Creative process! – I honestly never thought about this when I started my career as a designer. And the first instinct is Huh! What has creativity got to do with a process anyway – it is just there right! Initially I always took it as my moral responsibility to be creative all the time! And it came in with some stress. – Goshh! I am mean imagine! – It’s me, a creative being, a designer and what if I don’t have ideas! What if there’s no creative-ness, what if the world judges me for not having all nice ideas?! Ok wait! This is getting too stressful.
Let's calm down!
And after all these years of being in the design world and wrapping it up together, I feel there are 4 ways in which creative ideas pop-up for me. Other times, I gotta live life, eat, admire colors and nature, think about good tea, scroll digital pages for no reason, be with my family etc etc.
Of course!!!! All these things are like the hidden gems of the creative process! I simply cannot deny their importance in being a designer.
After all, creativity is about ideas which come in from experiences. It is almost like you gotta give food to your mind, heart and soul for it to play around with it all and in turn churn out ideas. (Bdw, this is completely my take at things so feel free to disagree)!
Coming back to having a creative process, I think I do have certain ways in which creativity comes to me, or maybe I can call them ways or parts of the creative process. And I feel that with experience and knowing that there are certain ways in which all this will fall in place helps me take away that anxiousness that typically revolves around starting on a blank canvas! You get into that groove of this is how it is done. And I feel if you are aware, it gets easier to understand when you are really having a creative burn out or are you simply lost with not knowing what to do.
So, what are the parts of the creative process for me?
This is probably the most structured part of the process that you will read in here. I think this is the most organised way of coming up with ideas. Or maybe I would even say, this is the creative process and other ways are pretty organic. This is how this one goes –
Let’s say I need to design packaging for a coffee brand.
So here’s the process I would follow before the creative juices begin to really flow in!
KNOW THE STORIES
If it is a new, upcoming brand then I would firstly want to just know the people behind the brand. Or if it is an already known brand, then I would either already have an idea or I would Google it up or ask the people behind the brand, to get some real insights. Now this may work differently for every designer, but for me, it just helps to know the people or the brand for who I need to design something. It is not something too structured, but somehow at a sub-conscious level, I am able to connect the dots and design something that can sync my style to their brand purpose too. So it helps and I would keep this as a starting point of my creative process.
The next aspect of research is the literal research. So here if we are talking about coffee packaging design and I would research on the internet and see the packaging designs of other coffee brands. I would also see random design elements (say around Instagram, Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest) pictures and visuals. I might even look at some books/pictures that I have or something where I feel I can find some ideas. It is just like a very raw, open stage in my research process. I just take in any information possible.
Once I feel really saturated with information and ideas, I take a pause, sometimes even for a day or so. Then I revisit everything that I had seen. But this time, I feel my sub-conscious mind has processed everything and I am able to shape up ideas to an extent. I am able to segregate all thoughts in different ways/concepts in which we can possibly execute the required design.
To go little deeper, at this point, I would save the ideas into 3-4 different buckets (well, folders to be honest) and they are a mix of images, notes, links all saved up.
And finally I would think through all of it again or go through the concepts with a client and pick one direction to go ahead and execute it.
So this as I mentioned is really what can be called a creative process!
And I would say, it is good to know and follow it to an extent as it helps me channelise my creativity and not feel lost. It also binds me into a system, yet giving me creative liberty so that I can function to not just design as I want, but also follow the constraints of time, client requirements and respect all kinds of ‘technical things which simply cannot be avoided in the real world.
Ok! Now I am jumping in here to get to some very real and organic ways in which creativity pops-up for me! I would say these are super real, candid and not-to-be-ignored parts of the creative process. Let’s be honest. These are also truly ways in which creative ideas pop-up for me and perhaps for many other creatives too!
Let's get to them!
2. Having no ideas!
If I look back now to when I was starting out, I feel sometimes, it was fear that blanked me out! Dealing with a first big client, sending the first piece of portfolio, sometimes made me shaky (It still happens though)! And I wouldn’t allow my ideas to come out. “What if it doesn’t work! What if they don’t like it!”, these thoughts would go on in my head. But these feelings are also a part of the process. It is really OK to feel them! Don’t be too harsh about it.
With experience, I gradually I learnt to accept this and the fear reduced. But of course, burnouts, tiredness, being blank about ideas still happens. And it is just so human! In such times, I generally just take a break. For me approaching it back with a fresh mind generally works the best and hence it is really a part of MY CREATIVE PROCESS.
I would want this to be a reminder that in such times, really, do not be harsh on yourself. Just find out what works the best to put you back on track and get going with it. Sometimes, that missing your ‘creative spark’ feel can last longer also. Sometimes you have to leave trying-to-be-creative, to actually be creative.
Well, it is all a part of the CREATIVE PROCESS!
Also, I would share here that now if I hit a roadblock, I might be open to communicating it with a client, asking for some more time. And good clients usually understand this. They really get it. I feel there is nothing wrong in being transparent. And obviously, this by no means makes you moody. As you grow, your mind obviously supports you when projects are to be done. Asking for some time does not mean being unprofessional! It is simply, being human.
3. Save them for later
As the word goes, sometimes, ideas do pop-up out of the blue! You look at something, travelling, read something and suddenly your mind will connect to the dots to give you an idea that you weren’t even looking for at that moment.
These are the ideas that will just pop and fade away like a bubble. But if these ideas are so awesome that they make me excited and I jump with joy thinking about them, then I might preserve them in a notebook or just make them to add them to my design library.
I would emphasise on the importance of preserving ideas in here. It really helps. Sometimes, we can fall back on them and connect the dots when we need to do it for a project or something. I wouldn’t shy away from telling a client that Hey! I had this idea, and along with all my research and would love for you to consider it too, if I really find it worth it.
So yes, sometimes, I do get ideas from nowhere too but they occupy a special place in my creative process! After all, life is not so structured either right!
4. Last minute panic
Before I wrap up, how can I not mention about the importance of last minute panic in the creative process! Hahaha! It is the most amusing one actually. It also intrigues me to think about how our brain works! This happens to me all the time. So let’s say I have 3 days to do something. I start the research, design – anything. But the real magic happens when the time crunch is there. In fact, to be honest I might even just toss the idea in my head for 2 days in a 3 days timeline and will come to it at the last minute. BUT THIS IS REALLY A PART OF THE GAME!!!! There is just something mysterious about last minute panic that pops-up creative ideas! And no, it has got nothing to do with being lazy, irresponsible, inefficient, it is just the way it is.
Basically, I believe that when the pressure builds. When there is a time crunch and you know you have to get to your best is when somehow the best really happens. So like it or no, I would include this as a part of the creative process!
These are some candid thoughts on how I work as a designer or rather my little ‘creative system’. So used to living this now that it feels like a second nature. Love it!
And to conclude - a little messy, a little structured, a little human, a little abstract - the creative process is overall oh so fun!
And by the way, to further prove my last point, I know I have to write weekly blogs and sometimes I feel I should do it in advance so that it is done. But it just doesn’t happen. I wait for the last day to come and put it together. It just feels it will be nice only then. Don’t know if it is a bad habit, but it is what it is and I love everything about it! 🙂
On that note, have a good day, heading back to my creative process now.