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How Getting Passionate About The Small Jobs Changed My Life

How Getting Passionate About The Small Jobs Changed My Life

There are always a certain number of ‘bread and butter’ jobs in graphic design. The sort that may not be the most exciting, but they keep the lights on.

When you get your first job as a *professional*, you are excited to be given anything at all to work on. Everything’s new, and thrilling, and you haven’t done the same bread and butter job a thousand times yet. It’s enough to just be designing something.

Over time this becomes boring.

Because that’s the way with all things. But also because the learning stops and the curious mind always seeks new challenges. And the worst thing about studio work is you get pigeonholed – the more you do of one thing, the more of it your are asked to do. Which becomes repetitive.

And then there’s ambition – the ambition to work on big budget, high-spec jobs. That plays a part too.

A couple of years ago, I had a revelation that hit me with great force. I realised that the jobs were only as exciting as I made them.

Then I realised that although there will always be some jobs that won’t end up the way I would like them because of reasons outside my control, a lot of what I was doing was ending up sub-par because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was seeing them as small jobs. As low budget jobs. As jobs constrained by strict corporate style guides or without much scope for innovation. I had pigeonholed the work.

I waited for those jobs with bigger budgets, higher profiles or better briefs to really cut loose. And those don’t come along very often – why was I waiting until they do to have fun?

But I also realised something else apart from the effect on my own personal enjoyment of my work.

I realised it with horror.

This lack of excitement about the straightforward jobs meant I wasn’t actually doing my job properly. Is not the job of a graphic designer to communicate, innovate and beautify ALL projects? Not just the exciting ones? It was time to change.

As soon as I shifted this paradigm, my working life changed dramatically. I saw new opportunities to improve regular jobs I had been working on for years. I found ways to better interpret those strict style guides. I searched for the ideas that would make the simplest jobs sing. And I pushed myself a bit harder to create a few more concepts, instead of sending out the ones I wasn’t entirely happy with.

I made one simple change to my thinking, and it made a world of difference to my work and my enjoyment of it.

Now I don’t wait for my dream jobs to get excited – instead I make every job my dream job. Just like it was when I started.

That feeling of magic I used to feel is back, and I can’t wait to get started on each new job. I do better work and take more pride in it. And I innovate and learn every day with ease and a ravenous hunger for more. Just like being a student again… but with the benefit of experience.

This is as good as it gets.

 

#mybestlife #letsgetcreative #ilovedesign

7 Ways to Find Creative Inspiration

7 Ways to Find Creative Inspiration

The situation all creative professionals dread…

This week I have been suffering from a touch of the dreaded creative block. Not – thankfully – the crippling ‘complete and utter’ type that stops you in your creative tracks. But a struggle with one particular creative problem, a design for a flyer. It’s the kind of situation all creative professionals dread, and yet it is inevitable when art is made to order in a commercial setting.
 
To try and push past this problem, I began working through my methods for finding creative inspiration – and that inspired me to share them with you! Over the years these 7 strategies have helped me out of more than one creative jam, and they definitely helped get my flyer project back on track.
 

1. Scope out some art

Pretty obvious. But beyond looking at other examples from your own field try looking at examples of other creative disciplines – fine art, fashion, visual merchandising, photography and graphic design can all provide amazing cross-discipline inspiration.
 

2. Get back to nature

Not only is nature inspiring for its beauty, but being immersed in a natural environment and taking the time to study what you see there – really see what you are looking at – is an excellent mindfulness technique that can help cut through the pressure of the deadline.
 

3. Sleep on it

If you can, take a step back from the creative problem you are trying to solve and let it hover at the back of your consciousness while you go about your day. Giving ideas the chance to arrive organically is always a nice way to start the creative process, when time allows. This one is my go-to for all projects!
 

4. Do something else

Doing something physical like going for a walk, exercising, pulling weeds or cleaning is a great way to clear the creative cobwebs. Just not for too long… because then it becomes procrastination!
 

5. Blind contour drawings


This is the kind of exercise you do when you take a drawing or painting class, and I have previously blogged about it working wonders as a
stress buster. But drawing something from life using one continuous line, and without looking at your page is also a fantastic way to free your brain and get the creative juices flowing. This is one I did this week while wrestling with creative block, and it’s really interesting to see how the line weight and style changes as I start to relax into it. It was a really useful exercise, and at the end of it I was able to scribble a concept for my flyer on the back.
 

6. Change up your concepting strategy

Do you prefer to thumbnail on paper? Maybe it’s time to fire up the computer. Mired down in a digital wasteland? Why not break out the pencils? Sometime you just gotta change it up a bit to get things moving, and it could be as simple as switching from a pencil to a felt tip. You never know!
 

7. Work on another creative project

Working on another project within the same discipline can sometimes move things along. I find nailing another project can be a great boost! But if you find yourself totally blocked, you can try flexing your creative muscles in a totally different field – painting, sculpting, crafting, writing, cooking, singing or playing an instrument – whatever your bag is. But again… not for too long! Set a timer so you don’t fall into the procrastination zone.
 
When inspiration proves elusive it can leave you chasing your own tail. The lack of ideas can cause so much stress that you end up even further away from the right state of mind for creative thinking. These are my sure-fire ways of battling the block – but what’s your favourite strategy for finding lost inspiration? Let me know in the comments section.
 
In the meantime – happy creating!
 
Dear Design… a love letter.

Dear Design… a love letter.

When I was a kid, and I had to do a school project, I would put way more thought into the look of the thing I was handing up than I did the actual content of the assignment. If it was an A4 report or essay of some kind, I would try to make an elaborate title page. If it was a poster I rejoiced, because it meant drawing, cutting, gluing, fancy hand lettering – whatever was required to create the layout I had in my head.
 
Like most young girls I adored stickers, but the other item I would drop pocket money on in the newsagent was Letraset dry transfer lettering. That stuff was the best! I also developed a technique for creating cool project designs that involved making a layout using elements I had drawn, found or photocopied, gluing them to a sheet of paper, and photocopying the whole design. Then I could embellish this design with colour by hand if I wanted. Sometimes I would photocopy the photocopies of an image many times over, because I liked the slightly distressed look it created.
 
It was only years later when I became a graphic design student that I realised what I had been doing in primary school bore a remarkable resemblance to paste-up – the method of assembling a layout by hand in order to create film, and in turn printing plates. By the time I was a student this manual, labour intensive task had been replaced by computer-to-plate technology. But I was fascinated to learn that long before I had ever heard of graphic design, I was out there doing it.
 
It’s a love affair that continues and that often feels like any other relationship. We endure highs and lows, challenges and moments when we’re reminded why we fell in love in the first place. Me and graphic design. We’ve endured a time (now long past) when I wondered whether or not we should part ways. Then we fell in love all over again and now everything is made new. No detail is too small, no job is too mundane to deserve special attention.
always keep it fresh; and always approach even the most humdrum of routine tasks with great passion.
After coming so close to breaking up with design I realised what most people in long term relationships realise – that the secret is always keep it fresh; and always approach even the most humdrum of routine tasks with great passion.
 
So we go on together, me and my first love, excited to see what creative adventures each new day might bring.
 
And I am definitely going to buy some rub-down lettering. Old school.