Pixar nurturing beauty together

We all know the company Pixar — they make animated movies. And Pixar are an extremely successful company making great films, not only because they are masterpieces in animation but because they tell compelling stories.

But this is not easy. After the runaway success of Toy Story, Ed Catmull and his team agreed there had to be a way of openly and tenderly holding a creative idea so that it could evolve to its true potential of excellence every time. To do this required the idea to be open to close scrutiny in every aspect of its script, design and production. It was for this reason that the Braintrust was created.

In a large room, members of Pixar regularly come together to openly test the development of a film. The rules are: only constructive criticism, and to speak with candour. It requires great trust to do this, to speak plainly and honestly and for the director to listen to all feedback. Without trust there can be no creative collaboration.

The focus is on solving a problem. Individual knowledge becomes a collective intelligence, highly valuable in examining how one gets from mediocre to world class. Catmull believes every movie they start with sucks in the beginning. In his words, meetings are filled with ‘frank talk, spirited debate, laughter and love’; they are there to excavate the truth in a movie.

The other rule is that the director is never instructed to do something. The director listens and develops his or her own interpretation and understanding of feedback given.

It is unusual for a creative company, or any company, to work so rigorously in an open, collaborative environment. It takes patience and time – something Pixar are willing to give. To create enduring beauty requires intense collaboration between people who share the purpose of creating something truly unique. Anyone, therefore, no matter in which industry they work, can create their own Braintrust. It might just get you from mediocre to great.

Based on the book, “Do Design. Why beauty is key to everything”, published by the DO Book Co. 2016.


Through my years helping companies craft innovative businesses, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that beautiful businesses are the future. They are proven to be attractive to employees, buyers and investors. They are profitable. And they are loved. Through workshops, talks and consultations, my life’s mission is to help businesses discover their own unique beauty.

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