Special Report: Creative City

Defining Hamilton's Creative Industries

Hamilton's Planning & Economic Development Department must take care not to define creative industries too narrowly. The good news is, they're listening.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 24, 2009

The Planning & Economic Development Department of Hamilton (I'll abbreviate this as EcDev) has been engaged in developing an Economic Development Strategy for Hamilton. EcDev has identified six "clusters" to focus on: Advanced Manufacturing, Clean-Tech, Goods Movement, Biosciences, Agri-business, and Creative Industries.

I was privileged to attend a strategy session for the Creative Industries cluster in the spring of 2009, representing the Hamilton design firm factor[e]. At the time, the cluster was described as consisting of "Film and Culture", and most of the attendees were artists.

As a technologist, I felt like the odd one out, but my company is most definitely a creative one, which I pointed out during the session. We are engaged in many activities that are more accurately described as engineering or computer science than art, but they are still creative, and I felt they ought to be included in the definition of creative industries.

As well as these technological activities, we are engaged in graphic design, illustration, logos and branding, print design, web design, video post-production work, and many other creative activities. Our CEO and founder is an artist (paint and sculpture) who is well-known in the artist community in the city, and we employ several artists, since it takes artists to create great graphic designs, websites and logos.

Many other people at the session also objected to the focus on film, advocating for a strategy that also included musicians and other artists. The message was clear: the definition of creative industries in Hamilton should not be a narrow one.

About a month ago, I received a draft copy of EcDev's Economic Development strategy with a request for feedback. The document has a separate section for each cluster. I read the section on the Creative Industries Cluster and not long after I sent a response containing some criticism, which I'll share here.

Before I do so, it's important to note that this process is very promising, and that's because the City's Economic Development Department is listening. Identifying and engaging the people working in the sectors they hope to promote is the single best thing EcDev could have done, and they deserve kudos for that.

Looking at the draft strategy for the Creative Industries Cluster, it is clear that EcDev heard the message that the original focus on film was too narrow. The draft strategy now focuses on the "measurable creative strengths of Hamilton's economy, namely, Music and Film". Unfortunately my colleagues and me, this definition still skips over the industry that employs us.

The only activity we are involved in that fits the categories identified in the draft is video post-production work, but that is a minor part of our business, so we appear to be excluded from the strategy.

This is a mistake for several reasons.

First, Hamilton has a growing community of designers and web developers. This is a strength which I believe should at least be measured before it can be deprioritized.

Second, in the strategy, "creative industries" are melded with "cultural industries", which are then essentially defined as entertainment. Creative endeavours and entertainment are not the same thing, however, which is clear when you consider Richard Florida's definition of the "Creative Economy" (Florida is referenced in this part of the strategy), which is wide. Florida's Super-Creative Core is "a wide range of occupations (e.g. science, engineering, education, computer programming, research) with arts, design, and media workers making a small subset".

Care must be taken not to make the definition of creative industries too narrow - or too wide. I don't think that education should be included in the sector. However, I do think that graphic design clearly fits within the definition, and so does architecture and engineering. Furthermore, the economic and cultural incentives that would serve to spur music and film in the city would work equally well for other creative activities.

Third, Hamilton has a strong background in industrial design, given our manufacturing and industrial base. It is probably difficult to turn someone formerly employed in a steel mill into a painter or a filmmaker, but they may be perfectly suitable for jobs that lean more towards the design and scientific side of the creative spectrum. In other words, we have people here that have a better chance of finding employment in the creative sector if it is more broadly defined than just music and film.

Fourth, some of the activities listed in the strategy are economically limited. The strategy mentions a number of theatres, musical venues, and art galleries. One example from close to my home is The Casbah. Yes, The Casbah hosts a lot of great musical acts, but I would argue that many of the jobs provided by The Casbah (waiting tables, tending bar, etc.) do not have positive economic impacts as great as jobs in graphic design, web design, photography and architecture do.

Finally, there is an important threat to the strategy that goes unmentioned: the rapidly changing landscape of the Internet. The music industry is undergoing enormous, transformational change right now. Film is going to be next to undergo these changes, as the ability of the Internet to transmit film and television improves. Any strategy which focuses on industries that are going through this much change is highly risky.

In contrast, the very forces that are threatening music and film are the same ones that are driving digital media companies forward. EcDev should hedge their risk and include more activities in their definition of creative industries.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By deleted (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 00:44:02

spam comment deleted by site administrator

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By juntmoi (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 07:37:03

Looks like its a pretty skinny strategy. Other areas have embraced innovation in all forms in business as well as creativity in culture. The risk in targetting film is that it is the result of a low CanBuck and for Hamilton a special incentive. It can fold its tent and leave in a hurry.
Will be very difficult for city officials to run the program internally without a lot of spend on staffing and reearch.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 14:03:54

Is the draft strategy available online? I'd love to have a look at it.

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By imaginationplus (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 15:45:48

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 15:49:11

Nefarious advertising or old-fashioned disclosure? Everyone's so damn paranoid these days.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 15:49:59

By the way, nice advertising in your screen name, http://www.imaginationplus.com/

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 16:11:02

Imaginationplus, I see you represent a design firm operating in the LIUNA building on Hughson St. As a representative of a company that provides high end jobs downtown and pays rent in a restored heritage building, your opinion on downtown revitalization or economic development would carry alot of weight. If you were to write an article, perhaps drawing on the experiences of your own company, I'm sure the editor of this site would love to publish it.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 18:35:11

Adrian - I think your level of depth as a community orientated writer and web developer brings much needed ambiance to our little neck of the woods. As a fellow developer in the area, I find your commentary on our industry in Hamilton well overdue. Especially in regards to EcDev.

In Toronto where there are literally buckets of web-related jobs, our voice in Hamilton is muted at best. We really need to massage our talent here, or it leaves. As most of us Hamilton-based web developers know, it's only a GO train ride, long commute away from a higher paying, higher touted version of our jobs here in Hamilton. And it's not fair.

I hope in the future we cross paths and perhaps share some perspectives on web shop biz in the Hammer.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 21:42:29

Adrian: I am going to throw a challenge at you or maybe just an idea. There are some people in our community who do not have easy access to continue education, that could have hidden talents in some of the higher paying areas but will never get the opportunity to persue.

Even for someone who is on social assistance, it costs money to upgrade to GED, which the system will not provide for and the amounts received do not allow for individuals to move ahead. Many of the school programs they send people to are not accredited even for Grade 12, thus they are dead end.

Maybe it could be possible for your industry to somehow enable others to pursue their dreams by sponsoring individuals toward their goals. I'm not just pointing to your organization but to others as well.

Anyways, just a suggestion.

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By JWilbur (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 15:03:56

It makes no sense to limit the meaning of creative culture, creative industries or the cultural/creative sector.

Where is creative culture happening in this city? Where is citizen sponsored urban renewal actually showing hotspots? Why are these hot spots largely excluded from the definition? Aren't they what got us thinking about this process in the first place? Now the 'process' has taken over so we're ignoring them? Oh please!

An arts concentration builds community, builds our city, moves us forward. Making a lot of films no doubt actually brings more cash to city coffers in fees and licenses, but it involves very few of us, does nothing to build our community or city and is largely exploitative from start to finish as a cultural vehicle.

The attitude we're seeing is classic bureaucracy getting in the way, as it always has and does. Jane Jacobs was taking and warning us about getting involved in these processes 30 years ago. They are little more than a huge waste of time and energy for the actual creative community!

People with no experience in grassroots cultural development are controlling and mandating this process: taking control before it's even fully off to it's exploratory beginnings. Why are we bothering to even continue spending any time on it? It's a fool's game.

I know we live in the Age Of Stupid but why are WE even bothering with a process that might have had good potential BUT has been hood-winked and hijacked?

The clear way for the arts community is to band together, work together and keep moving forward as we are now, without anyone's help. The creative community is building strongly, let's concentrate on and put our energy into continuing that progress.

The Arts Crawl District on James Street North is a great example of what I'm talking about. Sure it would be great if this community were targeted as part of the creative city, but that issue is the cities. And this IS The Age of Stupid . . . We have too much else to do to spend our time on that.

We should continue to build our community and the real, on the streets, creative city. If the City or anyone else decides to help out, terrific, if not, too bad. Let's not waste time trying to effect someone else's issues, let's stick to our own.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 15:53:52

@ grassroots

I agree. Creativity and (Imagination) can't be taught.... If I can suggest two things that might help an unrealized creative mind to someone who just 'needs the shot'... and doesn't have the official creds.

  1. Internship. Many Ad Agencies will take on an intern. Mind you, you'll be doing some not-fun stuff. like making coffee/LCBO runs or last minute food pickup for a client meeting. But you will learn the creative business, because you will likely be allowed to join some creative meetings and client presentations. Just don't say anything at a client meeting. You might have to be prepared to take minimum wage or consider it 'volunteer' work.

  2. There is nothing to stop you from taking an existing ad or brand and writing your thoughts and opinions about it. Perhaps say why you think the strategy and execution is good or what could be improved. Write it down and send it to some ad agencies and design firms. Nothing fancy, just articulate what you think. Creative professionals will 'get it'... even in its most rudimentary form. Remember many a good creative started on a cocktail napkin. Everything starts from a blank page. It's when you 'jump' from that blank page, that is when creativity shows itself. The rest of the process and execution begins from where the 'creativity' landed. That's the easy part. The hard part, the creative part is the initial jump.

Then send those thoughts to an ad/marketing agency, design firm, PR shop asking if you could do some intern work.

You could have an MBA in Marketing it doesn't mean you're creative.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 18:08:31

Hi Trey: I think you offer some great ideas. I was at a meeting today and well someone who is very influential in the city stated that business does need to be involved, to be part of the solution in regards to solving some of the poverty issues.

Sometimes people just need a little help to get started in the right direction toward something positive.

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By you know that I know that you know that (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 16:43:12

Question to the ad folks: how far along is the ad industry in developing workable models for advertising (and hence supporting creative marketers, artists etc.) with fractured media and niche markets?

Is there a way to use data bases and digital media to build sustainable markets by paying small amounts for creative content to niche markets, cobbling together a market big enough to sustain the advertiser and pay the agency?

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By imaginationplus (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 20:18:14

>> Nefarious advertising or old-fashioned disclosure? Everyone's so damn paranoid these days.

its a little naive...old fashioned disclosure with a link to the design firm (nothing to do with the article), keywords in the link (nothing to do with the article), and another link to an article with links (again) to the "Hamilton Web Design Firm".

Its cool..i just wish that RTH was more about Hamilton news and less of an outlet for people to advertise (raisethehammer.org/blog.asp?id=1408) their (raisethehammer.org/index.asp?id=880) company (google.ca/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=mTc&q=site:raisethehammer.org+factore&start=10&sa=N&filter=0)

is it still old fashioned disclosure? sure you could call it that: raisethehammer.org/blog.asp?id=390#comment-2130

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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 08:26:48

^Dude I think you need to change your name to Imagination Minus. Truly pathetic hatchet job. No wonder Hamilton can't crawl out of the muck, we hate it when someone succeeds.

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By imaginationplusorminus (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 09:47:37

right...i offer my opinion on something i've noticed. downvoted. dude slanders me and city in same comment = upvoted.

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By imaginationminusorplus (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 17:54:04

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By Wah wah (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 19:17:20

^Epic social networking FAIL.

You got down voted because your whining and taking cheap potshots at your competition instead of puttting something constructive on the table.

The only one doing "interesting advertising methods" is you and I gotta tell you, after reading your posts all I can think is, here's a guy who doesn't understand the first thing about the internet. Not the best image for a website design company.

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By thankfulthatzuccabarmaybegone (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 22:48:58

Would like to know what this `Arts Crawl District` mentioned above is. The event is called the James North Art Crawl and happens once a month - the neighbourhood is known as James North and is much more than just arts and artists. Thank god.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted December 04, 2009 at 01:54:57

@ImaginationPlus

"^Epic social networking FAIL."

hilarious

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