Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creativity: Skinning the Cat

NOTE: No Cats were actually harmed in this sketch.

I wondered if I could get out of a rut when my idea-sparking methods don't work so I researched creativity a bit.

Almost everyone knows that there's multiple ways to skin a cat, therefore, many creative ways to produce any given product or service. By definition creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas in the production of an artistic work. But is there such a thing as original ideas? how does one achieve creativity and is it at all possible to be creative when you're not a "creative"? Before I delve, let's throw away the notion that creativity is an spontaneous act. Creativity requires work. Creating truly original and innovative work may require a day, a month or even years.

Rituals of the Creative

In my search, I started to read the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, and so far I've noticed that most artists in the book have a method. As the name of the book suggests, artists have routines that help them be creative.There are some individuals whose creativity is sparked by their quiet environments, while others require chaotic organization, and there's even those who need liquor to get those creative juices flowing. I think that individuals that have a method are able to tap into their creative mind as quickly as their job requires.

Creativity for Everyone! 

Is there a method to the madness? Can everyone learn to approach creative problems and come up with creative solutions. Recently, I attended the Design Bootcamp at the The Design Gym which answered my questions. The design thinking process may be the key to unlocking everyone's creative side to create innovative products and services. The design thinking process is not a secret, it is a method employed by many. I searched to see if anyone else employs the method and found this tutorial video on Lynda.com. While, I knew some of the steps because I employ some of them, it was enlightening to see the full process.

How original is creative? 

Truly original work may not exist. Creativity is giving your own spin to any subject without copying. Austin Kleon writer of the book Steal Like An Artist, explains it best in the video below. As a creative, using inspiration is part of the process. And although you may think something is original, you may find that parts of it may be, though not everything.

My Own Creative Ritual and Process

By now you must be curious about me and my creativity process. Well, as for me, I'm an introverted collector. I collect inspiration. If you look at my Pinterest page, you will see that I have an affection for very particular things. As I mentioned on a previous post, I'm enamored with handdrawn typography and have collected many type specimen. I also own a bulletin board at home and clip inspiration from magazines I own. I go on Internet sprees. I go in search of particular subjects and find other things that inspire me on the way. I collect bookmarks.

I visit museums. I'm inspired by old works as well as new works by contemporary artists.

I go to flea markets. I'm inspired by the things people create from vintage objects.

At home, I surround myself with objects that inspire me. You wouldn't know it but everything in my home is something I handpicked not for its utility and its beauty.

I wonder. I ponder. I often just sit and think about things like this post for example.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

R-e-s-p-e-c-t for Designers

I was wondering about our profession so I decided I would write about it.
I think the graphic design profession doesn't get the respect it deserves and it's all our collective fault. As a seasoned design professional*, I've had the opportunity to view dozens of portfolios from graphic design students with innovative ideas and potential to become accomplished designers; however, when these students step unto the real world their voice is lost and their ideas get lost in translation. When we we do not assert our voice, bad design is created not only by young professionals in the field, but by all of us from junior to senior level. Not always showing/giving our best work and adding bad design to the world undermines the value of our profession. I say it's time take back our profession and show the world the importance of design.

Is Our Voice Gone?

Our voice has been transposed to others inside the organizations where we work especially where there are non-design professionals making "business" decisions. The "make the logo bigger" phenomenon has now become the norm in some places. EVERYTHING BOLD is what everyone wants. Everything is important! Everything must shout. Let's use all of the colors in the rainbow. And with all of these demands our craft suffers, our professional positions become back-office jobs simply because we just give up and make that logo as big as the page. We become doers instead of thinkers.

Design Is Valuable

We need to take our jobs more seriously because our job is important. Designers are problem solvers. We make the world. Everything you see around you is designed. If you don't believe me, take a look at Apple and the reason why they're successful. Also, watch this video to see Sarabeth talk about the effect of Louise Fili's work on her business.

Take a Stand

It's not easy to take a stand especially when our jobs are at the very bottom of the totem pole. Don't get me wrong, I'm not proposing becoming a contrarian simply because you can. Not every design faux pas can be addressed and it's not always the best idea to address everything. My husband, one of my greatest inspirations, always tells me "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." I don't want to fall, so it's one of the things I keep in mind when I'm thinking of giving up.

I haven't always expressed my point of view. It is something I still have challenges with and am still learning. I do believe that taking a stand is easier when one is well-informed and able to articulate the reasons for a decision. For me, doing your research and learning as much as I can about my profession has enabled me to provide the best service for clients. I recommend surrounding yourself with design professionals especially if you're not in an advertising or design agency. They will be your sound board when all of the bad design messages get to your subconscious. Lastly, say NO to making things pretty, that is not what we do. In a recent interview for the Design Observer blog I heard the best explanation of our job by Dana Arnett, "Design  provides context for understanding."

If these suggestions fail, just take a power poser, (see video below). No Wonder I like Wonder Woman!

*I'm defining a design professional as an individual who has worked in the design field for many years or graduated with a degree in graphic design.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Learning Hand Lettering

I wondered if I could be great at hand lettering so I tried it. As a designer, I often have to learn new software programs and keep up with new technologies. Learning to adapt quickly is a necessary requirement of my profession. I often attend workshops, talks, and take courses on design in order to keep learning.

Recently, I've grown obsessed with handdrawn type and illustration. My interest started long ago when my favorite designer of all time, Stefan Sagmeister, created the poster with the chicken without a head. I didn't start developing my own handdrawn type until 2005 when I took at class at SVA just to get re-inspired. My professor at SVA stressed the need to find your own voice by incorporating some sort of handmade aspect to whatever you desired to do; doing so adds something that cannot be duplicated. In the age of machines, everything looks the same except things we create with our own hands. Yes, it is quite imperfect but it also what makes you unique.

Here's my journey in pictures on hand lettering.

Although this attempt was very raw, I didn't know it at the time. Sometimes, it takes to keep trying to know.

Around 2011, I created a website www.myown9to5.com and basically wrote the text with my own handwriting. As you can tell, I wasn't really trying to be perfect or even close.

Above is more recent example of hand lettering you can see that my letters are choppy and too close together. It looks amateur.

I'm currently attending a class on hand lettering on Skillshare and learned some tips to improve my hand lettering skills. Here's a draft of a project I'm working on at the moment. As you can tell I'm much improved. I hope I can do a lot better in the coming year. I can still see some things than can be improved in the project below. But this is the life of graphic designer. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My Source of Inspiration

He is my everything. He is the reason I start and finish anything. He is the reason I wake up with a smile on my face. He saved me. When he was born, he brought a deeper purpose to my life. Every day is a challenge but every day I learn more from him than I ever knew I could.

I see the world for the first time with him. He looks at everything with fresh eyes. He inspires  to be curious and inspect the world around. I've never had a more creative period in my entire life.