Putting It into Practice
It's important to put your own structures into place to provide a space for creativity to occur. The following 11 supports prepare the mind for design and are general guidelines that you can use and modify in ways that work for you.
- Accept. Accept that you can't control everything. At best, you have a little influence, and that is all. When you release resistance, creativity is more apt to flow.
- Observe. The only way to become really aware is to really look. Creativity is a heightened sense of flow between the observer and the observed.
- Breathe. While you're observing, notice your breathing. Breath is your built-in equalizer. Use it to bring yourself back to center. This is a good tool for when you feel upset or off-kilter, but it is also useful to consciously connect with your perception of the external world.
- Emerge. Go with your natural tendencies. Allow flow before deciding what is "right." Don't judge the unexpected; honor it.
- Detach. Detach from a problem to get out of the middle of it so you can rise above it for a broader perspective.
- Perspective. The way you see a problem isn't the only way to see it. Broaden your sights. Turn it upside down. Mirror it. Take a walk. Forget it. Remember it in a new way.
- Practice. Practice what you learn. You won't get better at a new skill by waiting for it to improve itself, you must practice it. Skills are important supports to help funnel and focus creative flow.
- Begin. Begin somewhere. Increments are doable. It doesn't matter where you start. Just start.
- Meditate. I don't necessarily mean meditate literally. But do assess. Look back on your day and review it. Part of it worked to your advantage. Part of it didn't. Cut yourself some slack. We're all learning. If you didn't figure out the most brilliant design today, revisit it tomorrow with fresh eyes. Don't give up.
- Live. Life is chaos. Back to Rule #1. The only constant is the moon. If there was no change, there would be no reason to learn, to love, to live.
- Enjoy. Life is short, create it lushly. Design carries into every aspect of your life. Create your life around what you bring to it. You happen to the universe; the universe doesn't happen to you.
Sign or Symbol?
How might simplicity or emptiness be applied in a logo design? There are hints: one is direct, the other a suggestion. One leads you to a point, the other gives you a point to start from. Signs condense simply, whereas symbols provide the space to expand. Of the logos to the left (a–e), which fall into a category of a sign type of definition, and which invite your interpretation like a symbol? What sorts of businesses would prefer one over the other. Why?
Intuition and Synchronistic Design
Problems aren't negative occurrences. They're opportunities to flex your creativity and problem-solving skills, and to connect with the deepest parts of yourself. This exercise will bring more awareness to how you source information through and beyond yourself to come up with a solution that has the most possibility. The most important part of this exercise is to pay attention to how the inside relates to the outside.
- Think of a design problem you're working on or a personal issue.
- Draw an image that helps to represent the problem for you. The image should create a relationship between you and the problem.
- Tell yourself that you want help in finding a resolution or relationship with this issue/-project and that you are open to any ideas that will present a viable solution.
- Over the next few days, be conscious of what is around you, what comes up in dreams, or what happens in situations when you are not actively thinking about the problem. The tangible external manifestations will arise spontaneously if you take care to notice them. Particularly, pay attention to anything that comes up more than once, even if it doesn't seem to be related.
- If an image, number or another instance of a common tangible "thing" recurs in separate and unrelated events, delve into what that relationship might be. Experience your emotions as you explore (they give clues, too). Are you anxious? Comforted? What is the relationship between the problem, you, and the recurring event or object? Is the relationship related to a past experience?
- Understand that sometimes an unrelated issue blocks a resolution to the current one. It is particularly important that you respect whatever your subconscious reveals and try to interpret its relationship to the current problem.
Simplicity and Emptiness
This exercise will help to bring the concepts of simplicity and emptiness into consciousness. It's called an "exercise" because it takes a conscious intention, a practice, for awareness to occur.
- For a day, keep a small notebook with you that is easy to carry and pull out when needed. I recommend taking the time to draw because this acquaints you in a deeper way with what you are observing. (If you must, use a phone camera or other accessible device, but the point of the exercise is depth; it is not about speed or convenience.)
- Whenever you see a visual "bit" of information—a sign, a logo, a billboard, poster, public art piece, or some other succinct visual message—make a visual note of it. Draw it (or photograph it). Capture whatever strikes you as being the most relevant components of the message.
- Review your work later—that evening or within the next day or two. Has this piece of information supplied you with an "answer" as a directive, or has it invited you to create your own answer? Was it based in simplicity or emptiness?
- Do you have a preference for simplicity or emptiness—that is, does a directive work better or does the ability to have your own interpretation work better—and why? Is your preference driven by the circumstance of the message or by a personal inclination?
- How was the piece of information appropriate (or inappropriate) to the overall message?
Eyeku: Write a Haiku and Illustrate It
Haikus are minimalist Japanese poems that are written in the moment and about the simple wisdom in everyday occurrences. Eyeku (Figure 1.26) was a design I created when I wanted to capture the idea of a symbol and a word combined. John Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Life isn't what we expect. So? Laugh. Swear. Write a haiku. And walk on.
1.26 Eyeku is visual plus word in balance.
A haiku follows a pattern of moras. A mora is a phonetic unit that determines emphasis or timing. English translations can vary this rule, so there are loose interpretations of how to write one. The typical pattern of timing is 5 moras/7 moras/5 moras for a haiku. But there are many variances. They can be vertical (short verses in four or five lines), circular (never ending), a spiral shape, or the standard of three lines in 17 syllables. The basic guidelines include the following.
- Make it simple. Write about something anyone can relate to, something that is part of an everyday experience.
- See something new in the simplicity. This is the aha! of a haiku.
- Illustrate your haiku with a brush and paint or ink. Make the strokes spontaneous. You may need to do several to create one you love. That's OK; spontaneity doesn't come easily to most people, but practicing it can free you to be more in the moment. This is about self-trust.
- A variation on the traditional method would be to use digital artwork and typography for a visual haiku, which is called a haiga (Figure 1.27). You can manipulate the letters, change the structure of the sentence formatting, and incorporate photography or digital painting.
1.27 Haigas as vector illustrations, ©2010 Alexandre Egorov, Switzerland.
- If you're working in a group, pass your haiku forward and let someone else illustrate it. You illustrate someone else's. Compare your expectation with the result.
Here are some examples:
Haiku master Matsuo Basho (1644–1694)
- Falling sick on a journey
- my dream goes wandering
- over a field of dried grass.
(He died shortly after this; it was considered his last haiku.)
by Allen Ginsberg
- I quit shaving
- but the eyes that glanced at me
- remained in the mirror.