Unit 10, Entry 1: What I Have Learned So Far

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.

Unit 8, Entry 1: Reflections on My Creative Process

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.)

Unit 8, Entry 2: Design Thinking Failed

As I was perusing the Internet for additional thoughts on graphic design as a profession, I stumbled across an interesting article entitled Design Thinking Is a Failed Experiment. So What’s Next? In this article, the author states his belief that design thinking, while a good idea in some instances, has done more harm than good to the business and design communities alike, and that it is time to look ahead to the next big idea (which, in his mind, is called CQ, or Creative Intelligence).

I was curious to understand why, in the author’s mind, Design Thinking has done more harm than good and upon reading his rationale, I can see where he is going – and in some instances, I even agree. For example, he mentions that big business sought to implement Design Thinking as an efficiency process (much like Six Sigma) thinking that it would have deep “cultural and organizational change.” The problem is that by trying to strictly define and regulate Design Thinking, one of the most critical parts of this ideology is lost — the journey.

You see, Design Thinking is not merely a series of steps that when performed one after another, is guaranteed to create innovation and creativity. And this was precisely what the C-Level folks thought they could do. They figured that they could simply cut out the middle-man (the designers), and follow the steps to achieve their goals. In most cases, they have failed to understand that what Design Thinking truly means, is that designers (D-Level) should sit at the strategic sessions to facilitate this process.

So the author suggests that as a big company experiment, Design Thinking has failed. Instead, he suggests big company focus on their creative output. Making truly exceptional, creative products and services – and be willing to scrap the unsuccessful projects even if they are at the end of their development process. He explains that he would like to see Creativity take a bigger role in our decision making processes…an idea I can certainly agree with.

Another vocal proponent of a shift in focus on creativity is Sir. Ken Robinson, who explains that in his view, schools are instrumental in crippling creativity in a child.

Unit 8, Entry 1: Process Analysis

In this unit, we are introduced to three process books documenting the creative methods, processes, research, strategies, concepts and final executions of three individuals.

How does each process book communicate the designer’s ideation process?
In all three cases the process is communicated as a series of notes, sketches and visual reference materials. They all seem to document the process in first-person, informal narrative which I believe is very appropriate and congruent with the nature of the piece. I did find it intriguing that all three books were created by female students because I have always felt that females are far better at taking notes than we (males) are. That was a gross generalization if there ever was one, but it did help me realize just how much documenting every step and interaction helps the process along.

Are there specific communication tactics that any of the designers use that you may want to integrate into how you present your own process?
There are several tactics I will begin to implement in my own process. First and foremost, I will make a much more concerted effort of documenting my thoughts and putting them down on paper. I have been designing for a long time now, and a lot of that process happens in my head, but my wife would concur that I am hopelessly forgetful, so why I think that keeping things in my head is a good idea is beyond me (and her). So documenting things on paper will be a key take-away for me.

I also noted Biss’s quick engagement of her target audience and willingness to ask questions of others. I do okay in this regard, but could obviously do much, much more. I truly enjoy the new connections that happen whenever other people are involved in my process. I thrive on understanding how the intended audience actually interacts with my work, not just how I think they should interact with it. I got ‘hooked’ on this kind of audience research when I first saw a user interact with a website I had designed. Boy, that was a rough experience – but I have learned so much from it. I need to continue to apply this thinking on all my projects, not just the interactive ones.

Unit 7, Entry 1: Do Personal Values Affect the Creative Process?

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).