So this is kind of a strange post, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an analogy between two phrases we have in the movie biz, and what makes floral designs truly inspired or outstanding. The two phrases describe two different types of movies. One is “high concept” – that means that you describe the movie or put it on paper, and people instantly get it. A Jim Carey movie about a lawyer who gets cursed and has to say everything he’s thinking for 24 hours (Liar, Liar) is high concept. You get a great idea of what kind of movie it is, and whether or not you want to see it, based on that. They usually center around the appeal of a movie star who you either like or you don’t, doing what they’re known best for. Freaky Friday (aka The Changeup), The Switch, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, 50 First Dates- all high concept. Some high concept movies are better than others – the point is just that you get a clear sense of what they’re going to be upfront.
A movie like 50/50, on the other hand, is called “execution dependent.” Risk averse studio executives hate betting money on movies like these, because whether they work completely depends on how they’re executed. When they’re good, execution dependent movies are the ones that win awards (high concept movies never do)- but when they’re bad, they’re disasters (high concept movies are almost always at least pleasant to watch). There’s no way you could hear a pitch for a semi-raunchy but really poignant Gen Y stoner comedy about living with late stage cancer and know that it’s going to be good. It sounds crazy and dicey on paper, and to be good, it will take major alchemy between everything and everyone involved. If you described one of these movies to someone who hadn’t seen it and didn’t know anything about it, they’d say “Wow, I have no idea whether that would be good. It could really go either way. I’d have to see it.”
What does this analogy have to do with flowers? Well lately I’ve been noticing the same pattern. There are designs that I “get” based just on a description – a bouquet with cafe au lait dahlias, dusty miller, pale garden roses, astilbe, and silver brunia berries? I know it’s beautiful and that I love it, based just on that description. I know the look, I know the genre. It’s easy to communicate, and easy to envision – in other words, high concept. A tall centerpiece on a glass trumpet vase or a tall metal candlestick with a cylindrical spray of white dendrobiums, peach roses, and hydrangea atop it, and perhaps some green amaranthus hanging down from it’s base? Again, I know that look and immediately get it. And again, I love those centerpieces and certainly am not knocking them!
An execution dependent design, however, I wouldn’t “get” based on a description, even if I was told literally every single thing that was going to go into it. I’d say “I’d have to see it,” or “it depends on who is designing it.” I might even say that it doesn’t sound to me like all of the colors or textures would work together, or that I fear it would be too busy. Basically, with an execution dependent design, the success or failure of the piece totally depends on the vision and discernment of the designer, not on the ingredients that go into it.
I’m trying to do more designs that are execution dependent. Why? Because the whole idea is that not just anyone could do them. They depend on you, and therefore consumers who like your execution dependent designs will have a strong imperative to hire you. They know that in another designers hands, the same thing just might not work. (Whereas in almost anyone’s hands, a soft pastel bouquet full of dahlias and garden roses and dusty miller is lovely!)
This started percolating in that Rene Van Rems class I took. He was talking about how if you propose a bouquet of roses to a bride, it’s the easiest thing in the world for her to price shop. It becomes just about who can make a bouquet of roses for the least money, because they’re all virtually the same thing, so why wouldn’t it. You’re not hiring a floral designer at that point, you’re hiring someone to arrange and resell you a certain number of roses. I can easily imagine a bride coming to a floral designer saying “I want a bouquet of cafe au lait dahlias, garden roses, and dusty miller” – I can’t imagine someone saying “I want a bouquet of…” followed by any of the exact combinations of ingredients in any one of the below bouquets. In the first example, she’s designing the bouquet, you’re being hired to make it. In the second, she’s hiring you for your design expertise and trusting you where she wouldn’t another designer.
My stated goal will be to sell my designs, rather than to resell flowers. I will of course still need to do designs that are more high concept and less execution dependent – and I know that there will be plenty of clients who come to me knowing exactly what they want and just asking me to produce it – but this difference will always be something I keep in mind as I write proposals and build my portfolio.
And now, some of my favorite bouquets that I think are highly execution dependent.
If you’d described these first two to me without showing them, I’m sure I’d tell you that red and green would make them look Christmasey, or be jarring, or too bold for my liking. Nope – they’re both absolutely lovely- fresh, light, and spring-ey!
This is by Whim Events:
And this by Twig and Twine:
On paper, bet I would have told you that this bouquet’s color palette didn’t work for me, and that it had a mish mash of stuff that felt spring-ey and feminine with stuff that felt masculine or herbal, so it wouldn’t harmonize. Wrong – in the hands of Petals Ink, it sure does. This is one of my faves!
I KNOW I’d have told you that a bouquet of orange and white flowers with pinecones and a gingham ribbon was country cheesy and tacky. I take it all back!!! I’m embarrassed I even thought about having hypothetically said it ; ) This is from an inspiration shoot by Studio Fleurette and it’s totally cute:
About this bouquet, I think I would have just said that I can’t even imagine it at all – well here it is, and it’s stunning (check out the grapes!) This is by LA’s Collage Design (whose lead designer is a former entertainment industry publicist):
This one is questionable – I might have bet that it would work, but I might have questioned whether the warm green of the amaranthus would work with the cool blue green of the succulents, and whether the garden-y stuff like sweet peas would work with the bolder, more festive stuff. Either way, I adore this bouquet from Verbena in Austin:
On paper, I probably would have told you that the light blue lavender of the sweet peas, the blue-green of the thistle, the true lavender of the lavender, the baby blue ribbon, and the red-purple of the kale was a mess of color, and to boot, that having one stem of kale surrounded by clusters of the other stuff would be weird. Oh contraire, this might be one of my favorite bouquets in a long time. It’s from a shoot by The Stylish Soiree:
Bet I would have had doubts about the masculine/feminine contrast or the colors or something in this one, and said a resounding “I’d need to see it” – well, I’ve seen it, and it rocks! This is from San Diego’s Organic Elements:
I surely would have said that orange, green, black and yellow was an ugly color combo, and worried this would feel halloween-ey or just not be pretty, between the colors and the textures. And I’d have eaten my words. This is by Flora Grubb. I want to adopt it!
That’s it for today!
And now I’m off to try to dream up the 50/50’s of flowers, rather than the Liar, Liar’s of flowers ; ) LOL!