A log of personal projects, photography, color palettes and things I find inspiring.
Category Archives: Inspiration
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity in the workplace or I guess more specifically, being a creative in a nine to five kind of job. It sort of feels strange to force a natural process to occur between a certain set of hours. Design is a relatively new career field and while most office environments are more lenient than other, more corporate ones I think asking a creative person to be indoors at a desk for eight hours a day is problematic.
Creativity requires inspiration. You can obviously get that inspiration from books or websites but that can be really limiting to me. I feel most inspired when I’m out doing other things. I’ll see a pattern in a store and be inspired, I’ll listen to an album on the beach while my mind wanders and be inspired.
One of the things I loved most about college was how open my day was. I went to school in a small mountain town, there wasn’t much to do but I was always surrounded by nature. It was beautiful and abundant. Like most students I had large gaps of time in between my classes to do other things, usually nap, or work on projects but I saw the sunlight, I took walks, I took pictures. I went outside and I got inspired. I miss that a lot.
Creative people need to wander. We enjoy the unknown, we are curious and inquisitive. We require time and freedom to become inspired. A computer is not really a place for creative thinking, it’s a place for execution—it’s a tool for bringing your vision to life. I wish more employers understood that. I realize that there’s a need to have warm bodies in seats but when time allows it, let your creative people to wander and they will flourish.
A while back, Chris and I drove down to an antique mall in Concord called The Depot. I love antique malls, not for the fussy china and floral print chairs, but for little gems like this. It took us four hours to get through the entire mall—it was sensory overload. There was so much to look at, so many cool things for sale but nothing that really screamed out to me.
On our way out I spotted a basket full of old maps and brochures. They were all in pristine condition, as if someone had hidden them away in an archival box somewhere for most of their lives. This 1950s South Carolina Road Map had to be mine. It was so beautiful, a prime example of the clean and concise design that I so aspire to do. I love it all. The color palette: mustard yellow, bright red, ocean turquoise. I can only imagine how they must have popped on the bright white paper before it yellowed over the years. The brush type, (what looks like) Futura, the beautiful illustrations, and don’t even get me started on the copywriting. It’s adorable.
It unfolds into a fullsize roadmap but I had a hard time scanning it and getting photoshop to merge the scans correctly. I plan on framing it to show the mini-maps. It’s a real nice piece.
A few weeks ago Chris and I packed our bags, loaded Mr. Mika into the car and headed down to sunny Charleston, SC to hear a talk by Aaron Draplin. If you’re not familiar with him, you should be. His work is iconic and bold with a no-bullshit attitude. He’s also one of the masterminds behind Field Notes.
His lecture hit on many points, outlining his modest beginnings in the Midwest, poking fun at himself along the way while also acknowledging his successes. Draplin’s vulgarity-laced talk was one of the most authentic and down to earth lectures that I’ve ever heard.
Unlike lectures I’ve been to in the past I left feeling not only creatively inspired but also inspired to do more for the community and to change my thinking overall. A few points that have really stuck with me:
1. “*&#@ clients!”
It’s easy to become frustrated with clients and blame everything on them when in reality most projects go sour because of our own lack of salesmanship. Sometimes though, you just get stuck with a really close-minded person and you end up having to do some really soul crushing design involving curlz. We should revel in projects that go well, rather than focusing negative energy on projects that head south. Do what you have to do to finish it up and do the best that you can. If you find yourself doing work that you hate, do work that you love off hours and do it a lot.
2. Be inspired by history
I’ve always loved old design. Old brochures, stickers, labels, branding—hell I even love old music. The limitations of the time forced designers to think intelligently about what they were doing, each element had to be carefully cut and arranged. A lot of type was done by hand, it’s laborious and beautiful work. We take for granted how easy we have it as designers today, surrounded by millions of fonts and software that grows more and more (dangerously) intelligent and helpful. There’s something beautiful about clean design, not just design that’s white but design that is concise, intelligent and beautiful. It’s a skill that the modern designers are quickly losing. Less truly is more.
3. Share what you love
This is something I know I struggle with. In your portfolio, don’t just show everything you have, show the best work. Even if it made you no money and is for a no-name client. I have some work that I’ve done for big brands that I just don’t show. Design by committee rarely has a good outcome. I want to show it, because I’m proud of having worked with that particular brand, but the final product was just not so great. Truth be told, some of my best work is stuff I did for fun for friends or non-profit clients. I think this is especially true for students and recent grads, they don’t have much to show being straight out of school so they just show everything they ever did in school. Do good work on your own and only show what you love.
It’s funny how lost you can get on the internet—one path leads to another and suddenly I find myself watching videos and reading about abandoned places. On one of these occasions, I ended up on the YouTube channel of a user named ransriggs. His writing and videos are absolutely lovely, he definitely has a knack for storytelling.