THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

26 March 2018

Recording of the week: the four rooms of creativity

This week's selection comes from David Govier, Oral History Archivist. 

Why do a corporate oral history? The late Wally Olins, co-founder of Wolff Olins, explains his mixed motivations in wanting to set up an oral history of the company – from an urge for immortality, to the representative nature of his firm, and the future context of an ever-changing business world.

Wally Olins on oral history (C1015/08)

Michael Wolff, another co-founder, uses a metaphor of a house with four rooms to describe the creative processes the firm uses. The first room is the one of 'great work' – the room of inspiration; the heroes in your field from whom to learn, and to prove from the strength of one’s own work that one is not a fake. The second is the room of ‘good reason' – firstly having the skill of selling by creating good reasons for buying in to things, while remembering that no project can satisfy every reason. The third room is 'precedent' – building on past successes, trying not to re-invent the wheel, but at the same time innovating. The fourth room - 'not knowing' - is the most exciting one; Wolff explains that creativity comes from being willing not to know anything, to force oneself into a dark empty space and trusting one’s creativity to transform it.

Michael Wolff on the four rooms of creativity (C1015/03)

The Oral History of Wolff-Olins covers a cross section of individuals who contributed to the development of Wolff Olins, one of Britain's leading brand consultancies. Interviewees include founders Wally OlinsMichael Wolff, and Jane Scruton, designers, consultants, marketing and creative directors past and present as well as kitchen, administrative and support staff. The company's iconic branding work has included: First Direct (1989), Orange (1994), Tate (2000), London 2012 (2007) and Macmillan Cancer Support (2006). This National Life Stories project was recorded between 1987 and 2000. Over thirty of the interviews are available to listen to online at British Library Sounds.

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