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For part 2 of my interview with Jeni Herberger we talk about creativity, public speaking, and we even talk a little shit. Don’t forget to check out part one.

What was the impetus behind you becoming a more prominent public speaker particular with HOW and AIGA?

It was quite accidental. I get a high or rise out of feeling other people’s energy shift from being negative to being positive, or to see them overcome fears. Fears that I don’t really have. Or to see them be hopeful about something maybe they weren’t ever hopeful about. I can literally feel the charge in a room change when I’m talking about something.

I’ve done it in different arenas throughout my life. When I was a very young adult it was for my family. Making a difference for my family. In front of people that I worked with as a photographer and creative director. And then when my company got big, as far as employees are concerned, it was about making differences in their lives. About feeling that charge, that energy for my clients, too. I’ve always enjoyed it.

And then, somebody said, “Why don’t you talk about it?”

What would you say is the hardest presentation you’ve had to get through and why?

The very first time that I had to give a client presentation, not a speaking presentation, but a client presentation. My partner couldn’t make it, so I just went and did it by myself. I walked in to this very, very corporate office. You’ve seen how I dress. I dress pretty stylishly and not very much like a designer. (laughs) I walk into this corporate office. I’m like “Okay, this is going to go great! This is going to go great!” I look into the room, and it is a boardroom of about I’d say 18-20 men all wearing blue suits, red ties and white shirts. And they’re all at least 45, 50 years old and up. And I literally thought to myself “Oh shit! This is going to be horrible. They are going to slaughter me.” I’m this little girl, all by myself going to give this presentation. So, I walk into the room, and nobody stood up. So, I just stood there. And finally, the CEO goes, “Well, why don’t you have a seat.”

I said, “Well, a lady just entered the room, and not one gentleman stood up. So, I’ll wait until ya’ll decide to do that.”

That’s awesome!

And so at that moment, everything broke and I put myself on equal footing with them. (laughs) I figured if I could tackle that one I could pretty much tackle anything, right?

So, did the presentation end up going well after that?

Oh yeah. We totally won it, and it was awesome. It was great, but I knew that those guys were going to eat me alive. I knew that they were instantly going to take off on a very chauvinistic approach, and I was like “Yeah, this isn’t going to happen.” So, instead of balking and rebelling against being a woman I just totally played into it. (laughs) It was a lot of fun. It’s one of my favorite stories I think to this day.

Tell me a little bit about you’re companies.

I actually own five companies. Because you’re required to box all of these into separate entities, right? But what’s really, really funny about it is the only one that I would consider to be a business in the traditional sense of the word is Big Fish Staffing.

And you know, that was an amazing adventure. An adventure that really brought me to the place that I am today both financially and just in how it is that I go about doing what it is that I do. It was tremendously successful, which is awesome, because it’s afforded me the opportunity to do what I’m doing right now. It’s become a bit of a ministry for me for lack of another word. To where I don’t have to worry about whether I’m making a zillion dollars when I’m out talking to people. I truly get to be a human advocate. You know, a minister, call it whatever it is that you want to call it.

Jeni Herberger Logo

And then, the whole branding yourself is always a very interesting thing. I’m not branding a design firm. I am literally branding me, and that’s a trip and a half to brand yourself. Because it can have a tendency to be a bit on the egotistical side, and you’re like “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I am not quite that egotistical. We gotta humble this thing out a bit.” So, that’s [Jeni Herberger Creative Concepts] another business venture if you will.

And then, we have an avocado farm in Hawaii which is just weird.

That’s not weird.

Well, how many people do you know that have avocado farms? (laughs)

Apparently just one, but I love avocados. So I wouldn’t consider that weird at all. I could see myself having an avocado farm just to be able to eat my product.

(laughs) There you go! We actually yield about 6000 pounds of avocados a year, and it’s so bizarre to literally have the luxury, if you will, to throw avocados away. When you buy them over here on the mainland you spend two and half to three bucks for an avocado, and it tastes like crap in comparison to what comes off of our farm. It’s an organic farm. It’s just so amazing. So, that’s just another business, crazy side venture that we have. We make like $3000 off of it a year. It’s awesome!

Have you had to learn a lot about farming or did you know a lot ahead of time?

I had to learn a lot of it, although what was so funny about it was, the first house that we looked at over there was a coffee farm. And we decided that that wasn’t for us. We didn’t like the location as much. So, then when we started looking around, and we actually found this avocado farm. I started laughing my ass off when we seriously considered doing that, because my dad and his dad were the first people to ever put an avocado on an airplane.

So, back in the day, in San Bernardino County my dad and his dad and my dad’s brother owned Herberger & Sons which was an avocado processing business where they transported them. And they had a crazy idea of putting gourmet avocados on a plane, and sending them to the east coast. Nobody had ever done that before. And so, avocados are in the blood. So hilarious when I bought this farm. I called my dad and I’m like “Oh my god, dad. I’m going back to our roots.” And I never even grew up on an avocado farm.

Give people the space to be creative in the way that they wantThere’s nothing better than seeing your husband who grew up in Spokane, Washington and had never done anything like that with a pickup truck full of chicken shit. And he’s spreading it around 80 trees. (laughs)

But see that’s when you get back to what you’re talking about and creativity. That’s a creative life. And I think that’s something that we can all pull into. What we have to be able to do, is we have to be able to give people the space to be creative in the way that they want to be creative.

Who’s been the biggest influence in your life, particularly who influenced you to go the route that you did?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my dad, and right next to him my mom, because they’re so connected as a couple. I grew up in an all male family, meaning I have all brothers. And my parents were pretty traditional, but they had one of the first marriages I’ve ever seen that was truly a partnership where it wasn’t about roles. It was about getting it done. And my dad realized very early on that I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, and not only that (laughs) he called me a hustler. I’d go after things. And so simply because I didn’t have a penis that did not matter to my father. He pushed me in the most loving and wonderful ways, yet always expected me to act like a lady. He didn’t ever want me to change that aspect, but he wanted me to be able to conquer the world however I saw fit.

And right next to him was always, always my mom with that big smile on her face going “Yep! You can do it. You can do anything you want to do.”

Do you find that you have that same influence on your kids?

I hope so! I think so. It’s always hard when you’re in the moment when you’re with you’re kids, because you sit there and you go “Oh my god, do they really love me? Do they really know everything that I’m doing for them and how hard I’m trying.” You know, being in it is very, very difficult. I think the joy comes once you’re outside of it, and you get to look back. And you get to go “Oh thank god they are well-adjusted!” (laughs)

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger. And be sure to tune in to Talk Story to hear her do the interviewing!

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Rotten Apple at Threadless

I just got word that my first shirt design was approved for voting on Threadless. It will be up for voting for the next 6 days, so please show some love and score it as you see fit. If it gets a high enough score the fine group of designers at Threadless will print the shirts, and you can even own one if you’d like. Here’s the link, so do your best!

http://threadless.com/submission/324047/Rotten_Apple

For the first interview in the Untapped Creativity Series, I was lucky enough to interview the brilliantly talented Jeni Herberger. If you aren’t familiar with Jeni’s show Talk Story, then you need to be. She hosts a blog talk show where she talks to some of the brightest minds in the graphic design world. Often on her show she has brought up the very idea that creativity is something that is present in all of our careers. She even mentioned that she wants her accountant or surgeon to be the most creative person that she knows. In addition to a wildly successful career in the creative industry, Jeni is a guest writer for HOW Magazine, Communication Arts and Business JournalJeni Herberger Logo as well as a veteran speaker for AIGA, AMA, AdClub and HOW. I had the opportunity to meet her last year at the HOW Conference in Denver, and I was immediately struck by her blunt optimism. As she is a person of many words, great ones at that, I’ve split her interview into two parts.

You’ve had an interesting career path and journey to where you are today. Give us a little bit background about yourself.

I grew up in on the beaches of southern California, literally. I was super, über good in science and math and wanted to be a marine biologist. That was absolutely what I wanted to do. I was a cheerleader. I know that is shocking.

Here you go. I’ll give you a little trivia that you can put out to the world that not a lot of people know. I was actually Miss San Clemente in 1984. So, how’s that for funny?

I’m not surprised.

(Laughs) It was hilarious! And I was first runner up in Miss California the following year. So, that was my one claim to “I can’t believe I was that dumb to do this!”

I didn’t end up going into marine biology, because everybody talked me out of it saying, “There was no money in it. You should become a doctor.” So, I got talked into going into a medical school program through UCLA that was for some of the top students in the U.S. which was kind of cool from that standpoint. I lasted about 3 months in that program. I think it was after an organic chem test when everyone was swarming around trying to see what their grades were, and I’m jumping up and down because I got a C- which means I passed. I had a whole bunch of people standing around me crying because they got a 98%. I’m like “Oh my god! I can totally not do this.”

So, I switched my major around to music, but I hated that because it took something that I loved and turned it into something that was far too theoretical. And then from there I actually took photography classes, and I loved it. I took to it. That was the pathway that I started down, and it was also really fun because I had done a small amount of modeling in my past. So for me, it was so fun seeing what was happening on that side of the camera. To me that was where it was all at. That catapulted me into the fashion industry, as far as photography was concerned. I switched my degree one more time and ended up with a degree in theater.

Between my junior and senior year of college, I actually had the privilege of becoming pregnant and having my first kid. So, that kind of accelerated my senior year of college. Made me a mom very early. But you know (laughs), I’ve got a 22 year old daughter. Absolutely, positively, no complaints!

Through photography, I had my own studio. Did a lot of fashion photography, and that led me into sports photography which was really interesting. I did a lot of stuff for the NHL, a lot of stuff for Harley, Marlboro. It was crazy. So, a lot of fun stuff photographically speaking.

Depending on whatever your bent is you’re either going to be somebody who directs people, or you’re going to be somebody who actually does the work. You don’t have to move into directing, but there are some people that will do it. Some do it quicker than others, and some never do it at all. I moved from being a doer to being a director very, very quickly. And I think it’s just because I have a teaching background. So, I started doing a lot of creative directing on the photo shoots, and the next thing you know agencies are hiring me not only to do photography but also to act as creative director on a project. And that’s what catapulted me into the graphic design industry.

Kind of crazy, huh?

You can see all of the skills that you picked up along the way. So it does make sense.

Well, and the fun thing is how those skills breached back. That’s what’s really, really fun, is being in your forties, you know, now I have a chance to look back. And I’m doing things that I haven’t done since my twenties, but it’s so obvious that I had to go through this pathway. Like being on stage. I’m back on stage again, aren’t I? I was a theater major, and I didn’t get on stage for 20 years. Now I’m on stage all the time talking to people. I actually taught high-school biology for two years. I’m back teaching again. So, it’s really, really a beautiful thing when you’re kind of at the height of your career, and you get to look back at that pathway. You can see how everything converged together to make you who it is that you are today.

So, would you say you pretty much live an outwardly creative life?

Absolutely! I think that’s an interesting statement from you. When you say an outwardly creative life, what to you mean by that?

I look at an outwardly creative life as you’re ending with what most people would consider a creative product.

For you, I think that’s a great thing to really build upon is that concept of outwardly creative. And I know with all of the folks that you’re going to be talking to a lot of them are going to be people that might be defined as inwardly creative. It’s like you heard me say on Talk Story all the time, I believe because we were created by God, and God is a creative being, and we are made in his image that means we are innately creative. Whether we want to be or not. And I think that there are some people that literally hold that and stifle it because they’re afraid of it. They just don’t want that. They would rather tap into the more analytical side of life. I think there’s some people that just go hell-bent on the side of creativity, and then I think there’s a whole range of us in the middle, and the levels in our life that we decide to be creative in are really interesting. For instance, some of us have gone down what is considered to be a creative career path where like you’re saying the end result is actually art in some respect or another.

I think a lot of it too, is how you live your life. One of the things I look at in myself is not only am I creative in my career, meaning I chose a creative pathway, but  I’m also creative in how I go about everything. If it’s parenting, people ask me all the time “How do you do it? Have three kids and have a business?” And honestly, I’m very creative in how a make sure my kids have what they need, my business has what it needs, and my clients have what they need. It’s a constant process in my head of actually making the life that I want to make. So, I don’t do things the way the book says. Not because I think the book is wrong, but for me it works better if I create it on my own.

I live in Hawaii, and I live in Seattle. People say, “Well, how do you do that?” Well, it’s really, really easy. I wanted to do it, so I found a way to create that for myself. It’s not about money. It’s not about success. It’s about the fact that I created that pathway for myself, because driving fancy cars wasn’t important to me. Traveling all over the world isn’t something that I can do right now. So, one thing that I can do, one thing that I did want to create, was the ability to go back and forth between two places that I really love. So, that to me is the idea of living a creative life.Creativity is making whatever it is you want.

How would you define creativity for yourself in the most basic terms?

In the most basic terms, it is making whatever it is you want. Whether you’re doing that for someone, or you’re doing that for yourself, it is making something that you want. So, if you’re doing it for a client, you’re making something that they want, but you’re going about it the way that you feel it needs to be done.

So, I think we really get hung up on the word creativity? You could define it a zillion different ways. All being creative is IS creating something. If you want to take a different verb then use making it or doing it. So, for me creativity is really, really that simple.

What do you think is the biggest reason why people don’t view themselves as creative?

I think that humans innately have a need to label, to put a box around it, to make it work. When it comes down to even your faith, and some higher power or something, the biggest obstacle that people have with the idea of God is the fact that they can’t put him in a box. They can’t label it. And if something doesn’t align itself exactly right that must mean that He doesn’t exist. The greatest things that we have are things that you cannot define like love. You can’t define love. Why do I love my husband? Hell, half the time I don’t know, trust me. The other half of the time, I absolutely know. I think that because humans have to define things, innately define things, they end up defining themselves out of things.

Look at the words that we put with creativity. You’re rebellious. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say things like “Well, if you draw outside of the lines, you’re creative.” Why does that make you creative? Isn’t it just as creative to draw inside the lines? I really don’t understand that. “You’re creative if you think outside of the box.” Well, who the hell defined the box in the first place? And can’t I be creative inside of the box, as well as outside of the box?

So, I think that innate need to define things and label things makes human being put boxes around themselves, but then exclude them from being allowed to be other things. For instance, designers do this all the time. Designers think they suck at business. You want to know something? I am awesome at business. And most of the designers that I know out there could be if they’d stop saying they aren’t good at it. Because, honestly we should be the best business people out there, because we are tapped into our creativity. We are comfortable with our creativity. Business is not about numbers. It’s about making things happen. It’s about getting things out to the public. Isn’t that what designers do, hmmm?

Another big part of it is just being able to communicate, which is what we sell on a daily basis.

Exactly! Almost every designer I know says “Oh, I can’t communicate. I can’t really talk to people.” You communicate everyday, so if you can’t talk to people then just draw people’s friggin’ pictures for crying out loud. Yes, you can communicate. You just have opted to do it a different way. And I think what we do is, we then box ourselves in.

My first marriage did not work out, and I got divorced. I had a teacher go, “Oh my god. I had no idea that you’re kids were from a broken home, because they are so well adjusted.” And I looked at her and I said, “Broken home? Are you kidding me? I fixed that home.” And so it was a totally different way of looking at it. But we keep putting labels and all of this junk on top of things. And it’s so stupid, because I think it makes us think of ourselves in one particular way.

If you’d like to find out more about Jeni visit  jeniherberger.com, or follow on twitter @jeniherberger.

Check out part two of my interview with Jeni Herberger.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

Beakers with a pencil

Starting next week, I’ll launch the first of many posts about creativity in non-creative industries. It’s a topic that has continued to come up my whole life, and most specifically when people are first introduced to my wife. She’s a scientist, an immunologist to be more specific, and I’m a graphic designer, or creative to be less specific. More often than not people immediately ask what our conversations are like with her being left brain and me being right brain. The assumption is based on the misconception that science involves math, theory and reasoning (non-creativity), and that graphic design involves drawing, painting and brainstorming (creativity). Honestly, we’re a little of both. Designing an experiment follows the same process as designing a logo, we just use different tools and have different outcomes. In other words, we both use facts and strategy to define the problem, and we use imagination to test a solution.

I’ve had a long-standing hypothesis that everyone is creative, and we all use that creativity everyday to solve the problems in our life whether that be at work, home or anywhere in-between. To test my theory, I’ve interviewed people mainly outside the traditionally creative industries to see how they define their creativity. I’ve also interviewed a few people in creative industries as a control. An interesting trend started coming out as I conducted the interviews. People either asked, “Why would you interview me? I’m not creative. I’m just a ________,” or they would ask, “Did you pick me, because you know that I like to paint, draw or play music?”Creativity is being able to imagine while having the courage to act.

One of the main questions that I’ve asked in all of my interviews is “How do you personally define creativity?” The answers are truly amazing and more varied than I ever expected. So, I’d like to start this new series off with how I define creativity.

From day to day, I use my imagination to think of ideas and solutions for clients and myself, but if I didn’t use analytical thinking, processes and a touch of obsessive compulsive behavior then the solutions would never come to life. While I don’t deny my job is creative, I also understand that it isn’t always so. Just as my job and life are sometimes creative, I’m convinced that the same is true for all of us.

Over the course of the next year, I’ll be posting these interviews, and I encourage you to ask myself and the interviewees questions. Check back soon for the first in a series of interviews. My first guest is the wonderfully, brilliant Jeni Herberger.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve put imagination in action.

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