What Have You Done Already?

Beginners or people who don’t think they are particularly creative often get frustrated at how slow they are at coming up with ideas.

This is often because they only start thinking of ideas once they have something to work on — this is way too late.

Let me explain.

Today while I was working at Starbucks writing this article, what do you think caught my eye?

My view today writing this article at Starbucks

It turns out I was looking at the Dunhill logo wondering why the ascenders (the part of the font that sticks out above the main part of the letter) are so tall.

So I do a quick Google search “Why is the Dunhill logo so tall?” and the first result tells me that in terms of graphology (the study and analysis of handwriting in relation to human psychology), tall ascenders symbolise aspiration and refinement.

I’ve designed many logos before but I’ve never thought about using graphology to inspire the shape of the logo or communicate a company’s values.

But now after a spark of curiosity and a quick Google search, I have a new approach that I can use for a future project.

Apart from the Dunhill logo, I was also studying all the different shades of brown around me (the chair, the tables, the floor, the Starbucks logo sign etc.) and tried to figure out why some shades give a warm and comforting feel and others suggest sophistication and high status.

I’m also looking at the texture of the floor, the size of the glow behind “Starbucks Coffee” and the shine of the bin, thinking of what information they give me about the friction of the material, depth of the object and the lighting of the environment.

Note that it’s not just about looking at things around you and collecting stuff that you find interesting, it’s about constantly asking questions about what you see and figuring out how something works.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” — Henry David Thoreau

Also note that I don’t do this with a specific project in mind. I just do it because the more I observe and ask questions of my surroundings, the more insights and possible ideas I have at my disposal.

That means when I’m under pressure to think of ideas and design something, I spend less time figuring out where to look for inspiration and wondering where to start, and more time rearranging existing thoughts, blending them in different ways to create original ideas and adjusting them for the context of the task at hand.

It’s not about what you do when you have something to do,
it’s about what you’ve done already.