The creative wellspring

What a pretentious title for a blog post, he mused.

When I interviewed for my first studio job or at least, the first studio job I actually got, the studio head asked me where I got my inspiration from and what I do when I find myself without said inspiration when deadlines loom. I don’t remember my exact answer, though I suppose it must have been convincing enough to him but I remember muttering something about just getting on with it.

And unusually enough, I was right. Pretty much.

You really do need to learn to just get on with it. To start. But it is necessary to spot the pitfalls of such an approach. Which fall into two categories.

Your time isn’t your time, it’s also everyone elses’ time.

I was fortunate in my first studio role to be given the chance to experiment creatively. To work out for myself what was worth my time and wasn’t. But these jobs are a rarity – more so today than 15 years ago.

You’re likely going to be sitting in a studio with other creatives and they’re going to notice that you’ve spent two days on the one sketch when they’ve produced three email campaigns, a poster and half a dozen logo ideas in the same time.

Learn to develop a sense of when something is taking too long. And if this happens, my suggestion is to put it down, do something else for a while and come back with a fresh perspective. And never be afraid to ask for another’s opinion. Design is a collaborative process, relish it.

This of course, is just as important when you’re working on freelance projects and your time really is money.


Avoiding both dead ends and well-trodden roads.

The fact is that you rarely have the sort of time it takes to leaf through books on design and illustration, though that hasn’t stopped me buying them and besides, Google’s all-seeing algorithm has largely supplanted anything as anachronistic as turning a page.

So you’re going to have to develop some reliable ways of getting inspired quickly. Here’s mine.

1 – Keep a sketchbook and when you see something you like – copy it. It doesn’t matter what it is. My sketchbook has geometric patterns sitting awkwardly next to cartoon dinosaurs.

2 – Follow some creatives (designers/artists/architects/whatever) and blogs on social media.

3 – Plagiarise. This is not to say that you should slavishly copy someone else’s work but if you see a palette, combination of fonts or illustrative style there’s no shame in taking what you like and leaving the rest.

4 – Research your client’s competitors. Sometimes, the quickest way to meet a design brief is to do some of what is already working for someone else and sometimes it’s to simply be unlike all the others.



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