When it comes to being creative at the time of designing, how does one do it correctly? Is there a right way to be creative? I thought about these questions one day after a friend suggested, I could get pay by teaching how to make things like this logo, above, with illustrator. At first glance I thought it was not a bad idea, I did not see the need to get pay for it. Instead, I thought it could be a blog post, so I started writing a post; soon I realized it was a very technical piece of writing, I was writing a tutorial. Stubborn me thought: I do not want to make another tutorial. They are simply too technical, and indeed they often are more about a particular software than the creative process itself. Then I thought why don't I write about the technical and the creative process. So here we are:
I am not the first one to say, art is a form of play. But, indeed I believe its important to play during the design process. So I encourage you to look forward to having fun when designing. First ideas often suck, that's ok. Keep sketching, revising, iterating, and collaging old ideas with new ideas, do all that and have fun. However, have also a right amount of intuition mixed with play. We can see that the two overlap, as it should, the cognitive and the methodical. The chance and the random. That is ok.
Intuition is just a another word to say, do your research. Get into the habit of being exposed to great design. Do you homework and study the design and typography of the past, look into great design forms of today as well. Do not ever stop doing this. This habit will make your taste and skills get use to certain standard. The perfect analogy–for me at least–is be, figuratively; and literally if possible, the bookshelf of a writer. If you know any writer, you'd know they read as much as they write. They are fond of great reading and with time they become eclectic readers. You as a designer should be the nearest thing to a designer's bookshelf. Know what was like to see design in the 80s, in the 40s, the 1800s, who is Paul Rand, what is gestalt, why was Milton Glaser a great designer; do not be comfortable with just knowing he designed the I ❤ NY logo, why Saul bass is admired by people in Design and Motion Graphics. If those people haven't made you wonder yet; soon they will. Look into your contemporaries; find out how people like Dana Tanamachi took Pinterest by storm when she started putting lettering in chalkboards, who knew!–people like to see lettering also in chalkboard.
If you think I am asking you to put your "nerd on", you're completely right. School is going to be a good starting point for tons of information and resources. But, if you really love what you're studying, in our case design, all that stuff I said will come naturally. Also the more knowledge you seek in your own, the better you'll be at describing to your family and others, what is it that you do for living!. I am jus tired of going the easy way and tell "I do logos, graphics" and then they reply "So...you do" to which I respond back "graphics for things like books, posters, magazines, the web, etc." and then, I leave them with the impression that all I do at work is drawings.
What if I can tell them that my profession is not something new that came with computers. I design, because people have always been in need of designers. Design is such part of our nature, we have been designing graphics since the stone age. My work consist of creating the best ways to consume information visually; for visuals–that's to say pictures– are the most natural form of receiving information known to men.
Hey I got all that from this book I quote below, see–see what I did there!. (click the citation to see the book in amazon)
"One theory on how brain functions suggests that the natural state of humans is to receive and process information that is in graphic form. There is an increasing body of evidence pointing to pictorial thoughts—or, thinking in pictures—as representing a natural and comfortable human state. After all, we think in picture, not words; we dream in pictures, not words. While printing and reading are not "natural" forms of receiving information, pictures are" (Harvery Robert 70).
Surround yourself with great design –meaning design you think is great– Also, most of us are lucky to have friends that are as invested in design as we are; pick each others brain, ask them for feedback, whose work they like, etc. To sum it up, know great design, and do not be ok with just knowing what is good. Be aware of what is great out there. When you do that, you'll know the quality, in design, you will want to accomplish; you'll have a better intuition.
What this mean is: be creative. I cannot tell you how to be creative because this is rooted in your personality, in your way of being, your taste. Hell!, your style if you may. There are many ways to go about it, that one approach alone cannot be considered the best route. So, I wont suggest one. As a designer, whether you are aware or not, you know when you are performing at your best, and if not, you find a way to accommodate your mind for work. Knowing the creative process that works, is a task for you to discover. Only you can find out what is the wrong or right way to approach one's own creative process. How do we do this? by simple trial-and-error. Finding the environment that suits to your work-habits.
Ideas don not just show themselves polished and finished, and yes, inspiration can strike and give you great parts of an idea. Nonetheless, inspiration is only the beginning phase of ideas. The sudden rush of energy inspiration gives away, means nothing if is not put into test. One should ask, is it really as great as it seems? can the idea survive an argument? Can I make an argument for it? if the answers for these questions are yes, you might have something. If not, keep thinking.
Now, the more you look to your behavior when designing. The more you'll start to see a pattern in your working habits, and there you go: you have found the first sign of your ideal creative process. With luck and a lot of work you'll be able to pin down those creative moments more often. By the way, please don't think I believe is as easy as I make it sound. I myself still keep track of all the instances when an idea and my creative process intertwine like water drops soaking on a paper sheet; which don't happen often. But, this moments do happen. I track them and record them in my mind, So, later I try my best to emulate them when other opportunities ask for it.
Enough will al the preaching, my point is that the creative process is your responsibility, and only you can know how, when, and what makes you work at your best. That being said, there are few things you can expect from the creative process, how you achieve them is completely up to you.
Few things to remember when designing:
- Get the bad ideas out of your system first. "We have to get the familiar out of our system before the fresh idea begin to flow"–Alex W. White.
- Remember to have fun, that is to have balanced mixed of play and intuition.
- Research, do get acquainted with what concepts inform your goals, other than graphics. These would help you come up with better graphics.
- Edit, ask for feedback. "it takes editing to make a design look good" –Alex W. White
- Finally, find a quiet place, free of distractions, to work at. Quiet enough to hear either your thoughts or your music in peace.