Creativity takes many forms. It’s a personal experience that can be a straight forward and mechanical process, an organic and fluid journey or a combination of both. There is no right way to be creative and there is no wrong way. Creativity is part of our the designers genetic code. How we use, develop and express that creativity is what separates the serious designers from the rest of the pack. It’s allows for designs and outcomes that are truly exciting and innovative bringing the viewer back time and again to the work and each time finding a knew depth and level previously unseen. What stops us from being creative? What stops us from stimulating creativity? What holds a designer back? Fear.
Fear (and to some degree trust) is the major obstacle to creativity, and I include myself in there as well. As artists and designers, we put so much of ourselves into our work. We want our designs to not only be liked, but be appreciated. We fear what our colleagues and clients will say in regards to our work due to the fact that have somehow combined acceptance of our work as acceptance of us personally, we become wrapped up in acceptance. We fear the feedback, mistakenly thinking that it’s a comment on who we are and our talent as a designer. Our first reaction is the tendency to take feedback personally allowing it to define who we are as person, a designer and in some cases an employee. This isn’t and shouldn’t be the case. Were we to view the feedback in a less personal headspace, through the lens of it being a tool to create stronger work, we can then see it for what it truly is, assistance. We will assume for the sake of argument, that we are talking about feedback that is meant to improve the work and comes from a place of trust and not a personal attack on the artist.
As a more mature and experienced designer, I too find it a challenge not to self-edit at the start of the creative process in order to “self-protect”. This fear regularly stops me from developing the most innovative and creative ideas possible, struggling with what the possible feedback might be, rather than solving the problem at hand. In other words, I get wrapped up in solving the wrong problem. This fear is always an assumption on my part and it is rarely based on fact. We’ve all experienced “designers block”. We sit at the computer, sketch pad, etc and the struggle with creating breath-taking work that will WOW the client, rather than being true to ourselves and creating work that resonates with us, pushes us to be better designers and create work we are proud of. If we go into a project with that mind set, we will be creative, successful and a hell of a lot less stressed! For creativity to truly flourish, we need to let go of the fear of what what someone will think and simply create. From there, we can then enter into the critique with a stronger self-image and be more open to truly seeing the critique as a tool for improvement. My best work comes from creating the best solutions to the design problem being solved, leaving the reaction of the client to fate. I know from experience that when I follow this path, rarely has the client hated the ideas and concepts I’ve presented. Most times the overall concepts are widely accepted and the feedback becomes, let’s add a coma here, let’s change this from green to blue, minor changes that don’t radically effect the overall concept.
This is different from struggling with creating designs for a client that has more conservative tastes, though that doesn’t’ mean you can’t be innovate and creative, you just need to know your constraints. Knowing what your clients tastes are, then creating work that fits in with the clients taste, values and aesthetics allows you to be creative (within some boundaries) and create work that will appeal to the client. Once the client has built trust with the designer, then they are a bit more open to greater levels of creativity within their own brand boundaries.
Overcoming fear is the artist/designers greatest challenge. We tell ourselves “it’s not me, it’s simply work” and in a number of cases that’s true and it’s easy to take ourselves out of the equation, but that takes practice and a good amount of work. The ability to say, this is about the work, improving it and creating something that’s even stronger and better than it’s current state takes time to develop. I’ve gained the ability to be able to do it with client work, but personal work still leaves me with a sense of trepidation.
We have the ability to turn off the negative messages and give ourselves permission to be truly creative and innovative. As artists and designers we need to remember we can create the world we live in. We can give ourselves permission to be creative and innovate and know that if it does not appeal to someone, that’s fine, we can just go back and create more designs. It’s part of the process. We need to free ourselves from the shackles of pleasing others and simply create work that pleases us. If we do that, we will most certainly please the client and the community at large.