Staying creatively fresh is something that, to a designer, is an essential part of their job. Not only to keep client work to a high standard, but to stay motivated to create beautiful design.
This can be as simple as getting away from the Mac screen for the evening or the weekend and just taking in the world around you, allowing yourself to be inspired. Ironically though, designing personal projects out of work time is also commonplace.
Since first picking up a wax crayon and scribbling on some coloured sugar paper at nursery school, art and design has been a large part of my life. Throughout my childhood, birthdays were filled with sketchbooks, paints, pencils and pens, spurring on my youthful creativity.
Fast forward 20 years and I’m still at it, working at The Hideout, the only difference is my sugar paper doodles have turned into extensive Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign files, but the creativity and drive to make beautiful design has not diminished. I tend to find myself creating things that are not necessarily conventional items for a design agency, which helps take me back to reality and get hands-on with ideas and creative thoughts again.
Experimenting with different types of materials, such as wood and metal, is one outlet. Throughout my school and university years I tried out different craft projects and dabbled in building non-traditional graphic design pieces, while still keeping key design practices, such as typography and layout present. Recently I have been developing my skills with a technique called stippling, which is the process of using a pen, pencil or other media to create texture and shading just using dots. I have adapted the technique slightly, by using a wood burning tool and stippling onto wood, creating pieces with a unique look. Working on more intricate craft projects, develops my concentration and attention to detail, as the process of stippling is time consuming but allows me to zone out with some music and escape from everyday work.
Photography is another creativity booster for me. Elliot Erwitt, known for his candid black and white street photography, once said “I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times”, this really resonates with me as I see photo opportunities everywhere, and so a camera, whether that be on my phone or an old school 35mm camera, is something I can’t leave the house without. The more experimental side of photography also sparks an interest and keeps me on my toes.
I find going back to basics with old cameras makes you understand the digital process a lot better. With a lot of 35mm SLR film cameras they are completely manual, so you have to understand the settings and when to use them in the right conditions to create a good photo. Experimenting with darkroom techniques also broadens the knowledge and once again takes a now digital process back to a tangible entity.
A quote from Stefan Sagmeister, a graphic designer famous for his unconventional use of type, especially on his own body, says “The way to stay fresh is to take on jobs that I partly don’t know how to do”. This mentality is a good way to always keep your brain working to create new things, meaning when you need to learn a new skill or technique it forces you to flex your creative muscles to achieve what you need. Since the so called ‘Digital Revolution’ of 1984, when the first Macintosh was introduced, computers have become a major tool in designing graphics, making the life of today’s designers far easier than that of their predecessors, but with this ease comes an element of laziness and complacency. I feel there will always be a disconnect with your hands and the work on screen. Creating with your hands on tangible materials can bring you back down to earth, and re-awaken your creativity.