You’ll be diligently working at your desk when it sneaks up on you. Like a ninja in the night, you are unaware of the presence until it is already upon you. It releases a floodgate in your mind, no, your soul, that pours forth artistry from the depths of your loins. You are under the influence, creatively speaking. Those moments in which you do your best work.
It seems to me that I experience times when my mind is ripe with imagination. I would love to be in this mood more often. Major life events aside, I believe there are aspects of our daily life that can nurture that creative spark. So I’ve compiled a list of ten things that I find influence me. It may be something else for you, but I believe a combination of elements can lift us to an inspired level. Whether you’re an artist, designer, or musician, if you thrive on creativity then combining these tips could be for you.
Find what draws an emotional response out of you. Lately for me it’s been Switchfoot, The Fray, and Jasmine Thompson. When I listen to their music, it causes a lot of introspection. My thoughts go to my wife, missing her even if I just saw her that morning, wanting to provide a better life for her. I think about how I want to improve as a person. In those places my mind seems to draw from a deeper creative well. To mix things up I’ll listen to some Lord of the Rings/Hobbit soundtracks, especially An Unexpected Journey. Howard Shore masterfully tells a story with sound that absolutely gets to me. Think about what music draws a response out of you and try to listen to those while designing. The Pandora App is great for that.
While values can differ, we all have those causes we are passionate about. Maybe something changed your life or the life of a loved one, but working on something that has affected us can draw out our best. For me it’s my faith. I had grown up in church, but ultimately discovered it for myself when I was a teenager. Before that I was hateful, depressed, and angry. Through my transformation I learned to care for myself, how to love others, and was all around a better person to be with. Because of that connection and my familiarity, I tend to produce some of my best work while designing for faith based groups. Whatever your cause may be, it’s you’re intimacy on the matter that will give you an edge.
What hasn’t been said about coffee? I tend to drink it a couple of times a week for the past couple of years. It’s a proven stimulant that raises your heart rate and awareness. There are also interesting articles comparing coffee and alcohol, determining that coffee is better for more goal oriented tasks. Honestly and embarrassingly, drinking coffee makes me feel a little more sophisticated. Maybe it’s that added confidence boost, but I fee like a mature adult, a professional. Because kids don’t drink coffee, right?
Are there styles of design that you prefer? Forms that play to your strengths? Personally I feel strong with minimalist and retro designs. Since I know I can handle it, my mind starts to work out ways to try something different or new. Similar to causes, it’s a familiarity thing. I wouldn’t go overboard and do the same styles over and over again. Just be aware when projects come along that call for your style strengths, it’s your time to show off.
I love big windows. And when I can see it raining outside, I get excited. Rain breaks the normal routine of the day. The natural lighting is lowered, being inside feels like I’m working in a cave, it just changes the atmosphere. Everyone you come across has to alter their daily routine on rainy days, least of which they come in little wet. If every day were rainy that would ruin the surprise, but I tend to relish in creativity when it’s pouring outside.
Browse through logos, business cards, anything professionally designed. Analyze what makes it work, what looks good, what doesn’t work. Ya know how they say “you are what you eat”? The same can be said for inspiration, the more good design you take in the more good design you can put out. You become influenced by what you see has been done right. Now this can only take you so far before it ends up becoming copying or directly stealing. But as a mental exercise, it helps to process your own designs and take them further.
I’ve come to realize that I like the cold. Actually, it’s more the feeling of bundling up. So if my environment’s cooler and I can throw on a jacket or a hoodie, I tend to be more comfortable. Sometimes if I’m working at home I’ll even throw a blanket over my lap. Take note when you’re feeling those creative moments what the environment is like around you. Is it always like that when you feel creative? Look for patterns in how your environment can influence you.
Have you ever heard someone say “make it like the Nike logo”? Something easily recognizable? I used to think that meant they want a strong, minimal icon. No. What it really means is the client wants you to spend billions of your dollars putting their logo out into the world over decades so that everyone, everywhere relates that image to their business. I won’t make any assumptions about you, but I don’t have the time or money to do that. So when I get direction like this, it kinda puts a wet blanket on my creativity.
Look down right now – are your sleeves touching your wrists? Mine aren’t. When my sleeves are up, I feel like I’m ready to get some work done. My hands are unhindered to write, type, draw, and create. Nothing stands in their way! Don’t let your sleeves hold you back. If they’re too close to what your hands are doing they might get dirty, or cut, or decrease the movement of your hands. Heaven forbid that. As a creative person your hands need freedom to forge art in ways no one has ever conceived before! Liberate yourself and push your sleeves up!
Don’t get the wrong idea, I love my family. That’s why they can be such a distraction. Do you live close to your family, like it’s Everybody Loves Raymond? Maybe they live out of state and come by to visit. Anytime family is around I get excited to see them, so it’s more difficult to focus on the task at hand. I’ve probably just reached that age where I’ve lost enough loved ones that I take extra appreciation in the ones I do have around. So this one might not bother you as much, just depends where you are in life.
These are the things I find influencing my creativity day to day. So my best work comes from cold, rainy days when I have some coffee, a retro, faith-based logo to create, and listen to Howard Shore. Maybe not, that sounds kinda sad.
I do encourage you to take note of what influences you daily. What speaks to you personally? What excites and encourages you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!