Re: How do you stay creative?

The GDC listserv is a great place for design conversation, whether you’re a GDC member or not. Among the contributers, there’s Gabino Travassos who is currently residing in Calgary. One of his on going projects is Mote Magazine which is a must visit if music is something you’re into.

Recently on the GDC listerv the question of creativity arose. One of the best responses came from Gabino. Below is his comment replicated with permission.

Being somewhat distracted by grandiose ideas that never quite reach fruition (which is great when you’re coming up with concepts for a client, but bad when you actually have to execute them) I had to create some guidelines for myself:

– dream super-big. If the client has a $3000 budget, pitch a $15,000 idea and then scale it back. It’s more fun to work on the crazy projects anyway.

– imagine you’ve just won $1,000,000 and write a list of things you want to do with that money. Then work backwards from there without the money.

– once you have the giant idea, like illustrating a children’s book, make a list of all the things required to make that happen. Divide the list into creative and administrative tasks. If you’re feeling creative, work on the characters. If you’re feeling uncreative, research the industry or think about paper size or go shopping for pencils.

Understand your peak creative times. If that’s 10am with a coffee at Starbucks with lots of noisy people around you, then do that. If it’s 1 am with a beer in the bathtub, then make sure that happens often enough to keep the project moving forward.

For me I get some good ideas sitting at Burger King in the afternoon with a coffee while my 5-year-old runs around their playground. We all win.

Also know when your productive production times are. If you need 5 hours in front of the computer from 7am to noon… work around that. In addition to the creative bursts, you need structured time to get all the work done. You might need to get away from your computer, your e-mail, your phone. Work unplugged on a picnic table overlooking a river.

And turn down the boring projects if you can. I turned down a $50,000 project that would have required hiring a couple people for a short term to work on an online business community, but I imagined what the next couple months of my life would be like and said, no, I’d rather miss a mortgage payment and have my cable shut off… and that’s exactly what happened.

And turn down work if you’re too busy. I know other people have said you should accept all the work that comes and try to balance the load, but you’ll just burn out, and do poor rushed work. And by too busy I mean working 7 days a week 10+ hours a day. If you’re only working 40 hours a week, you can do more. Or you can make it fit.

Diversify. Teach, train for a marathon, build a kite, read lots of books, get inspirational design books from the public library, attack your tasks from different angles. Design your site in clay, make a brochure out of lego.

And don’t forget to invoice upon commencement of a project. That first cheque will elevate your mood and bank balance and sometimes that is correlated to creativity. I know financial desperation is inversely correlated.

The shower is a creative time. All those ions being stripped from water molecules, floating around your body in an energizing aura. Bring your problems to the bathroom and think about them during a long shower.

Write long personal e-mails to people you’ve never met. On mailing lists for a membership of which you aren’t even part of.

And end with a smiley face. 🙂

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