Controlling Creativity

December 9, 2015 by  Mike Dineen

As Top Drawer’s resident wordsmith, fact checker, and functionality tester, I have a little confession to make: I’m not in love with the term “quality control,” even though I fully believe in its importance.

Don’t get me wrong; I rather enjoy the responsibilities involved with my role as Top Drawer’s quality control person. I get a special sort of thrill scouring all manner of creative and digital to catch the errors, from spelling mistakes, grammar issues, and awkward sentence structure; to design-related issues, visual inconsistencies, and online functionality; to fact checking, name spelling, and price checking – and so on.

It’s more the idea of “controlling” everyone’s creativity that I shy away from – especially when you consider that I work in a space fuelled by free-flowing creative energy.

It might seem that quality control is a straightforward process, one that could be completed by a robot or a computer program – like Word’s spell checker. But robots and programs lack the ability to detect those errors that demonstrate just how human we are, like contextual errors, illogical flow of information, or things that “just don’t look right.”

Would a robot be able to detect what’s wrong with this innocently awkward blunder that graced Toronto’s public transit system?



Or, this Starbucks gem?


I think not.

While quality control might seem like the creativity buzz killer, consider that all creative productions must eventually be sized properly, made consistent, and packaged up to make them accessible to an audience.

Think of the pre-defined boundaries of a poster, or the strict character count of a Tweet. These might seem like obligations, when actually the human-made boundaries have the effect of harnessing the designer’s creativity and strengthening the muscles of the social media writer.

So I’m that guy – the one who insists on adding a hyphen between two words at the eleventh hour. But when you have to find a way to capture the essence of a product or a brand in a short, sweet tagline for example, the only words you can use are the best ones.

There’s simply no room for error.


Our Quality Control Hero

November 17, 2014 by  Top Drawer Creative

Introducing Mike Dineen, Top Drawer Creative’s new QC / Proofreader

Quality Control in an ad agency looks a bit different than it would in a company that, say, distils single malt Scotch. However, the goal remains the same: to prevent the human errors that can tarnish the quality of the end product.

When looking for our new Quality Control expert, we looked for a combination of creative and technical skills, and keen attention to detail.

We needed someone tuned in to the most minute details of our written and visual materials – from videos to posters to entire websites. But what won Mike Dineen the job was his ability to grasp his role in a business that is largely fuelled by creative energy and thinking.

“One of the biggest pitfalls of creativity is our very human tendency to get bogged down by the little details. My role works to free the creative process because all those small (but very important) details, like continuity, grammar, and stylization, can be fixed after the fact,” says Mike.

Mike is the final set of eyes to examine everything before it gets sent out of the agency doors. He proofreads and fact-checks and scrutinizes every aspect, both visual and written, for accuracy and consistency.

Quality Control might have a buzz-kill air about it, like that annoying person who corrects your use of *you’re on Facebook, but Mike sees it as a largely creative process. “To me it’s like putting a puzzle together, ensuring all the individual pieces fit precisely to show the image the way it is meant to be seen. Sometimes the fix is simple; other times there are greater issues that need to be addressed like meaning, style, and positioning.”

Originally from small-town Southwestern Ontario, Mike has found his niche in the cosmopolitan lifestyle. During the past ten years of living in Toronto, Mike has accomplished an Honours BA in Creative Writing and a career path that twists and turns like a good book. “I never really knew where I wanted to end up career-wise. But I always knew that I loved words, stories, and the way they can bring meaning to the people, places, and things I encounter.”

“Before joining Top Drawer, while looking for the next step in my career, it was really important for me to find a job that would complement my lifestyle. I don’t believe your dedication to work should mean sacrificing your dedication to your personal life. Top Drawer is really set up to enable a work-life balance.”

When he’s not busy Quality Controlling, or working on his squat at the gym, or trying out a new diet regime, Mike can be found reading a book, listening to CBC radio, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying coffee (or single malt Scotch!) on his patio in the company of his two cats, Hudson and Newt.