The creative process is something that can become both illusive and overwhelming. It can seem like creativity comes out of nowhere. However, there is a path to creativity. Creative professionals have numerous methods for finding inspiration.
I have compiled four paths to creativity from my research and experience as a designer. Inspiration is out there. Here are some ways you can find it:
1. Think Outside the Box
One school of thought came recently from an amazing book I would recommend to anyone (no matter what your path in life) called The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, by acclaimed choreographer Twyla Tharp. In the chapter “Before You Can Think out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box”, the idea is that any big idea involves several little ideas. You have to do your homework in order to compile all those little ideas and arrange them in a way that is new and fresh. The little ideas are basic things: research your audience, build a design file, collect images, select a marketing outlet. The better your preparation ahead of time, the better the big idea will be at the end.
The recent example of this kind of creativity is the Toyota Prius. In 2000, when the Prius was first launched, the SUV was king in America. American automakers did not see the need to develop the technology for an “eco-friendly” car. GM’s vice chairman of product development Bob Lutz was quoted as late as 2004 that the Prius was, “an interesting curiosity,” adding that they didn’t make sense with gas at $1.50 a gallon.
Toyota was a pioneer for the first time in its history as an automaker. The Prius was almost instantly on back order when it first arrived in America (back orders are anticipated for the most recently launched Prius Generation 3 this year). Toyota followed the steps. They researched, developed, and did their leg work to create something that people didn’t even know they needed or wanted. They combined all the little ideas in a way that the end product was not only successful, but something completely new to the marketplace.
2. Learn from Your Mistakes
Everyone experiences failure. But without failure, you may never learn what the right way for you to do something would be. It is improbable that you will come up with anything original when you do what is expected, or when you already know the outcome. The best way to be creative is to not fear failure.
When I am brainstorming on a project with a group, there is almost always the initial “silent, but thinking” moment. To break this silence, I encourage everyone to say whatever pops into their head out loud. Even if it’s embarrassing or sounds stupid in your head, just say it. You may have a horrible idea, but write it down. Look at it. Dwell on it. Write more bad ideas. You can still learn from those ideas on the way to finding a good one.
3. Understand Your Audience
Social science and creativity go hand in hand. If you don’t have a general understanding of people and how their brains work, you will not be able to reach them; no matter how creative you are. I recently attended the Big (D)esign Conference, where speaker Stephen P. Anderson spoke about “The Art and Science of Seductive Interactions.” During his speech, Stephen requested that everyone in the audience think of something that describes people – in a general sense. People are curious, they enjoy novelty, they like to be in control, but they also like to be guided, etc. What do you know about people that would help you know what can you do to motivate them? What would make them intrigued? What would make them want more? Understanding people in a psychological sense can guide you in your creative process.
4. Be Open to Inspiration
At times, creative blocks happen because you are too consumed with the task at hand. You are so focused on getting an idea, that you are not allowing yourself to be open to inspiration. What’s the solution? Give your brain a breather. Do something monotonous that will give you room to receive inspiration. Get up and clean your work area. Take a walk and take pictures of things that interest you along the way. Clear you head by listening to your favorite music. Get lost in some activity that allows you to be a receiver, not an implementer. Inspiration is everywhere…you just have to find a way that works for you to be able to receive the information.