Tips for the Not So Creative

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If you’re like me, you probably didn’t go to school for design.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to work in a creative environment.  You might even feel like you have a creative flare, but decided you were more business savvy, so you studied Marketing and Advertising in college to allow yourself the chance to work with creative minds.  Well, I’m here to tell you that you can be both, or at the very least, more creative.

At AgencyNet we have a saying that “you don’t have to be a designer to be creative.”  And I have to admit, I was bit bewildered when I first heard this.  So many agencies clearly distinguish between the “creatives” and the “suits.”  After a couple of months, I began to grasp what this meant – I was and could be just as creative as a designer if I wanted to be.  My job doesn’t and shouldn’t end when I hand off a brief to the creative team, it should keep going and going throughout the entire creative process.

What I discovered was that everyone can think creatively and everyone can learn to be more creative, some of us just haven’t been taught how, or lost touch with our creative side somewhere between childhood and adulthood.  As we get older, many of us lose our imagination.  We begin school, learn to think logically and push childhood thoughts aside. And the truth is, you can retrain yourself to be more creative.

Here are 5 simple everyday things you can do to begin retraining yourself to be more creative.  If you follow these steps, for even just a few weeks, you’ll begin to see things around you in a new perspective.

1. PAY ATTENTION

You can increase your creative thinking from just about anything you encounter throughout your day. The key is listening.  For many individuals who are more business centric, they usually strip away a majority of the colorful and vibrant words that describe something to focus on the need-to-know information, resulting in creative blinders. This is a great exercise I learned from reading “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink; which he calls Metaphor IQ.

Here’s what you’ll need to do: While reading your favorite blogs, newspaper or the like, write down any metaphors that you come across. Do the same when you hear a metaphor – people use them all the time and you’ll be surprised by the amount you’ll actually discover once you start paying attention to them.  In doing so, you’ll jog your imaginative and creative thought process by hearing and seeing how other people use metaphors to describe something.

2. APPRECIATE

When you see a great design, make a note of it – what do you like about it, how might you use it, and what purpose does it serve?  Do the same for flawed designed objects too – what don’t you like about it, and what is it used for?  Before you know it, you’ll begin looking at graphics, objects and your surroundings in a greater acuity with a deeper appreciation of how design decisions shape our everyday lives. You might even want to try sketching the object you’re writing about.

What you’ll need to do: Get yourself a pocket notebook. Most of these exercises require some form of note taking or recording of information. Here’s what my pocket notebook looks like:

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3. READ

Pick up some design magazines the next time you’re in the bookstore, and spend a few minutes flipping through the pages. Here’s a couple I recommend: Dwell, Print, and I.D. If you don’t normally go to bookstores, I’m sure you’re on a computer or laptop a good portion of the day, so check out some design centric sites like: The FWA, FastCompany, PSFK, and ANidea. The more you read and explore the world of design the greater and better understanding and appreciation you’ll have for it. Lastly, I recommend reading this book: “Graphic Design for Non-Designers by Tony Seddon and Jane Waterhouse. It’s a great book full of colorful visual representations that’s easy to read to allow anyone to grasp the basic design principles, like color, type and balance.

4. ENGAGE

To learn something new, talk to people you might not normally talk to, know or hangout with.  People are fascinating and have amazing stories to tell if you let them.  Try asking your next cabbie what the craziest thing is they’ve experienced while driving, or a bunch of kids skateboarding in the park what they think about the future. You never know just what you might learn from a stranger and how their perspective could enlighten you, or at the very least give you something creative to think about.  Remember, life is subjective – not everyone sees things as you do, so take advantage of this and learn how to see through someone else’s eyes.

5. EXPLORE

Take walks, do something you normally wouldn’t, like, taking a dance class, or something as simple as allowing yourself to get lost while driving home from work – maybe you’ll stumble upon a new way home, and a new way of thinking by breaking outside of your normal routine. Sometimes changing something so small in our daily routine can create bigger and better opportunities. When you’re stuck in a routine, it can be difficult to change the way you think or allow new ideas to influence you creatively. It’s a big world out there – don’t be afraid to explore it.

Try this: Plan or don’t plan, but do something different today, or within your week that you would never think to do. Try it out and live a little. Maybe you’ll discover something new!

And there you have it

I hope you find these tips helpful, or at the very least fun to do. For me, following these 5 tips throughout the past couple of months have definitely been a value add to my day/life. Enjoy!