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Capitalizing on Curiosity

by Taylor Slattery | January 17, 2023

In the creative world today we often find ourselves working with rigid deadlines and tight turnarounds. For some, this sort of added pressure can actually aid in the creative process, helping them to make some of their best work. With your back up against the wall, there’s no time to be distracted, it can almost be like a forced sort of flow state. While some may thrive in this sort of environment, many of us stumble upon our best ideas when we’re free to explore at our own pace.

This sort of creative wandering, while standing almost counter to the way we work now, is an important part of the creative process. However, when we are pressed for time and our list of to-dos just keeps growing longer, our rational minds intervene and prevent us from the perceived waste of that all-important resource: time.

However, curiosity can be a powerful catalyst for discovery. The question is: discovery of what? That’s precisely the fun of it. Sure, time is money, and wandering down a path not knowing where it leads can feel like a waste of a resource that could otherwise be better spent. If you think in those terms, that would make these sorts of creative excursions a gamble. If there’s one thing we all know about gambling it’s that despite their inherent risk, they have a disproportionately large potential upside.

Say, for example, you’re in the middle of collecting reference material for a new branding project. While scrolling through search results on Pinterest, you stumble upon an image that catches your eye. It doesn’t suit the prompt at hand, yet you can’t help but feel this strange pull—there’s something almost magnetic about it. Before your rational mind has the chance to stop you, you click the image and begin to investigate. Before you know it, 4 hours have disappeared and you’ve lost the better part of a work day.

The bad news is, you’ve made little progress on the branding project and you’re going to have to double down on your efforts tomorrow to make up for the time lost today. However, the good news is that you’ve discovered a whole new area of design that was previously unknown to you. By clicking that tiny jpeg of an obscure vinyl pressing from the early 70s, you were introduced to a new record label, a genre of music, and a whole roster of artists and designers whose work you’ve fallen in love with. Not only have you gained new points of reference and inspiration, but you’ve broadened your design horizon.

Curiosity can feel a lot like being carried away by a current. Each new discovery leads to another set of questions. But it’s when we allow ourselves to let go and be led by our curiosity that it takes us to places we might never have found otherwise. It’s exactly these sorts of creative detours that take us to surprising destinations that tend to shape our creative output the most.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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