A designer is methodical
or “Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t"
You know those times when you hit the page or computer running. You have ideas and not enough speed or time to implement them. Concepts are appearing from the pencil lead like butter melting on a hot pan. It’s an incredible feeling and not to be taken for granted…
…because sometimes they don’t flow at all. You may have ideas but they are discombobulated. Or you can’t get them to work outside of your head. Or, they just aren’t there. Now what?
Creativity is equal parts inspiration and cultivation.
If your work relies on creative inspiration and ideas that just come to you, you could end up in a bad spot when that well runs dry. It is these moments when you need to know what to do. Sometimes, it takes going through the motions to see what comes out of it. Happy accidents, or a new way of thinking through something. For me, often it takes using a process and routine to get a project or design up and running. Once that is in place I can start messing around with it and seeing if something new comes up. Web design often works this way for me. If I’m stuck, I tend to put everything on the page, the navigation, the logo, some sample text, even the copyright information, and start placing it on a grid. Then as that starts to come together, I soon realize what I have to work with and I can start creating. Think of it like making cookies. For most cookies you still need to start with flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla and baking powder. Once those are in place you can start playing with whether you want to add raisins, chocolate chips or even ginger. And should they be drops, circles, pressed, bars etc. You get the idea.
Standing on the shoulders of giants.
The other thing I rely on when it comes to being stuck is history. I had a wonderful professor in school—William Tate, who was one of my favorites, actually—who taught our History of Graphic Design. As the cheesy saying goes, he brought the story in history to life. It was amazing. Because of that class and Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, I have a solid basis for what I do. I can pull from not only Glaser, Chermayeff and Rudy VanderLans & Zuzana Licko but I can also pull from Magritte and Garamond and Gutenberg’s Bible.
The shoulders upon which we create are important— important to not only know who's shoulders we stand upon but acknowledge it, as well.
One final thought
Those moments where it feels as if you’ve tapped into an immense creative vault are why we are creatives. When you find that rhythm or muse, milk it for all its worth. However, often it’s the routines, processes and education that allow us to create day after day for our clients.