8 Ways To Keep The Creative Juices Flowing.

Every designer experiences a creative block at some point or the other in his career. Creative professionals are often influenced by  circumstances such as family issues, conflicts with loved ones, and stressful situations at work. Unlike other 9-5 office workers, we shoulder an entirely different kind of pressure, and our achievements are directly proportional to our creativity.
W constantly struggle to think differently from others and keep our clients satisfied. Here’s how you can keep yourself inspired all the time:

1. Work out regularly

I put this at #1 because I think it is the most important for mental productivity, especially for designers. Sometimes, when we get stuck on projects, sitting in front of monitor won’t get us any solutions. The key is to go out and get some fresh air when you need to come up with new ideas. I personally like jogging, and I do it 2-3 times a week, 10 kilometers every time. You don’t need too much exercise – just enough to refresh you mind and liven up your mood. Moreover, while you are letting in new ideas, your body enjoys the benefits of a workout. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?

2. Read a text book or a novel

Here in Hong Kong, I meet many designers who have the same problem – they are too lazy to read. Most designer tend to read only design reference books, thinking that looking at striking pictures will give them more ideas. But in my opinion, this is partially right and partially wrong. Yes, the reference books are very important to keep yourself updated with design trends and concepts but reading other texts helps us cultivate imagination and  interpretation skills. As we imagine the sceneries, emotion, and even the aromas via the text, our horizons broaden and new ideas make way into our minds. [imageframe width=630 height=428 pattern=”0″ align=”left”]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4063/4390723511_3311145167_z.jpg[/imageframe]

3. Look at graphic/picture references

If reading a text book/novel trains the creative side of our brains, then reading design reference books sharpens our practical designing skills. I bet most designers would be stuffing piles of design books in the their book shelfs. My only advice to them is: Keep flipping them!

4. Try Gardening

When we work in front of the monitor for long hours, our eyes go dry and our concentration gradually starts fading. Looking at fresh, green plants in a great way to soothe the eyes. Gardening  helps calm our nerves after hours of continuous working. Another up side of planting green stuff in and around our office/home is that our working environment gets more oxygen, which is good for our brain too. [imageframe width=630 height=428 pattern=”0″ align=”left”]http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5261/5639341119_aa4fab2de4_z.jpg[/imageframe]

5. Be a chef

Instead of dining out at a fast food restaurant, try cooking at home. Cooking is fun and a great problem solving practice too! Try different cuisines, and add your own elements and ingredients to the recipe to create something new. This will definitely fuel your creativity energies.

6. Listen to alternative music

Luckily most designers love music, and most of us love the indie band, alternative music rather than radio pop. Music is the kind of language that fills us with inspiration, and somehow accelerates the flow of creative juices. Another practice is to play a musical instrument, which is a great way to relax our brain. If you can sing, all the better! I personally like to play the guitar and sing along after few hours of working. [imageframe width=630 height=428 pattern=”0″ align=”left”]http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5129/5265397860_61244b9ca6_z.jpg[/imageframe]

7. Day dream ( do nothing )

Don’t underestimate the power of day dreaming. Day dreaming is the  time when you mind welcomes extraordinary thinking, not limited to design, but all kinds of interesting thoughts. In my practice, after I get a creative brief, I read it thoughtfully and spend some time on my couch mulling over it. It not take long, 20-40 mins should be enough. When I go back to work after my daydreaming session, I find that I am full of new ideas.

8. Share

The Social Networking boom brings us an unprecedented convenience to share our works with our circle Sometimes, we are forced to be a part of the network, where we can easily find the works of others’  through many designer committee websites, and find references for our projects at a lightening speed. At the same time, our works continue to be an inspiration to other designers. This is an entirely new way to keep the creative life moving forward, and within a circle, it somehow seems like we’re monitoring each other, which definitely pushes our quality of work up due to this invisible kind of pressure. Today the most famous designer networks are Behance.net, Coroflot and Deviantart.


Case Study: From sketchpad to Illustrator (Process)

In this tutorial, DesignCrowd logo designer Alan Lee describes how to create a logo in Illustrator after first sketching it out on his sketchpad of choice: a children’s sketchpad. The tutorial documents the process by starting right from the beginning and showcasing how the steps were taken to the final product.

Tools: Sketchpad + Illustrator
Time: Dependent on ideas and the designer
Skills: Beginner to Expert

Part One: The Creative Brief

The first step when you’re taking on a logo design project is to read and ensure you understand the brief. Without it, you can’t convey the subtle meanings the client has in mind.

For this tutorial the example brief I’ll use is for a company called ‘Complete Revamp’, a building and interior renovation company who sought a new logo through a logo contest.

The client: Complete Revamp

The creative brief they provided follows:

A logo for “Complete Revamp”, a mid size business in the first stage of becoming a company that will carry the message of Professional, reliably, craftsmen, energetic, leading, yet organic, builders with a flare for the specialized and extreme renovations. We also want to communicate that our clients are in safe hands when they take us on. I love the color of Metal, ie Gold Stainless. Fonts should be modern and easily read.

They went on to list their target audiences:

Bar and restaurant owners, shop owners, warehouse conversion investors and owners, mainly based in inner city Melbourne and inner suburbs who are the decision makers. Building designers and architects looking for the right company to build exotic design features.

After reading the brief, the first thing I do is to grab a kid’s drawing pad. I don’t open any computer software – to me, that is a part of the very last stage of the process.

Part Two: The Sketchpad

I use a kid’s drawing pad because the paper used in these tends to be a warmer, earthier color than blazing white A4 printer paper. The brightness and the ‘office’ feel of copier paper doesn’t put me in the right creative state. Artist’s sketch pads are fine, but a kid’s drawing pad will cost you US$1.30 (around $10 in Hong Kong dollars), so I can buy a whole bunch at a time.

As you can already tell from the name, Complete Revamp are specialists in renovations. The logo needs to solid, bold and masculine to convey the right qualities for a construction company – such as the sturdiness of the craftsmanship.

At this point I list all the possible elements of a logo that conveys this meaning, trying to establish the related visual in my head. I experiment by linking up some interesting combination’s between these thoughts.

After some brainstorming, I found the concept of children’s wooden building blocks to be a line to keep playing with given the subject matter. I went to Google for some inspiration, looking for interesting block configurations.

I picked some useful angles to develop further from these images. Personally, I like to print them out and glue them in my sketch pad (better then staring at the screen!) – much like a moodboard.

Eventually I found the arch block quite appropriate to represent the initial “C”, and the square and triangle blocks looked good for the “R”.

With the shapes developed and looking good in the sketch pad, it’s a good bet they’ll look good on the screen as well. My theory is that the more time a designer spends sketching, the better the end result created with a graphics application will look. The idea is king, and the computer is just a tool for finishing the design.

Part Three: The Computer

At this point, I scan and import the sketch into Adobe Illustrator. I then start drawing the shapes over the scan, drawing the square first and using the Pathfinder tool to punch out the arch shape.

I then start smoothing the corners. To do this, go to the menu option Effects > Style > Round Corners and set the radius of the corners to your preference. This makes the logo look less angular.

Choosing the right font to work with is the next part of the project, and one of the most challenging steps. The wrong font can spoil the whole logo, so we need to take the time to pick the perfect one. It’s best to use a font manager such as FontExplorer X for this. Pick a few that seem like good fits, and then activate them so they can be used in Illustrator.

I put the logotype side by side with the logo imagery I’ve developed so that I can easily judge which fonts are good matches and by process of elimination I work down to just one font.

In this case, I ended up picking Avant Garde Gothic Std. The shape of the font is a good start, but it needs to be bolder. I add a stroke line to beef it up and then turn the type into a path using the Create Outline option, which can be accessed by right-clicking the item you’d like to convert.

Generally, when it comes to logo design you’ll find you want to modify the font to seamlessly marry it with the logograph itself. In this case, I feel the “C” is too big and not stylish enough, so I’m going to chop it a little.

I’d like the words to better represent the idea of blocks and geometry, so I tie in the idea of the triangle block with the corner of the capital “R”, simplify the “t” and divide the “m” into three pieces. Now, the logo text works with the block images to lend meaning to the logo with the geometric shapes of construction and building blocks.

The final stage is picking a color palette. Since the beginning I’ve had a good feeling about grey and orange, but it’s good to try variations and see if they work better. The grey color lends a mature and masculine connotation to the logo, with the orange giving it boldness and impact, and acting as a highlight color. I’ve also colored the triangle I added to the letter “R” to match the square in the logo mark, establishing a relationship between mark and type.

Finally, I feel the logo mark is a little dull and lifeless in its current position, and we want to add some excitement – the highlight color can’t carry this burden on its own. I’ve turned by 45 degrees, which I feel gives it better composition. The design is now finish, and I can submit it to the client.