'Sometimes down a rabbit-hole is not a bad place to start' - What Inspires Me, with Tin Man's Paul Valentine

What gets Tin Man creative director Paul Valentine's creative juices flowing?

'Sometimes down a rabbit-hole is not a bad place to start' - What Inspires Me, with Tin Man's Paul Valentine

Asking people what they think

I don’t have all the answers, so I normally start with lots of questions.

I find that audience insights are often hard to digest on paper, but different things jump out at me when I talk to someone in person. Often that gives me an idea.

So usually I start by pestering a brand fan, or a brand target. Failing that, I pick the brains of people I work with. Or as they say: distracting them.

Aphex Twin and other electronica

It may or may not be true that I once listened to 'Window Licker' on repeat for three days at work. I will say this, though: it tends to get you into a bit of trance, which I find is good for getting my head down. 

Generally, I find Aphex Twin and slightly mad electronica good at transporting me somewhere else, so I can get some work done in a busy office or at home.

Might be one for the headphones rather than the office sound system, though, as it has been known to scare the bejeezus out of people. (Other experimental techno is available.)


When something is rattling around your head, sometimes it's best to ignore it and do something fun. I'm a great believer in with power of play: 'All work and no play…' and all that.

I have a jam band with mates. We get together a have a muck around, play instruments and jam. On the way home, I often find an idea will pop into my head.

Or playing a game with my son, for whom everything is brand new, sometimes helps me to see things in a different way.

Random websites

I keep a bunch of random websites bookmarked and am always on the lookout for more.

I know I have enough tabs open when my laptop is hot enough to cook an egg on.

Whether it's a science journal, book review section or a TV guide, I'll open up a few of my bookmarks. I find them full of ideas, stories and formats to borrow from/be inspired by.

Most of which have nothing to do with the brief, but I find them helpful for getting me off-piste.

Yes, you can end up down a rabbit-hole, but sometimes that's not a bad place to start.

And if all else fails, an online Oblique Strategies (designed by Brian Eno and used by Bowie in the studio) is an abstract way to randomise your thinking.

Lots of coffee

Cliché alert. But the world's most commonly used psychoactive substance, and one of the few legal ones, does the trick for me.

Granted, it won't help you come up with the answers, but it is good for morale, getting your brain in gear and keeping enthusiasm up.

And if there's no coffee to hand, it's also a good excuse for a walk around the block, a bit of fresh air and a change of scenery, which all help you get a bit of perspective.


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