I started at MGA&D as a graphic designer with a Degree in Fine Arts and a minor in Art History. I was excited to be working with Michael, the architects and product designers, hoping that the firm’s multi-disciplinary approach to design would really bring my concepts to life – leaving no question that the best possible design was chosen consistently. While I enjoy having the opportunity to work on a lot of great projects, at times I find it difficult to keep my creative juices flowing because I often have to jump from one project to the other. This is especially true now as I have transitioned into a marketing communications role. I felt that my creative mojo somehow got lost working on so many projects at once, and that I spent too much time worrying about not having enough time to design something great and communicate the firm’s mission effectively. I realized I needed to develop my own process to create an environment where I could replenish and cultivate my energy and creativity.
I would like to share a couple of “secrets” with you that help me switch from project to project without reducing my creatively in the process.
Unlock Creativity by Managing Your Results, Not Your Time
Yes, we all have deadlines and need to manage time, but spending more time on a project does not necessarily mean better design. Be purposeful. Make sure that you work toward results, not working towards trying to fill up every possible second you have with different approaches to work towards satisfying a timed result. The more I find myself working towards tangible results, the quicker I seem to arrive at viable options without distractions and over thinking my time constraints. Focus and energy are the keys to designing with purpose.
Quiet Time is Creative Time
If you need quiet time – take it. Getting away from the chaos of everyday life can lead to inspiration, where light bulbs can go off and that ‘AHA’ moment happens. At times you may need to have someone give you a “reality check” when you find you are drifting further into what I call “deep creative space” and hitting road blocks. Running your ideas past your creative peers can help you identify new ways to solve constraints. And if you need to let off steam, do it. Taking a quick breather is very important during my creative process.
Using Music to Unlock Creativity
I sometimes create doodles based on how I feel on certain days. Different types of music help me focus differently, while also allowing me to break away from a busy day of fighting mini fires, responding to email after email, and other unforeseen, time-sensitive tasks. My go-to is Reggae music on Friday. Reggae is the perfect “feel-good” music that can give you a real creative boost after a long, tiring work week. Other days it may be Mo-Town or Marvin Gaye – things I grew up listening to with my parents and grandfather – it makes me feel like I’m home in my mind, and brings me comfort when trying to focus on tasks.
Share Your Work With Others
Another great way of fostering creativity is to look to other designers. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into associating graphic design-led projects only with graphic designers – cross-pollinate, work in matrices rather than silos, and allow your design to feed off the other creative disciplines. Sometimes music coupled with advice from an architect, interior designer or product design and fellow graphic designer helps me look at a situation in an entirely different way. Don’t be afraid to be inspired by anything you may come across– don’t focus so much on trying to be inspired by a particular subject matter, rather, look for alternative sources of inspiration to create ideas.
Shut your email off and go silent for a bit for the sake of creativity.
Stay on Task, You’ll Be More Productive
Harvard Business Review has written articles and published statistics on workers and productivity and has noted that individuals are more productive when allowed to stay focused on a task through completion. While this can be hard for creatives to do, staying on task is important to graphic designers, especially myself. Studies have shown that while we may think we are multi-tasking, the reality is we are simply switching between tasks and wearing our brains down. What’s the key, the secret if you will, to staying on task? Well, my secret is to not let little interruptions cost you your creative time (and freedom). Shut your email off and go silent for the sake of creativity.
The Design Process is Not Linear
We as designers strive to set a precedent for what we do. We do the research, we see what’s already out there, we see what’s possible, then we create – every once and a while bringing each other back in from “deep creative space.” What matters to me as a designer is deriving the final design by not focusing on one specific path during the iterations of design, but rather focusing on asking the important questions and identifying quality design and communication solutions.
Find What Works For You
It can be difficult to define your own creative process, especially in graphic design. There is not a “perfect formula” for everyone. One size does not fit all, so you need to explore different approach to tackling a design challenge and find what works best for you. Try and begin with sketching and allow the hand/brain connection to engage. Sometimes you may feel you don’t have enough time to sketch – a deadline looms over you – and you may need to “just crank it out.” We’ve all been there, but it is important to not lose sight of the very early thoughts and designs, as sometimes they turn out to be your best solutions.
Creativity can Strike at Any Moment, Be Ready
Since transitioning into a role in marketing, I still use my creative process to design, create, inform and communicate – almost more now than ever before because of my heightened awareness and need to exchange messages effectively with my audience. I wrote most of this article at the gym in-between my sets while brainstorming my own creative techniques on a Monday night of “well-being” time. So don’t be afraid to carry around a notebook (or your iPhone), inspiration is everywhere, and you should be ready to seize it. In capturing your own style, not necessarily a clearly defined rigid process, you will have a living, breathing environment in which to create under any constraint.