As an Art Director for 36creative, an Award-Winning Creative Agency based in Salem, N.H., creative inspiration plays a key role in my everyday tasks and projects. Inspiration is such a funny thing. It can be really elusive; sometimes it’s right there when you don’t expect it, and other times it just disappears. At this point in my career, I think I encounter creative block less often than I did when I was younger. I have a feeling that it’s partly because I know good sources to turn to for getting those juices flowing. As a side note, I don’t know who first said “creative juices,” but I find that phrase to be vaguely offensive.
For the vast majority of clients at 36, we begin our engagement with some level of Brand Strategy. Whether that is a complete Brand Positioning process or it’s an evaluation of their current state in their field. We start with something that’s going to build familiarity between our team and their company. Learning about client’s goals, the challenges their audience faces, and what makes them unique in their industry is enough to get me excited. Building a solid, trusted relationship helps a lot. Knowing clients better as actual people and becoming invested in their world makes a huge difference in any creative outcome. That excitement can form mood boards and sketches, as initial creative inspiration, that will trickle down through the entire brand.
If you’re a designer, I think it’s unbelievably important to both be aware of what’s going on and what’s already happened in your field. Massimo Vignelli, David Carson, Armin Hofmann, Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, and Stefan Sagmeister (named in no particular order) are just a few names that a designer should be aware of. Not just for their iconic work, but the things they’ve said about their work.
Beyond the titans of design, being able to have talented designers around you also helps you produce better work. In “To Inform and Delight,” Milton Glaser is shown reviewing something he’s designed with a designer working for him; looking for them to provide him with feedback. I think this is important to see because (as a designer who has created work that people outside of the design world would immediately recognize as iconic) he still invites people at all levels to collaborate with him. At 36creative, we work extremely collaboratively with one another, and we’re all a source of creative inspiration for one another.
Being connected to the design community as a greater whole, is also really important to staying inspired. Whether you’re posting work on dribbble (a network for designers and illustrators) or attending conferences on Branding and Design; like this year’s Brand New Conference, hosted by Under Consideration. Being involved in the discourse and analysis of design and brands, makes you better at examining your own work and knowing whether an idea is worth pursuing.
This last resource is kind of a big one, and that is “everything that is not the project you’re working on.” Sometimes you need to get out of the project and look at other things. I get inspired by well-designed products that are totally out of project category; like Grovemade and Ugmonk. Fashion design, as well, gets me thinking about colors and patterns in a way that is really helpful; like Christian Siriano for instance. Or really, a good way to find creative inspiration is just looking at the world! Sketching is always part of my process, and physically moving away from a computer can usually help give me a shot in the arm when it comes to creating great work.
Looking for more creative inspiration? Check out our work page to really get your creative juices flowing.