Defining My Creative Process
Updated: May 27, 2022
While scrolling on Instagram, I found a list of Netflix documentaries recommended for graphic designers. It claimed that these documentaries could help you become more creative. I was skeptical, but it was right, considering it inspired me to write this.
I started watching the first suggestion on the list – Abstract: The Art of Design. In the post. It's a documentary series with two seasons, each episode highlighting the creative process and life of a person in a different field of design. Because each episode focuses on a different person, I started watching episode 3 of season 2 – Ruth Carter: Costume Design.
I didn't know about Ruth, but now I know she's the Oscar-winning costume designer for Black Panther. I've never thought extensively about costume design, but the way she spoke about her design process resonated with me. As I watched the next episode – Cas Holman: Design for Play – I felt similarly. I knew nothing about toy design, and yet everything they said made sense to me in a way that most things don't. The same went for episodes 'Ian Spalter: Digital Product Design' and 'Tinker Hatfield: Footwear Design.'
Hearing them each talk about their creative process made me think about mine.
As you know, I go by many professional titles right now as I'm starting my career trying to find the best niche for me. My process for creation strongly derives from other media. I think that's why I can adapt my skills for so many types of media projects. I consume so much media that I've managed to learn something from everything I consume.
When it comes to creating, I work best under the method of distraction. Once I've received a project, I set a self-deadline a few days before the actual one. I first write down or sketch any preliminary ideas I may have. Then, I compile research on the topic of media. If it's a website about airplanes, I look through every website about airplanes I can possibly find. If it's a lyric video, I look up other lyrics videos both in and outside the specific genre of music. During my research, I write any more ideas I may have in a sketch pad. Sometimes, I tweak my original ideas; other times, they're scrapped altogether.
Then I talk it out with just about anyone who will listen. This isn't necessarily to get anyone's opinion; it's more of a way to organize my thoughts in my head. Sometimes, an idea or thought doesn't make sense to me or isn't entirely fleshed out until I try to explain it to someone else. After these conversations, I write any thoughts or ideas I may have had in the notes section of my phone.
Then, I ignore the project.
I keep it in mind while watching tv, listening to music, doing chores, walking the dogs – anything really. I think about it, but usually not more than 'I have to get the project done.' I'm not necessarily thinking about all the design or components. Sometimes the way my eggs scramble in the morning can cause a train of thought that leads to deciding on a color palette or deciding the perfect line for a poem. The mundane helps me imagine and compose the possibilities of my creativity. I usually start working on the project when inspiration strikes or when it feels like it's getting too close to my self-made deadline.
I read through all my notes and sketches and just start, and I apply whichever idea I like best or start from scratch. By the time I get back to my notes, I've thought about each idea and fleshed it out in my head to the point where I can confidently determine which is the best option. Sometimes that's an amalgamation of a combination of ideas and something completely new.
This process can take an hour, or it could take months depending on my actual deadline and how quickly I can coherently put my thoughts together. Of course, this varies from project to project. Occasionally, I'll think I had this great idea and start implementing it right away only to decide I hate it but determining why I hate it will lead me to instantly come up with a solution or go back to the ignoring stage. The creative process is not linear. I can think something is perfect and go back days later only to decide I could do better.
It can look like I'm wasting time, and that's why I adhere to a self-made deadline, so I never fall behind. The creative process is different for many people, but defining it for yourself feels ridiculous. Even as I write this, I'm thinking to myself, 'I can't believe I get any work done with such a random and disorganized process.' Ultimately, there are infinite ways of describing it because creativity and its process are boundless.