Lessons from the Creative Trenches

Creative Trenches

Over the last couple of weeks, as I’ve had the opportunity to knock the dust off, dig into photoshop and do some client-facing design work, a few important lessons stood out.

Good briefs make a project infinitely easier.

Charles Kettering famously said that, “a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved,” and that’s especially true when it comes to design.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to start a project without the information you need to be strategic in your work.

As someone who assigns creative work, it’s easy to assume that everyone else on the project knows as much about the project as you do, but that’s rarely the case.

As the person who has to do the work, it is frustrating to spend time digging through email forwards and Basecamp threads, trying to figure out what exactly is being asked of you, when that valuable time could be better spent solving problems.

So if you assign creative work, make sure you're providing enough information so the folks doing the work can hit the ground running.

Creativity is a Numbers Game

Creativity is a numbers game.

The creative spark rarely comes at the start of a project. Instead it’s a result of trial and error. Great solutions come about through an evolutionary process. You start with one idea, then iterate and branch off in new directions.

Eventually the best solution rises to the top, but if you go with your first idea you’ll never get to that point. Take pride in this process. Instead of being annoyed when you’re on version 19 of a deliverable, embrace it and work hard to make sure it’s better than version 18.

The best ideas are always at the bottom of the barrel, but you have to dig to find them.

The most important question you can ask is, “Would I pay attention to this if it wasn’t created by me?”

Brands, like people, often assume they’re more interesting than they really are. They think that just because they say something, people will listen (and more importantly pay attention). Unfortunately that’s rarely the case.

It’s important to be objective and ask yourself honestly, “Would I pay attention to this if it wasn’t created by me?”

If the answer is no, then keep pushing until you have something worthy of people’s attention.

The amount of joy I get out of the work I create is directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into it.

There are no perfect assignments. There’s always a challenge to be solved. If it was easy, it would have already been done. As a designer, it’s easy to say that the assets suck or the brand is boring, but that’s an excuse for mediocrity. Instead, embrace the constraints and challenge yourself to overcome the obstacles unique to the project. The only variable you really control is your effort.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s the fact that the amount of satisfaction I get in completing the work is almost always directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into it.

Written by Adam Harrell on September 12, 2016

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