My Mom got me snow shoes for my birthday.IMG00009

Having just tried out a pair at my friend’s houseย in Vermont, I was very excited.

But not half as excited as my 8 year son who promptly got to work transforming the empty LL Bean box into a fort.

I looked at the box, determined it had served it’s shipping purpose and started to put it in the recycle pile.

Fortunately, his imagination stepped in and he quickly reclaimed the empty box as a toy.

He spent the next hour cutting out a peep hole in the side, covering it with black paper (better to hide) and rigging a pretty sophisticated system to attach a light bulb to the inside corner of the box “just in case”.

Thank god for kids and their imaginations.

Now, I know you are probably thinking “this just proves that we don’t need to spend money on expensive toys for kids, we should just give them empty boxes.”

That was my first reaction too.

But then I stepped back and thought, maybe the bigger lesson is we should approach branding and creativity more like empty boxes.

E.g. more open to possibilities and forcing ourselves to look beyond the obvious functionality of something to really create something different….magical.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
When was the last time you practiced “empty box” thinking?

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Julie is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a brand consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and corporations build stronger, more profitable brands.


  1. Julie, this was a great post, very inspiring, thanks.

    Maintaining a child-like level of play and curiosity is the most important aspect of creative work (IMHO). In order to do this, one has to have full “permission” to do so.

    It’s innate in children plus they know they have permission as it’s reinforced through media and from adults around them, “hey he’s just a kid, let him do X”

    This permission, tragically, often gets slowly taken away as we get older, “Stop doodling” and “Is there something more interesting outside that window than on the chalk board Mr Hayes?” were two classic examples from my school days.

    I wish then I had the nerve to say, “Well, this imagination and daydreaming of mine will land me a fulfilling career in communication which will take me to London and New York to work on some of the biggest brands in the world, unlike your dull talk on trilobites. sir” ๐Ÿ™‚

    In my culture (North East England), dreaming and being imaginative are looked down upon, perhaps a legacy of it’s Industrial and working class heritage?

    Luckily I’ve ignored these elements and spent a lifetime researching and cultivating creative thought.

    Many big ad companies think this simply involves throwing a load of crayons on the table and telling people, “hey in this meeting, just let loose, anything goes, let’s blue sky!”

    Certainly, that approach is better than nothing but unfolding and encourage the inner creative child is a much more delicate process.

    Sorry, long comment! Pet theme,,,

  2. This is sooooo cool Julie!

    I was about the same age when my parent bought a new
    refrigerator and the delivery guy left the box behind.
    I immediately converted it into my pretend-submarine complete
    with portholes and control panels on the inside. My “sub” sat in the middle of the living room for weeks! Never bothered my parents who were both also Art Directors. They, like you, supported any and every creative endeavor I pursued.

    I remember it well. It was the time I learned about Depth Gauges.
    My Dad told me that that’s how submariners knew how deep they
    were underwater!

    Thanks for this post and bringing back great memories of my early creativity.

  3. @Floyd, @Lee thanks much for your rich comments. I’m glad the topic resonated so deeply. If history repeats itself, looks like Sacha (my son) may be able to look forward to an engaging, fufilling and illustrious career as a Creative Director. There are worse things a mother could wish for her son. ๐Ÿ™‚

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