Being creative is one of the most important aspects of a designers life. You can’t turn creativity like a tap (if only!) but you can improve your creativity by how you work.
First, a short introduction:
What Is Creativity?
“Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts… An alternative conception of creativeness is that it is simply the act of making something new.”
Where do designers get inspired?
How many of you have started a project by looking at a magazine or book, listened to some music, played a computer game, or viewed a website or Flickr group, such as Scrnshots or Patrick Haney’s Web Design Inspiration set? There’s nothing wrong in that – It is the kick start we all need when it comes to creativity.
Other Web Designers have talked on the subject of creativity before, and they seem to have quite similar stories. Paul Boag has said that he is his most creative whilst in the shower, and whilst you can’t take a notepad into the shower, quickly jotting down the main points straight after can help your mind de-clutter and move onto new things -http://boagworld.com/design/recording-creativity.
Here are a few thoughts by designs on how they get inspired:
- 30 Designers 1 Question – When are you most inspired?: http://www.gavinelliott.co.uk/2009/06/30-designers-1-question-where-are-you-most-inspired/
- Be a Creative Sponge – Jon Hicks: http://hicksdesign.co.uk/journal/be-a-creative-sponge
- Uninspired? Unplug yourself – Cameron Moll: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/001110.html
- Getting Unstuck – Dave Shea (Mezzoblue): http://www.mezzoblue.com/archives/2005/01/17/getting_unst/
The Science of Creativity
The brain is divided into two completely different sections, left and right.
The Left Brain
This portion of your brain is linked to speech, logic and analytical thinking. A very ‘linear’ part that likes sequential orders and lists. It is good in reading, writing and arithmetic and is very academic.
The Right Brain
This is the non-verbal side, more used to visual and spacial perception and intuition. As opposed to the left, the right side of the brain processes information much quicker. The right looks at the whole picture, as opposed to minute tasks, and it can deal with complexity a lot easier. Putting things into words is harder with the right brain, and it is this side that has been associated with the realm of creativity. – http://tolearn.net/hypertext/brain.htm
The left and right brain concept initially came from studying brain injuries. The researchers noticed that people with left brain injuries could do things that people with right brain injuries could not and vice versa. – http://www.helium.com/items/816175-activities-that-stimulate-the-right-side-of-brain
Have a look at the animation. Which way do you see it rotate? You may think that it is clearly turning one way or the other. If you see it turn clockwise, you use more of the right side of your brain. – http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir/how-your-brain-works
Improve your creative potential
To keep my mind active I had a stage of trying to come up with 3 things every night: inventions, blog posts or website ideas; the subject wasn’t as important as the concept. I was pushing myself to be creative, and think of ideas, even if I wasn’t particularly inspired. Sometimes it was hard to think of another 3 inventions, but the process allowed me to be more creative at the time. I still try to use the same concept if I find myself having a lack of inspiration.
Doing tasks like this allows you to get into a mindset of creativity, and the more you do it, the quicker and more often you can get yourself ‘into the zone’.
As well as just brute-forcing creative ideas, there are certain ways that have been found to stimulate the right side of your brain, associated with creativity:
The right side of the brain controls the left side of your body, so use your mouse or pen in the opposite hand next time your are struggling for inspiration. – http://www.dailyblogtips.com/exercise-your-brain-invert-the-side-of-your-mouse-pad/
You can also stimulate the creative part of your brain by remembering memorised lists, seeing different colours, unfamiliar faces, or meeting someone new. – http://ezinearticles.com/?Right-Brain,-Left-Brain&id=43531
You can include watching TV and playing games in exercising your right brain; with strategy-based games and multi-tasking activities, such as painting, drawing and tasks that will stimulate intuitive thinking and visual processing. – http://subliminalmentalperception.com/blog/right-brain-exercises-that-improve-the-health-of-your-brain/. But a hugely important aspect of right brain stimulation is new experiences, such as sight seeing and being in new environments. – http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071104054032AAHzlU7
Seize the moment
As soon as I want to go to sleep, my mind seems to become wide awake with new ideas, designs and bits of code. Unless these are jotted down before going to sleep, I tend to completely forget about them by morning. Thanks to modern technology, we can catalogue our inspiration incredibly easily by taking a picture on a phone, adding to our To-Do/GTD list or bookmarking the latest killer website design. We can then access these whenever we need to in the future and the source of inspiration can be kept forever.
It seems that quite a few designers [http://www.gavinelliott.co.uk/2009/06/30-designers-1-question-where-are-you-most-inspired/] have similar ways to get inspired and be creative, finding quiet places, with minimal distractions (the bed, the shower, a walk, running). While for others, a drive in the car seems to be the key. This is usually the total opposite from our workspaces, with IM, Email, Twitter, mobiles and the Internet all so easily accessible and easy to get distracted by.
I originally came to this post with the notion that it was the time of day which had the greatest impact on our creativity. Some people seemed to work well in the morning, whilst others could work late at night, but it seems more about the stimulation of the brain than the hours we work, and while tiredness will always make finding inspiration and creativity harder, we can aid our mind and enhance it with simple tasks and experiences.
What have you found to be your creative muse, or what surroundings do you find help you the most? Please do comment on the post, as I would love to know peoples thoughts on the topic.