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Creative project parenting

March 17, 2011

Creative projects are needy, vulnerable and demanding. Like an infant you bring into the world; nurtured, developed and shaped by your decisions.

Taking cues from Laurence Steinberg’s guidance for successful parenting, I ponder a creative projects need for guardianship.

Make the rules clear from the beginning

Rules need to be agreed with everyone involved in the projects upbringing. If rules of ‘behaviour’ vary from day to day or are intermittent then your project will misbehave. The essential tool for nurture is consistency.

Love your project with all of your heart

Just as Steinberg states ‘you cannot spoil a child with love’, a creative project takes all of your heart. Sacrificing your own ambition at times and rearranging priorities. Also, understanding that lowering expectations of what we want from our project and spending money instead of time are things we do ‘in place’ of love.

Take ownership, embrace responsibility

Most importantly understanding that how a project matures is up to you. Too many ‘project parents’ abandon their creations, foster them out to those who have less concern for their welfare. Take responsibility, give your projects love and respect, time and energy and they will reward you with equal measure.

What’s wrong with this picture?

March 16, 2011

What do you do, if someone questions your creative work, if they are not as overwhelmed or enthusiastic as you expected?

Do you sulk or argue, tear it down or screw it up. Do you seek out another opinion to undermine the initial appraisal? What if they agree? Or worse, what if you get numerous opinions and they all appose one another, won’t that just distill the overall feeling to indifference? What’s the point of that?

Do you have a solid opinion of your work yourself, a structured argument for each and every element that you will defend to the death? If you take on board the opinions of others, is it still your work? Can you still feel the same sort of ownership you had when that initial creative spark burned in your mind?

If we take pride in our work, criticism will inevitably feel personal. Questioning the motivations and worthiness of the opinion is sometimes needed, but listen carefully and use what you can to grow. If we find balance between defending the work we believe in and using feedback to strengthen it, we will leave every project better prepared for the next.

What do you think, am I wrong?

Sitting comfortably? – Environmental cues for creative thinking

March 15, 2011

Getting into a creative frame of mind will help, both in generating solutions to design challenges and also critiquing the results.

The ‘ping’ of the bulb above the head is a long standing design cliché, but its ubiquity has seemingly seeped into our subconscious. Michael Slepian conducted an experiment to observe if light bulbs might actually spur insights. College students were given various problems to solve whilst in the presence of differing light sources. Volunteers exposed to a light bulbs solved all the creative challenges far more efficiently.

Slepian claims, “Creativity is an important asset, and over and above individual differences in creativity, we find something as subtle as an illuminating light bulb in our environment can facilitate insight, and thus lead to more creative solutions to problems.”

US researches have discovered that our tactile environment is also highly relevant in decision making and behaviour. They found that, “weight, texture, and hardness of inanimate objects can unconsciously influence judgments about unrelated events and situations”. So if, as Professor Cary Cooper states, “the best environment will depend on what you want to achieve”, what would determine a suitable environment for creative thinking?

Creative links & random places of interest

March 14, 2011

For anyone who follows me on Twitter the links below may be familiar as I habitually tweet articles of creative interest from across the net. For everyone else here’s some of the things I’ve been reading over the last few weeks. If you want more of the same feel free to follow me  http://twitter.com/nickballdesign .

  • Charming lecture by John Cleese reflecting on his creative process and encouraging us to “Create a tortoise mind enclosure”
  • What comes first, product, or audience? Neither it’s the problem. Brilliant article by Tom on BrandSavant that makes a very good argument for starting with the problem when approaching a creative challenge.
  • 10 inspiring quotes for when you find yourself struggling with your creativity.”Creativity is more than just being different. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
  • Brilliant article by Chunka Mui which discusses, among other things, if being openly creative might well be a career-limiting move.
  • Telegraph article on Milton Glaser’s feel-good design and the world’s most imitated logo. “Through the history of symbolism, the things that move us have a largely unconscious effect” Milton Glaser

Making more misstakes

March 11, 2011

In order to be more creative we have to accept we are going to make a few mistakes along the way.

The fear of making mistakes, of looking foolish, undermining our claims of experience and ability is what holds us back. As Seth Godin writes, “The enemy of creativity is fear…”

The unpredictable nature of creativity is a difficult sell, explaining to a client that you want their commission yet you don’t know the answer to their problem takes a great deal of faith on both sides. Yet being open about the process is necessary, Andy Grove and more famously Bruce Mau say, “Make mistakes faster”. Although renowned for his ‘unyielding perfectionism’ Paul Arden agrees, “the person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything. Failures and false starts are a precondition of success”.

Malcolm Gladwell sums up the difficulties of balancing a relaxed creative approach with a developing intellect. He says. “Embracing messiness and understanding its contribution to the creative process is something that writers and creative types, artists, whatever have got to cultivate, have to learn to be comfortable with because it goes against a lot of our kind of instincts and training as educated people.”

Top 5 (self inflicted) barriers to creativity

March 9, 2011

Most of the obstacles to being creative can be found within ourselves.

When struggling with a creative challenge we often blame external factors and shortage of resource; time, people, money etc. Yet most of what inhibits us from generating ideas is internal, by recognising these personal flaws we give creativity a far greater chance.

  1. Habit – as George Lois described, “The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality”. Following a comfortable formula or a rigid process will only result in repetitive solutions.
  2. Perfectionism – there are no perfect solutions, only possibilities. Believing in an ultimate solution is mind narrowingly frustrating.
  3. Ambition – strangely, being over-ambitious can hinder creativity, the daunting scale of the seemingly unachievable goal can paralyze.
  4. Envy – creatives are inspired by others, we read, research and observe to stimulate our creative energy. Yet spending too long analysing others only generates inadequacy.
  5. Fear – possibly the overarching trait to all of the above – fear of being wrong, of falling short, of looking foolish or unprofessional, fear of showing our true, slightly flawed, human self will always stifle expression.

These are just the barriers, recognising them is the first step. Some ideas and solutions for ways to overcome them will follow.

New advertising for Genki Video Games

March 8, 2011

Soon to be featured in Games TM – some advertising I’ve been working recently. My good friend Pete is not only the founder of Genki – Importer of rare and retro Japanese video games – he is also one of the nicest blokes you could ever hope to draw an orange octopus for. More updates to follow, as the Genki rebrand rolls out.

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