The Blank Workspace
This is possibly the hardest and most ominous part of a project. If you are not already fired up about a project or you are stuck on which route you should take, the blank workspace turns into a nerve racking place. This is true for illustrators, designers, photographers, interior designers, industrial designers or anyone in the creative realm. It has been said that sketching helps free the mind and open up concepts. Don’t think of it as “This has to be done now or I will hurt my reputation, my cash-flow & the client”. Think of it as “the beginning”. Settling down and only worrying about the task at hand helps you break into the flow and start the project like you have done so many times before.
When done correctly this should be completely unharnessed and free-flowing. Are you thinking about cows covered in purple poka-dots that are flying with cheese pinwheels? Great. Get it out of your head and onto paper, a sketchbook or something that helps you and move on to another idea. Ideation should be sheer creativity, whether it’s silly, cheesy, creepy or just way out there. You can take all those ideas and dial them down later.
Note: Good ideas are discovered once all the stupid ones have exited your brain.
Information Gathering / Project Debrief
This is where you obtain the most complete and concise ideas about the project. It’s a good idea to have a pre-defined list of questions to ask the client/contact person so you obtain all the information that you will need later on in the project. It’s better to ask everything possible and get some extraneous information then find out later that you didn’t get enough information that you recorded inaccurately. If that’s the case, you have to go back to the client and re-ask questions that you should already have the answers to which, could start the project off in the wrong direction.
Investigation & Research
Google it, Yahoo it, Bing it, read it, search for it, tear it apart, dissect it, overall LEARN it. Do as much scraping as you can on the topic. Be it silly clip-art, logos, descriptions, definitions or other creations people have already created on the subject. Learn what’s been created then expand into your own version. You’re the vehicle for the message. Make sure you don’t muddy the waters in the process.
Note: Expanding into your own version does not mean: copy and paste, then re-create or repurpose someone else’s work.
Brainstorming / Problem Solving
You have the scope of the project all of your ideas that you jotted down or sketched out plus all of your investigative research. What happens now? You have to put it all to use. You have to tie all this into one great, creative entity so whoever consumes it understands exactly what you are talking about. This isn’t about finding new ideas, it’s about harnessing the ideas you’ve already discovered and then putting them together as something useful to solve the creative problem.
Explaining the Visual
The lost art of explaining messaging without spelling it out. If you’re working on a design does it actually do something functionally? i.e. Does it make the audience draw their own conclusion? Does the brochure help the user understand the client/topic? Does the site help someone gain information and was it easy to obtain? Does your logo solve or help identify the brand? Does your illustration support the rest of the project?
Did you just jazz something up and make it pretty because “you’re a creative” and that’s what you do? We don’t just make things pretty, we solve problems and make it easier to digest and use. If you’re making decisions based on prettification and not function, maybe the heart of your message is off. All your creative should focus on presentation & communication regardless if it’s on the web, a printed piece, photography, installations, physical objects, copyrighting, illustrations or anything of the sort.
This is one of the hardest concepts to achieve through creativity. Timeless creative is near impossible and some tweaks will always need to be made throughout the years. If you creatively solved a problem and tried to make something that effectively communicates to your audience it should be able to grow with your client. Do they need to make some updates along the way? Sure. Who doesn’t. Do you see your endeavors lasting them for 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? I know that is hard to think of since our instant lives that are based on twitter, facebook & youtube aren’t even “that” old. Look at some big brands and how their branding hasn’t fluctuated too much over the years. Apple, Coke and Nike are just a few that have stayed true to their core branding and just made some slight modifications throughout the years. Have you effectively supplied your client with the tools to grow and expand in the future or did you hinder them in the process?