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Posted 15 November 2012

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Perhaps the most profound thing I have learned through my Methodologies Studio course has been that great work is not just about the final outcome – that is just one piece of it. Great work happens throughout the journey, and if you’re not aware of this journey, or if you let it just pass you by, no matter how good the end outcome is, it will never be as great as if you achieve it by capturing the journey and savoring those small and often intense moments of creativity.

The corporate world does a magnificent job of drilling “efficiency” in everything we do. We are so busy trying to be “efficient” that we simply forget (or choose to forget) that creativity does not happen in a vacuum. Creativity is best when it is tested, stretched, turned on its head, socialized, internalized. It is then, and only then, that the true process of creativity can be felt, not just seen. This course has been eye-opening for me in that regard, and I have since paid much closer attention to the journey. Not only is it more fulfilling as an individual, it is also smarter, more engaging work. This course has helped me find what got me into graphic design in the first place. The journey.

Posted 6 November 2012

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I have previously discussed what I consider to be my creative process elsewhere in this blog, so I will not go through describing what that looks like again. Instead, I would like to focus this post on what things I do to push myself and “achieve a moment of performance in reach of a noble pursuit.” Frankly, the topic scares me a bit only because that means I need to face the mirror and admit that I do much too little to push myself creatively. Yes, I do the usual things like browse inspiration websites, read the occasional journal article on design, attend the even more occasional professional association event, etc. But none of those things amount to any kind of pushing. I am just a passive observant watching things go by, engaging only superficially on topics and, frankly, constantly wishing that I had done the work that I keep seeing on all these inspiration sites. But, obviously there is a wide chasm between watching and doing, and I do far too little.

So, how do I push myself? Well, I suppose one of the primary reasons for the pursuit of a graduate degree at this stage in my career is because I need someone to push me off the ledge once and for all. I keep staring out there looking at all the other ‘birds’ fly, but I’ve been far too content just sitting on my ledge. Already in my first quarter at SCAD I feel I have been pushed both in the practical and theoretical sides of creativity. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect to be honest, but I certainly didn’t expect to feel that “greeny fire” most of us had when we got our first design gig to be re-ignited so quickly. It is a testament to me that I have been hungry for the challenge for quite some time and didn’t really know it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to happen so far (keep in mind I’m still on my first quarter), is this insatiable hunger to read essays and thoughts on the industry. I find myself wishing I had more time to write my own thoughts on design – and my thoughts and opinions on the things I’m reading. I am truly devouring my courses right now, and I can honestly say I did not expect that. So whether disruptive wonder will manifest itself in some of the design work I do remains to be seen, I have certainly experience my own disruptive wonder at seeing just how much I’m enjoying all this right now. (Check in with me in a week to see if I still feel the same way.)

Posted 2 November 2012

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I have long known that my creative outcomes are heavily influenced by my values. This is primarily because when I first began designing professionally, I made a very conscious decision on the kinds of work I would not engage in and the kinds of products/services I would and would not promote. I find that my personal, political, religious and cultural views all affect my creative practice – even to the point of selecting my employers and what they choose to promote. I have not and will not ever work at an agency that promotes alcohol, tobacco, lgbt, pornography, or any kind of lewd or inappropriate imagery.

As an example, I did a short stint at a small independent music label in Atlanta. As soon as I realized that we were going to sign an artist that required the explicit language warning on the album, I submitted my resignation because I knew I couldn’t design the album cover and promote it with any level of comfort. Scary? Of course. But I feel strongly about these things.

So – do I find that values inform my creative practice? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have it any other way. To many, this may sound elitist or arrogant, but none of these decisions were made with any kind of malice in mind. These decisions were not made lightly – they reflect my values and my beliefs – so anything contrary to that would make me a hypocrite.

I do make it a point to explain this to my employers even on the first interview (never fun for anyone if I were to spring this up after the fact).

Posted 23 October 2012

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Banksy's "flower thrower" - a good example of an idea with a 'twist' to make it work.

Reflect on your experiences with disruptive wonder, as described by Kelli Anderson in the video “Kelli Anderson: Disruptive Wonder for a Change.” Are you open to creating disruptive wonder? Is the notion new to you?

During our course unit, we reviewed Kelli Anderson’s TED presentation Design to Change Reality in which she describes her quest to “make things better by making them more absurd.” The first example she provides is entitled “the empty gesture,” in which she explores the notion of receiving holiday cards which are often sent and received as empty gestures – as a result, she designs a holiday card that folds into a four-frame narrative of what it looks like to receive a holiday card. In essence, “a holiday card about itself.”

Her point is that in order for us to make sense of the world surrounding us in a creative manner, we need to question and approach things from completely unexpected points of view. In a manner of speaking, to turn things on their heads.

Since watching Anderson’s talk, I have attempted to look at my own design challenges from differing perspectives – perhaps not as radically as she suggests, but enough that I am discovering new and uncharted avenues that I feel would not have been possible had I stuck to my ‘normal’ process. And while this kind of process may not always uncover appropriate solutions to the design challenge at hand, it certainly allows for creative exploration that could otherwise (and often) end up in just another expected solution. And who wants to deliver expected solutions?! Not I.

Posted 30 September 2012

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How have “thinking wrong” and confronting your heuristic biases impacted your process of exploration thus far?

You don’t usually start ideating for a project with the idea that “thinking wrong” will lead you to the right, or at least a viable, solution. And yet, it is a refreshing new way to explore a project from different angles and different perspectives that may otherwise be missed. But perhaps the most exciting finding for me throughout this exploration so far has been the importance and value of collaboration on everything.

It is easy to preach collaboration, but actually doing it is a different matter altogether. I often encourage the group of designers I manage to talk to each other, to hover over each other’s shoulders (politely of course) and bounce ideas back and forth, and yet, I realized through this exercise that it is not really something that is completely engrained in my own process. In fact, as I worked on my word association assignment, I felt confident that I had developed a comprehensive list of words. After all, I spent 20 minutes on it! About ten times more than I usually spend on word association for myself. So when I received my colleagues’ extensions I was so surprised to see all of the areas I had missed altogether. It was a great reminder on how important bouncing ideas off of other people truly is to the creative process.

Posted 28 September 2012

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Word associations have been a part of my creative process for some time now as they are a great tool for quickly and organically jumping from one idea to the next. The collaborative aspect of this exercise, however, is new to me and one that I enjoyed very much. I discovered that in all three lists, I was naturally being limited to my own biases and notions, and that by having others participate in the exercise with me the lists would evolve into more branches than I could achieve on my own. It was also intriguing to literally ‘see’ the though process take place right before your eyes. I could easily understand the connections my colleagues made and how they got to them.

On the flip-side, as I added words to my colleagues’ lists, I could easily see where their biases prevented them from moving into different directions. Being an ‘outsider’ allowed me to ‘orbit the hairball’ far more easily on their lists than my own. The big take-away for me is that no matter how hard you try to figure a creative problem on your own, adding an outsider’s point-of-view is a quick way to gain further insight into the problem at hand.