Throughout my 14 years in the design industry, I’ve used countless tools to work on my design projects. One of the first tools I used was the venerable design workhorse Adobe Photoshop, and it became my favorite tool for web and print design back in 2004. In the early days of my career, I considered Photoshop to be the most complete tool in terms of web design and mobile application design. Challenging Adobe’s dominance, Sketch arrived in 2010 and in my opinion revolutionized the UI/UX design process for Mac users. I loved Sketch and used it whenever I could for my web projects, but its lack of compatibility with PCs proved to be an inconvenient limitation in mixed-platform environments.
I’m always fascinated by good thinkers, good ideas and the exciting ‘A-ha!’ Moments that keep us inspired. To me, that creative impulse is what I love about my job. Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, said, “The skills, perspectives and networks that promote innovation and creativity also create strong thinking individuals with resources that extend beyond any single measure of worth or productivity.”
For us at Liquid, creativity isn’t just a nice thing to have – it’s a requirement. Each day as a video producer, I’m tasked with finding new and illuminating ways to help my client’s tell their stories. My ability to take a problem, deconstruct, reframe and reimagine is the essence of the creative process. It’s what allows me to produce viable, effective media solutions for clients.
Where I don’t want to sound like a motivational speaker, I believe each of us has the capacity to employ creativity. The secret is – you have to work at it. I find that the more I use the creative process, the better my ideas become.
Here are a few helpful ways I’ve learned to improve my creative thinking.
- It helps to spend time talking with other creative people. Lehrer notes, “Shared information generates new knowledge; horded information leads to stagnation.”
- Focus on your project – not your ego. This will help you define, deconstruct, reframe and reimagine without getting in your own way.
- Film producer Ken Wales once noted that when planning, reach for the sky – and imagine what your best idea would be. Don’t judge. Don’t consider budget, time constrictions or anything other than the best result. Next, tone your idea down to a realistic solution. That big picture is going to allow your creative problem solving to flourish!
- Give your brain time to process. When I write, I try very hard to simply get my ideas on paper. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, encourages writers to type a ‘S***ty First Draft.’ Just let your imagination flow and get the idea on paper… No one has to see it. S***ty First Drafts lead to a better second draft… and eventually a solid finished project.
- Seek inspiration. Personally, I rely on writers, films, photographs, news stories, art, and the occasional TED Talk to inspire my thinking.
- Lehrer says, “To create something new you must work with rearranging the ingredients of the old.” Singer David Bowie, when stuck, often literally cuts up and rearranges a page of text to find new ways to twist a phrase. I’ve tried it with varying results – but when the right idea strikes, it resonates.
- And speaking of ‘stuck,’ when you find yourself at an impasse, take a break. See a movie. Take a walk. Do something that makes you happy. Mark Beeman, Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University notes that our right brain is most active during relaxed periods. You’ll never be at your creative best when nervous, agitated or stressed.
- The thing about creativity is that it never works on a schedule, so I never leave my house without a notebook (or a stylus and my iPad). If you take a few seconds to record your thought, paste a clipping or draw a quick diagram, you won’t forget it – and will be able to access your good idea at a later time.
Creativity is a skill well worth cultivating. When you trust the process, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. Here at Liquid, we aspire to find innovative and unique solutions for clients. I’m happiest when that elusive “A-ha!” moment hits – and resonates with a client.
That’s how the best work gets done.
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When I tell people that I’m a user experience (UX) designer, most people nod politely as their eyes glaze over for a second, and they try to move the conversation along. Early in my career I thought they were completely uninterested, but over time, I came to realize that many people simply don’t know what UX is and might feel awkward about asking. On behalf of misunderstood UX designers everywhere, please allow me to introduce you to the wonders of quality UX and why you should care about it.
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I went fishing the other day and all I caught was a good UX lesson for you. Here’s the deal: my daughter entered the neighborhood annual fishing derby. For a decent UX guy, I’m a terrible fisherman. But I do know how to bait a squirming worm and unhook the slimiest of fish.