28 March 2010


When you were a kid, did you ever wonder why Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone drove past the same grouping of trees, same pile of rocks and the same houses en route to the bowling alley... or anywhere else for that matter?

Were they going in circles? No.

Were they lost? No.

Were the animators trying to save time? Yes.

In the animation industry, this effect, or lack-of, is called a Wraparound Background and was used quite a bit by Hanna-Barbera to simulate travel. Because a background is secondary to the characters, less emphasis is placed on it as a focal point and wrapping a set background can give the illusion of traveling a great distance without having to illustrate a long detailed scene.

I call it Flintstoning.

Flintstoning can apply to just about everything we do. Be careful not to mistake what I'm referring to as a short-cut, because it's much more than that - real Flintstoning requires inventiveness, resourcefulness and creativity.

Flintstoning is not fueled by laziness, but rather an understanding where added effort is necessary or unnecessary and appreciated or not even noticed. This is also the challenge - understanding and knowing where and when to Flintstone.

Why is Flintstoning necessary? Well, sometimes time and money factor into certain projects... alright, not sometimes, money and time are always factors. So, finding ways to get elaborate work done in short a short period of time is necessary and expected. It's easy to spend hundreds of hours in designing something, even something as simple as a business card - is it really needed though?

So, the question then becomes, when is it necessary? Knowing this comes with experience, lot's and lot's of experience. The art of Flintstoning is finding quick and efficient ways to do things without compromising the integrity or value of the project and that's something that can't really be taught. Only with time do you really learn true Flintstoning and how it differs from taking short-cuts.

To pull Flintstoning off properly, you need to understand the project you are working on fully and know the impacts of said Flintstoning on the overall functionality and expectations of your client. And, if Hanna-Barbera taught us anything, Flintstoning should be relegated to the background and secondary pieces - not the focal point.

When Flintstoning, you need to ensure that it does not impair the operation or functionality of your project.
Flintstoning should be seamless and for the most part, fairly invisible.

A change in the background that does not effect the foreground in an effort to save time and money is really what Flintstoning comes down to. Here is a great example of this:
Henry Ford implemented the assembly line, prior to that all cars were made by hand - using this different manufacturing approach to what was being done, he was able to save time, which resulted in a substantial saving for his customers.
Would you call this manufacturing change Flintstoning or taking a short-cut? Customers didn't know that their cars were not hand made and quite frankly, it didn't matter - they were getting the same product for less, maybe even with fewer errors.

I hate this term, but 'Out of the Box' thinking in solving problems is what it comes down to with Flintstoning, and the common underlying problem being solved is always time.

True Flintstoning is the result of experience and creativity and the ability to pull it off can make you a hero to your customers. It can also be a huge competitive advantage.

I encourage you to have a look at the projects you're working on and ask yourself if there are opportunities for Flintstoning - if you're spending a lot of time on one thing, chances are there may be. Just be sure that you're making the choice to change things for all the right reasons, ensure it's Flintstoning and not just a short-cut.

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