THE SECOND ESSENTIAL QUESTION EVERY DESIGNER
SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER:
What Should I Create?
In order to make better artistic and design choices, the Fluent and Empowered Designer should have answers to 5 essential questions. In this article, I present the second essential question: What Should I Create?
Selma got by very well in life by asking her teachers, and in subsequent years, her bosses, what she should do. She followed their instructions to the letter, and was particularly good at coloring within all the lines. Everyone was always pleased with her work. So pleased, in fact, that her current boss promoted her into a designer position.
In her new position, she was to work with construction, architectural and interior design firms. She was to assist them and guide them into choosing textiles with which to incorporate into their interior and exterior building plans.
When she met with various clients, she started byasking them to tell her what they wanted. But no one could really articulate much more than general ideas about colors. For Selma, this was disconcerting. She thought she could do a great job, but needed more information and direction. These were never forthcoming.
At the core of Creativity is the ability to generate options, and then narrown them down. Creativity is not innate; it is developed. Creativity is a muscle requiring attention and practice. This is something Selma never really worked on.
This was critical for Selmer, as well as any other designer, in order to flourish and succeed, to be able to answer these 5 essential questions, now with question 2.
QUESTION 2: How do you decide what you want to create? What kinds of things do you do to translate your passions and inspirations into design?
Applying yourself creatively can be fun at times, but scary at other times. It is work. You are creating something out of nothing. There is an element of risk. You might not like what you end up doing. Your friends might not like it. Nor your family. You might not finish it. Or you might do it wrong. It may seem easier to go with someone else’s project.
Applying creativity means developing abilities to generate options and alternatives, and narrowing these down to specific choices. It means developing an ease and comfort generating fix-it strategies when approaching unknown situations or problematic ones. It means figuring out how to translate inspiration into design in a way that inspires others and taps into their desires. It means differentiating yourself from other designers as a measure of your originality.
Set no boundaries and set no rules. They go with the flow. Don’t conform to expectations.
Play. They pretend they are kids again.
Experiment. They take the time to do a lot of What Ifs and Variations On A Theme and Trial and Error.
Keep good records. They make good notes and sketches of what seems to work, and what seems to not work.
Evaluate. They learn from their successes and mistakes.
As designers gain more and more creative experiences, they begin to assemble what I call a Designer’s Tool Box. In this virtual tool box are a set of thinking routines, strategies and fix-it strategies whichhave worked well in the past, are very workable in and of themselves, and are highly adaptive when used in unfamiliar situations. Every designer should develop their own Tool Box. This vastly contributes to adaptability and success in creative thinking and application.
Creativity isn’t found, it is developed. Creativity is a phenomenon where both something new and, at the same time, somehow valuable is created. While some people come to creativity naturally, in fact, everyone can develop their creative ability.
Thinking creatively involves the integration and leveraging of three different kinds of ideas — insight and inspiration, establishing value, and implementing something.
We work through creative thinking through divergence (that is, generating many possibilities), and convergence (that is, reducing the number of these possibilities).
Kierkegaard — and I apologize for getting a little show-off-y with my reference — once described Creativity as “a passionate sense of the potential.” And I love this definition. Passion is very important. Passion and creativity can be summed up as some kind of intuitive sense made operational by bringing all your capabilities and wonderings and technical know-how to the fore. All your mechanical and imaginative abilities grow over time, as do your abilities for creative thinking and applications. Creativity isn’t inherently natural. It is something that is developed over time as you get more and more experience in design.
You sit down, and you ask, What should I create?
For most people, especially those getting started, the answer to this question is very basic. They look for patterns and instructions in magazines or how-to books or websites online. They let someone else make all the creative choices for them. The singular creative choice here is picking what you want to make. And, when you’re starting, this is OK.
As you grow as a designer, and feel more comfortable with materials and techniques, you can begin to make additional choices. You can choose your own colors. You can make simple adaptations, such as tweaking colors or placements or dimensions or proportions.
Eventually in your designer career, however, you will want to confront the Creativity issue head on. You will want to decide that pursuing your innermost designer, no matter what pathway this takes you along, is the next thing, and right thing, to do. That means you want your projects or objects to reflect your artistic hand. You want to develop a personal style. You want to come up with your own designs.
Sometimes creativity seems insurmountable, after finishing one project, to decide what to do next. Exercising your creative abilities can sometimes be a bear. But it’s important to keep pushing on. Challenging yourself. Developing yourself. Turning yourself into a designer. And pursuing opportunities to exercise your creative talents even more, as you enter the world of design.
Types of Creativity
Creativity has two primary components: (1) originality, and (2) functionality or value.
The idea of originality can be off-putting. It doesn’t have to be. The projects or objects, so creatively designed, do not have to be totally and completely new and original. The included design elements and arrangements do not have to be solely unique and never been done before.
Originality can be seen in making something stimulating, interesting or unusual. It can represent an incremental change which makes something better or more personal or a fresh perspective. It can be something that is a clever or unexpected rearrangement, or a great idea, insight, meaningful interpretation or emotion which shines through. It can include the design of new patterns and textures. It can accomplish connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and generate solutions. It can be a variation on a technique or how material gets used. It can be something which enhances the functionality or value of the piece.
Creativity in design marries that which is original to that which is functional, valued, useful, worthwhile, desired. These things are co-dependent, if any creative project is to be seen as successful.
For designers, creativity is not the sketch or computer aided drawing. It is not the inspiration. It is not the piece which never sees the light of day. Creativity requires implementation. And for designers, implementation is a very public enterprise.
How Do We Create?
It’s not what we create, but how we create!
The creative process involves managing the interplay of two types of thinking — Convergence and Divergence. Both are necessary for thinking creatively.
Divergent thinking is defined as the ability to generate or expand upon options and alternatives, no matter the goal, situation or context.
Convergent thinking is the opposite. This is defined as the ability to narrow down all these options and alternatives.
The fluent designer is able to comfortably weave back and forth between divergence and convergence, and know when piece or project is finished, and when the final choices will be judged as successful.
Brainstorming is a great example of how creative thinking is used. We ask ourselves What If…? How about…? Could we try this or that idea…? The primary exercise here is to think of all the possibilities, then whittle these down to a small set of solutions.
Many people begin to explore design as a hobby, avocation, business or career. This requires, not only strong creativity skills, but also persistence and perseverance. A lot of the success in this pursuit comes down to an ability to make and follow through on many artistic and design decisions within a particular context or situation. Developing this ability — a fluency, flexibility and originality in design — means that the designer has to become empowered to answer these 5 essential questions: (1) whether creating something is a craft, an art or design, (2) how they think creatively, (3) how they leverage the strengths of various materials and techniques, and minimize weaknesses, (4) how the choices they make in any one design evoke emotions and resonate, and (5) how they know their piece is finished and successful.
Design is more than the application of a set of techniques. It is a mind-set. This fluency and empowerment enable the designer to think and speak like a designer. With fluency comes empowerment, confidence and success.
Continue reading about the Third Essential Question every designer should be able to answer: What Materials (And Techniques) Work The Best?
The 5 Essential Questions:
1. Is What I Am Doing Craft, Art or Design?
2. What Should I Create?
3. What Materials (And Techniques) Work The Best?
4. How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?
5. How Do I Know My Piece Is Finished?
Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:
Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.
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