Meet the Elephant in the Room

Your point of view as a creative is valid and necessary. In that capacity, you are not responsible for every conceivable interpretation of your work. Know, though, that your audience brings a different perspective, and that any work is still incomplete until the audience interprets it.

This article is in no way intended to persuade you to water down your creative work to please everyone. The fact is--your work will be subject to publishers, producers, executive clients, and so forth, who might not fully appreciate your creative vision because they do not share it. Not everyone who is involved in creative work is an "artist." Some are in advertising, social media, politics, or management and, as a necessity, must convey a creative message that makes sense to a wider audience.

Appreciate that, if your goal to challenge your audience to change their point of view, you must first consider its possible responses to your presentation. Ask yourself what journey your audience might have taken to be placed in front of your work. What education or experience do they bring? How would you engage them to consider the totality of your concept when they bring limited experience or knowledge?

The parable of the Six Blind Men and an Elephant illustrates this point. A rich man welcomes a group of blind guests to his estate. He brings in his pet elephant so his guests can inspect her. For each, it is their first encounter with such an animal. The guests find themselves stationed at a different part of the elephant and each shares his observations.

They describe an elephant as being like a: Tree. Wall. Snake. Spear. Rope. Fan. All are valid descriptions of what they observed, but none accurately described an elephant. They argue about the elephant because they all had a different experience. Each observation was true, yet incorrect in totality. Until they are each shown all the different parts, they cannot understand what an elephant is.

Some audiences have the experiences and sophistication to have seen all sides of an elephant, so they can know what the totality of the animal is if they are presented with one part. What will you do with a different audience such as children, disabled, or an isolated population who've never seen one? Find a common thread that will carry everyone to an appreciation of your work.

In other words, to reach the widest possible audience, you might consider designing your work so that that, even when your audience doesn't comprehend its entirety, at least they can agree on what that elephant in the room smells like. From that common experience, perhaps they will then explore its magnificent details.