Method or Magic? Creativity as a Process

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I strive to be consistently creative in my work. I want to produce top-notch design for my clients, and do that on a regular basis. This work needs to be hardy and long-lasting: logos that will weather the storm of countless seasons; illustrations that feel current yet sophisticated; collateral that fits into a well thought-out brand identity.

Lately I’ve been relishing in my creative process because it helps me to be consistent in my work. I found that having a method helps keep a project in line while also garnering solid results.

But I also love the magic behind creativity as well. The coffee-fueled early morning logo concept designs that seem to be flowing through me. Or the spark in the shower that reignites my passion for a project that might have hit a wall.

So what’s more important? The method, or the magic?

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When it comes to my client work, I gotta stick with the method.
My method starts with research. I ask a variety of practical and heady questions.  What do you do? How long have you been in business? Who you are looking to attract? Why is your business relevant and important? Do you think your brand is pink and pretty like a vintage Disney princess? Or grungy and rugged like an 1980s F-150? This is my favorite part of the process because it involves getting to the heart behind what my clients do, and why they love doing it.

Next I take all that awesome insight and create a visual style and tone. I work hard at my clients’ design, drawing up concepts and executions. The work is then revised, whittled, watered and fertilized until the brand look and feel is rooted and focused in my client’s true brand story. Logos are designed. A color palette unique to a project is picked. Typefaces are put into place. Patterns and icons are drawn to add depth to a client’s graphic language.

The last step is to build and deliver all of the collateral. Once my clients fall in love with their newly branded graphics, I apply them to a variety of pieces: website, social media, brochures, the list goes on. With these new graphics launched, a client’s brand identity then showcases their personality with clear purpose, while making it more memorable.

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But does magic have any part in this process? I declare: YES!
I have a drawing practice that is very dear to my heart. In the mornings I make a cup of tea, set a timer for 15 minutes, and draw. Sometimes I draw an object from my house, like the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, or a single tulip in a vase. Other times I’ll draw a self-portrait. Late last year I experimented drawing famous people: Vladimir Putin (the eyebrows), Barack Obama (the ears), Richard Simmons (the hair!).

I love to draw. It is a practice I have that I do not censor myself at. Am I a very “realistic” at drawing? Hell, no! My drawing process is the opposite of my creative design method. It’s my inner child getting her fingers dirty in the paint. I mix colors on the fly to get tulip petals to look just right. I draw too fast so that my eyebrow looks too short and my mouth is too close to my nose. I don’t care and I love it. I am truly free when I draw.

So how does the method and the magic come together?
I find that the more drawing I do, the more I see things clearly, and the easier it is for me to make important creative decisions in my client work. Examining objects on a close level pushes me to see things from various perspectives.

And on the flip side, the more I stick to my design method in my client work, there is more structure and greater productivity during my 9-5 job. That then encourages me to provide a structure around my drawing practice. I make myself sit and do it every day, even though it’s not something I freely share or make money off of or really care where it goes.

This article interviews musician  and artist Brian Eno about developing a creative practice. I appreciate what it says here: “While neuroscience hasn’t yet been able to develop a foolproof scientific system to spark creativity, an artistic practice, if developed, can grease the wheels for more frequent and higher quality creative moments. As Eno puts it: ‘The point about working is not to produce great stuff all the time, but to remain ready for when you can.’”

I feel like my design method is the fool-proof production of solid work on a daily basis. The magic of my drawing practice keeps my creative muscles strong. Creativity, whether in design or drawing, is something that I must practice. The more logo designs I do, the better at them I get. The more watercolor paintings I draw, the better I feel about the work (and my life! Let that inner child free!). Creativity is a muscle: it must get worked out in order to be strong.

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Client Kudos

Maria is awesome-sauce, plain and simple. She’s a joy to work with. She does excellent work. And, wow, is she creative. I love my branding. I feel much more confident approaching prospects, sending out proposals, and upping my game. Cross your fingers that Maria has bandwidth for your project. You won’t regret it.

Mike R., Content Strategist