Tips for Continued Growth
by Taylor Slattery | August 20, 2019
Along any creative journey, there are a number of milestones: graduating, finding a job, changing careers. But unlike these, our creative growth is a lifelong process. After you’ve graduated from school and the stream of assignments has come to an end, it can be hard to find ways to continue to push yourself. Our work is very much so a reflection of ourselves. When we enjoy the work we do, it shows, but the opposite is true as well. While there are bound to be lulls over the course of any career, within creative fields the stakes can feel higher. A lack of inspiration can cause even work that we love to become stale, threatening all of the hard work and risks taken in pursuit of having a creative job.
When inspiration strikes, the work comes naturally. We find ourselves energized, our minds moving faster than our hands are capable of keeping up with. Unfortunately, inspiration is unreliable. It doesn’t always strike and the opportunities it affords us can be few and far between. It’s important to take responsibility for our personal growth and find ways to continually seek inspiration.
Here are some ideas to keep you moving in the right direction.
Look Around You
This first suggestion is the easiest and perhaps the most obvious. Look to see how others within your field are pushing boundaries. The way we create and the tools we use to do so are constantly changing. Keeping your eyes and ears open to the fringes can help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging technologies. There’s also nothing like a little friendly competition to light a fire under you. Go to places where artists aggregate like Behance, Artstation, or even Instagram. Even 10 minutes spent on one these can supply you with an abundance of inspirational work to give you the kick in the butt you need to get moving.
The same core principles lie at the heart of any kind of creative pursuit. Learning a new discipline and starting over as a beginner is a good way to refresh your understanding of these principles and add a new tool to your repertoire as you do so. This deviation from your normal work can sometimes be just the thing you need to shift your perspective and help you see your main discipline through a new lens, shining light on connections that were previously unknown. Maybe while sculpting a dog, you’ll think of the perfect metaphor for the poem you’re writing, or while cooking a pasta sauce, you’ll look into the pan and see a composition so interesting that it gives birth to an entire series of paintings.
Some of the best ideas are born from this sort of cross-pollination. In the 50s, while working in print, the Okada brothers found that the razor blades they used to cut paper would quickly dull due to the sheer volume they cut through on a daily basis. Over the course of a day, they would use multiple packages of blades. Thinking there must be a better solution, the two set out in search of answers. In their experiments, they noticed that by breaking glass, they were able to produce a number of new sharp edges. It wasn’t until they combined this idea with that of the segmentation of chocolate bars, that they were able to bring this innovation to metal blades, giving birth to the snap-off blade commonly found in utility knives today.
In addition to helping you find ways to merge disciplines, trying your hand at something new can also reinforce your understanding of core principles. For example, learning to manipulate forms within a 3D software can improve your understanding of perspective and lighting, the benefits of which would transfer directly to both drawing and painting. Similarly, using a camera to shoot 30 different compositions of a single subject might challenge you to think of more interesting compositions than you would had you been working with pencil and paper. The process would be much faster and easier using photography, but the compositional insights gained would benefit any form of image-making.
Look to Your Interests
We often produce our best work when we’re having fun. What better way to do so than by combining our work with our hobbies. Finding new ways to connect these dots can lead to unexpected opportunities as they did in the case of Pawel Nolbert. An avid lover of sneakers, Pawel received a lot of attention when he set forth on a passion project to depict some of his favorite shoes in cube form. His work was widely shared and resulted in an opportunity to do some official work for Nike.
Pawel serves as a great example of what continued creative growth can look like. Since his success with the sneakercube project, Pawel has reinvented himself. He developed a process by which he paints on transparencies, twists and manipulates them, photographs them, and then uses Photoshop to arrange them into logos and type. Pawel clearly loves what he does and it shows, as this project resulted in a lot of job opportunities as well.
Continue to be curious. Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander or follow a whim every now and then, you never know where it’ll lead you.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.