Nurturing The Creative Process

Posted: May 3, 2018

We are all inundated with growing amounts of advertising and messaging around the clock, on every screen, every page and every available space that we may lay our eyes on. In the world of brand design, this complicates and puts pressure on strategists and creatives to create something truly new, something that will break through the clutter.

There’s one thing we all have in common: we are all consumers and we are all bombarded with millions of different logos and brand assets every day.

This is why it is imperative to follow a methodology that would give you the opportunity to bring something original and memorable to life. The key to this process is the blank page.

I believe that a solid and considered brand strategy is the foundation of every design project. We need to start with immersing ourselves in the brand, then assess the growth opportunities and define the creative direction. From the research phase to ideation and concept explorations, to deciding on the right logo type and crafting the icon to embody the brand essence, to experimenting with various colour combinations; these are all moving parts that ultimately define the success of the whole brand solution. The process differs from agency to agency and even from creative to creative sitting in the same studio. But, one thing all creative processes have in common, is that they require time and due diligence. And they all start on a blank page.

A vital step in the creative process happens long before we are briefed on a new project. It starts with being observant and curious about what is going on the world around you, whether it is in the creative industry, news, politics, science and technology, socio-economics or pop culture. Michael Wolff, founder of Wolff Olins, one of FastCompany’s most innovative companies, describes curiosity as the first step on the path to understanding. It’s the one step that allows us to dig deeper, to challenge conventional trains of thought and to try new solutions to common problems. Asking more questions and having a greater interest in the world and people around you, gives you insights into where opportunities exist. For this reason, a good strategic base is essential.

The term procrastination is often seen as negative. It’s understood as leaving things to the last minute and scrambling for solutions. Instead, look at procrastination as a process of allowing ideas and concepts to take root in the back of your mind. New information and seemingly unrelated thoughts act as water and sunlight, that feed the seed in the back of your mind. A good period of incubation at the beginning of a project can be a good thing – especially when the blank page on your desk is staring at you, waiting for you to make the first mark of a new idea. Immediately googling competitors’ new work, thinking of the use of new tech as ‘the idea’ or scourging old awards annuals could lead to ‘more-of-the-same’ or unoriginal ideas. The right solution often comes to you when you are not actively thinking about it. A decent incubation period helps in making unexpected leaps and thinking in non-linear ways. Da Vinci worked on his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, on and off for 16 years. Although that may be a little excessive in this day and age, there is value in giving your creative team a ‘pre-crastinating’ period before they start working on a project. I believe in creating an environment for our teams, so that they have the freedom to process and think – ultimately delivering on more original creative solutions.

Inspiration is another important component of the creative process. Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister and Walsh in New York, hits the nail on the head with her view that you should not look into your own field for inspiration as that could result in the regurgitating of a lot of the same styles and ideas happening in design, but to rather look for inspiration outside of the world of graphic design, like fine arts or science.

Michael Beirut, partner at Pentagram, describes the ideation phase as finding the right key to open a door and trying different keys until you find the right one to unlock the problem. This phase is often the most free and enjoyable part of the process. Considering how important a big idea is to tie all elements together, and how this will impact the rest of the process, the ideation phase needs due time to cultivate original thinking and ideas.

As a creative director, my main objective on every brief is to create something that will truly grow our clients. Through strategic brand design, our team aims to enable our clients’ brands to either redefine their category, to build strong emotional connections with consumers, to create an engaging experience at every touchpoint and, ultimately, to create sustainable business value.

If you are looking for longevity and impact, it is not something that can happen overnight. For the creative process to work at its best, it needs to have the time for immersion, assessment, definition, ideation, design and, essentially, growth.