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Creativity On Demand November 23, 2016

 

 

Here are some mini insights into my creative process after 10 years in the industry.

The most “fun” job.

You are the group or person that get’s to be “artistic” and “creative”.  It’s important to realize that you provide an important service.  Equally important is to realize that you don’t work in a vacuum.  You need a relationship with marketing, engineering, and manufacturing to make the design process a success.  Whether this is done in person, or remotely, it’s an important skill to develop.  Learn their language, learn how to make things tangible or results oriented.  Learn to get people to buy into your designs by providing evidence with research.  I’ve learned that some sketches are done to show what “not to do”.  This isn’t always a bad thing.  Edison had plenty of “bad designs”, but they all led him to the one that became the solution.  I find myself doing more detective work rather than being a sketch hound and coming up with that magical colorful masterpiece of a rendering.  Since this is a visual job, it’s easy to listen to everyone’s opinion around you.  This can result in “groupthink”, which is a known destroyer of good design.  Pick the key people you listen to for feedback, not everyone actually gets an opinion.  The customer is always right, but the user of the product might not be.  Sometimes what the user of the product is asking for, isn’t always what they need.  People are notorious for telling you about things they have already seen, it’s your job to articulate something they haven’t seen.

Strategic listening.

What this means is to get good at asking questions that benefit the product or company.  I try to be as scientific about this process as possible.  Good science simply get’s your opinion out the equation from the beginning.  Yes, you will have theories, maybe even really good ones, but learn to extract little gems out of a conversation or when reading a forum or magazine on the subject matter you are designing for.  If I am designing a product for a very specific market, I like to “catch the user in the wild”.  We used to do this a lot when designing for the trucking industry.  The drivers always had ideas on what they needed, but watching HOW they used things in real life gave much better clues on how to solve the problem with design.

Creativity on Demand.

I am not an artist, I don’t design for myself (and repeat).  You design for others, and you do it everyday.  Design is not something that you do when you feel inspired, it’s something you do by making yourself inspired.  Not always easy.  The reality is, like a musician putting on a performance, people observe what you do as “effortless”.  But if you are like me, your mind doesn’t really turn off after work.  Yes I have other hobbies, and things that I do for fun now rather than draw, but as designers we are always trying to make things better.  Sometimes, even rockstar creative types fall into a condition called “creative block”, or even “burnout”.  This is to be avoided at all cost, because it will really affect your work.  To get out of creative block is very tough once you are in it, don’t underestimate the problems this can cause to your health and career.  This is where it’s really important to have a supportive team, management, or client.  Be honest about it, sometimes you need time off.  I’ve been fortunate that when I get in these situations, my management tells me to simply go home or just get out of the office.  The main thing is to take your attention off of the subject, while not completely forgetting about it (in reality you can’t stop thinking about it)  Many times, when I am about to have a design “breakthrough”, I have to go through a period of frustration, anxiety, and sometimes it’s very hard to even sketch an idea.  I’ve slowly learned that these are actually the most important parts of the process.  This is the time when I request to work from home, and get away without distraction to move in the right direction.   Over time, my colleagues have learn that I am going into the “zone” and should be left alone for a while.  If you are getting really bogged down with burnout, there are a couple of useful things you can do.

First, don’t take the same way to and from work.  Take a different route, maybe a scenic route.  We have a lot of mountains around here, and I can get a different perspective on life by taking a different way home.

Second, sketch different subject matter.  Don’t draw the same thing over and over, that will be a disaster.  Switch it up, companies like to see you sketch their products, but sometimes you really need to have “Hotrod Sketch Friday”.  It really does work.

Third, get out of the office.  Go look at something cool that you are interested in.

Fourth, quit and get into farming..not really, but if your job is really bogging you down, leave find another gig.  I was at a company for almost 8 years, and the interesting projects simply ran dry.  I moved on and found new inspiration with a completely different industry.

Ryan

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