On my podcast RUN THE LAYERS with Creative Bobbie, I ask my guests six questions surrounding the topic of creativity. One episode featured my friend Torrence, who described creativity as a way of solving a problem or providing a service. His response inspired me to write this blog post about seeing creativity as an act of service for the greater good of others.
The year of our Lord 2020 was a year of…events. Events that have left us forever changed and our worldview challenged. I never thought I would live through a time as challenging as those in the history books from school but there we were and here we are. Despite (or probably because of) the challenges of 2020, I found myself learning a lot and even having successes worthy of celebration.
I firmly believe that each of us were put onto this Earth to deposit something into this world that will improve it. We each have the potential to do something, create something for the betterment of others. The indescribable uniqueness of you is the special sauce, that secret ingredient that we all benefit from seeing expressed. This is your mission. This is our mission.
There is a great value to inspiration. Inspiration makes you feel something. It influences you. It stimulates you to do something creative. It’s the spark that can ignite an ever burning flame. The need for inspiration is real. However, you need not limit your sources of inspiration.
One of the sources can be and should be real life.
No matter your area of expertise, getting outside for inspiration provides you with a fresh view. As a graphic designer, of course I am inspired by the outstanding work I see from the designers I follow. I’m also inspired by the work I see out and about. I’m inspired by people, nature, scenery, etc. For example, let’s say you’re trying to design a brand identity for a city or town. You’ll want to look at other municipal branding projects to see what other cities have done. But the best way to get started is to take in the city itself. Take photos of the landmarks. Talk to the citizens. Walk around and get a feel for the city. The inspiration is around you. When trying to capture a specific locale, you need to experience it and know the nature of the scene. That will allow you create the symbols/icons you need.
Looking at other similar logos can be inspiring but just doing that is limiting. Taking in the real life outside live and through photos challenges you to interpret in an original way. Capture the originality of your own perspective. There are a lot of tigers, panthers, lions, etc. in the world of sports. The reason why there’s such a variety of designs is because each designer has captured a unique perspective of the animal through photo references. A tiger is a tiger, but what you pull from its features is what makes your design yours. If you’re only looking at others’ interpretations, you’re limiting the potential of your own creativity.
Every project you take on may not have a direct example you can look to as a guide. Play with the perspective and the visual representation of things that currently exist in the world. Get creative with how you use the elements you see. Expand your sources of inspiration as much as you possibly can. It will often surprise you where the spark will come from.
That spark could also come from outside of the market that you’re operating in. When I create branding for Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Convention, I am pulling inspiration from other fraternities and sororities. However, I more so pull inspiration from the Super Bowl, Final Four, NHL, NBA, Oscars, Grammys, etc. Dreaming big means you’ll bring the most value to each and every project. I want my work to be able to stand in the same room as the work from much larger brands in much larger markets. I’m not limiting myself to work like mine. I’m inspired by great work across genres, styles, and markets.
To be the best version of yourself, you need to keep your mind and eye open.
Time is the most precious resource. I have friends who have full time positions but also pursue passion projects and other purposeful endeavors after work. So, they know the power of time management. I am far from a master of time but I have learned the power of scheduling time to work on my designs, videos and blogs. You’ve heard a million times that we all have the same 24 hours each day. It’s an immutable fact. But sometimes we get trapped by the idea of having to do everything in that 24 hour period. That trap causes you to think, if you don’t accomplish everything on your 35 task long to-do list, you’re a failure. That fear of failure can keep you from attempting anything at all. Start with one 30 minute period and one task to complete.
Doing weekly blogs and weekly videos first requires commitment. The commitment is the state of being dedicated to a cause or activity. It’s the initial determination. Denzel Washington, in his acceptance speech at the 2017 NAACP Image Awards, stated that “Without commitment, you’ll never start.” You have to first discover within you what you want to do. Preferably what you want to deposit into the world for the benefit of others. I knew I wanted to do more. I knew I wanted to give more than just what I did at work and for freelance clients. I wanted to share as a way to help people understand design and give insight into the world of graphic design, branding and content creation. I also wanted to practice my craft and get better in as many phases of creativity as possible. It’s important to maximize the potential I have and inspire others to do the same. The better I get at designing and communicating, the better help I can be to others in all aspects of my creative life.
Consistency is not easy. Multiple times I’ve done the 100 Day Project, where I designed a logo every single day for 100 days. I committed to the project and wanted to see it through. But, somewhere in the middle of the project, I hit a wall where I realized just how much I’ve committed too. Consistency is about showing up every day. The improvement and desires I expressed in the previous section are only achieved with consistent, purposeful practice. It doesn’t have to be perfect each time. Denzel Washington says, “Without consistency, you’ll never finish.” We all have to power through those “I don’t feel like it” days. We are responsible for the kind, quality and amount of good work we do. There are more people than you think counting on, appreciating and benefiting from your consistency – “your showing up moments.”
One hour of focused time on one task, building something you’re passionate about, is better than no time spent at all. Commit to your purpose. Consistently work towards being better at it.
Life would be easier if I were to just go to work and go home. But much less fulfilling. Take and use the time you have to deposit as much of your gifts and talent as possible into the world.
Keep working. Keep striving.
Bonus: Denzel Washington’s 2017 NAACP Acceptance Speech
As much as I love the Adobe Creative Cloud and my computer (the one at work and at home), I need breaks from technology. Taking breaks help me as a designer and as a human. Stepping away gives room for new ideas and strategies to reveal themselves. The internet is a great tool for discovery but so is actually going outside. Changing your environment can spark creativity in ways that sitting in front of your computer for hours can not. It can also save you from losing your mind over a tenacious problem you’re trying solve.
Recently, I took a trip with friends to Los Angeles. The time away and the disruption of my normal routine helped me relax my mind. A relaxed mind is fertile ground for creativity. When you’re not trying to force inspiration, it comes much more quickly on its own accord. A lot of ideas for designs hit me when I’m not even thinking about designing.
Another positive of getting away from the computer is gaining perspective and appreciation. Sitting on Venice Beach, basking in the glow of the beautiful day, I took time to appreciate the moment. As a professional graphic designer, I get paid to do what I love to do. I pay bills, eat food, and take trips through my career in graphic design. That will always be amazing to me. I can remember a time when I was starving for an opportunity to prove myself on a professional level. These kind of thoughts are more likely to enter your head when you give yourself a chance to stop and smell the roses or, in my case, the sand and water.
After a trip outside or to another city, you can come back to your work with a new focus. Even stepping away from a project for just a few moments can allow you to see things more clearly. We will all be better, if we take more time outs to gain peace, understanding, and perspective on our work and our lives.
These past few weeks on my blog, I have focused a lot more than usual on providing case studies of my latest work. The “What am I gonna write about” question has a much easier answer than a lot of people realize. Write about what you do and how you do it. Document your journey.
Purpose drives everything. It informs, inspires, and motivates. People spend their lives trying to find it and fulfilling it. No matter your field of study or career, finding your place is crucial to your success.
Each project is an opportunity to accomplish something. During my client on-boarding process, after reading through the answers to the client questionnaire, I ask follow up questions. These questions get to the heart of who they are and why they are starting this project. It’s not enough to want to start a business. You need to know why. The why determines the what and shapes the how. I’ve discussed the advantages of positioning yourself in a particular niche. You won’t be able to hit your target unless you have a properly defined purpose.
Everyone has a dream.
Whether they believe it or not is the true question.
Business as usual will not result in dreams becoming reality. A change must come to produce what has never been produced. What has always been done is not enough to accomplish new and ambitious goals. Every great achievement in human history was preceded by a belief followed by hard work in the pursuit of success.