobe, but to actually work under pressure with professionals. You don’t get such opportunities very often when you’re a student.”

One student and two BBC professionals comprised each team and competed for the Judge’s Award and the Audience Award. The day-long event was broken up into a boot camp with demos of three Adobe products — Premiere Rush, Character Animator and After Effects— work on the design challenge, an awards presentation, and finally, inspirational presentations from industry luminaries.

Mark Denton, an advertising industry veteran, was one of the experts who participated in the Jam. He delivered a talk, “Unleash the Power of Puerility,” which highlighted the importance of having limitless creative ideas.

“The students are going to walk away from this with a lot more strings in their bow,” Mark says of the event’s value to the university participants.

For companies too, the Creative Jam is a great asset, Mark adds.

“It’s very easy to get locked into your day job and you can’t see beyond the blinkers and you just look at the problem that’s in front of you that you’ve got to solve. Just to be in an environment where you can freely engage in creative thought with other creative people is nothing but beneficial,” he says.

The benefits of collaboration

Collaboration is a key reason the BBC Creative Jam was a success. The bonus of all Creative Jams is that the customer is introduced to a cross-section of Adobe pros who can bring their deep knowledge of the Adobe product suite to the table.

Jonathan was impressed by how fluidly his students and the BBC professionals worked together.

“The students are in the deep end, working with people that they’ve never met before, which is quite a challenge because it’s not just about being able to be a great animator or designer. You’ve got to actually work with people, and the ones that can work with strangers under pressure, they’re the ones that are going to do well,” he says.

Jonathan also was impressed by just how much his students learned over the course of a single day. “I could see my students’ brains ticking as they were talking about the new innovations,” he says. Among the products the students loved: Adobe Character Animator.

“Participants have been exposed to two new tools that they don’t use normally — Character Animator and Premiere Rush. Hopefully, they’ll be able to use these tools to create new content, specifically for news, to tell stories in a different way that’s engaging and enlightening to our audiences,” says Andy Reid, service development and delivery manager for BBC News.

A resounding success

The BBC Creative Jam ultimately was a hit, and Wac Arts was delighted by the teams’ unique approach to the design challenge. The team of Sandra Rodriguez Chillida, Tom Staricoff (BBC), and Tsz Ling Lo, a Central Saint Martins student, won the Audience Award, while Albert Villa Alsina, Simon Catt (BBC), and Zachary Aghaizu, a student at Middlesex University, won the Judge’s Award.

“I think it’s a good idea for other companies to think about having Creative Jams for the same reasons that we wanted to host one, which is to allow our designers to have a day off from the cliff face,” Amanda says, “to think creatively and to come up with different ways of working and different ways of thinking about various design solutions. Having people from outside the organization involved helps you do that.”

To request more information about hosting a Creative Jam at your company, please submit this form.


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