1. Trust your first reaction at the start of a project
I approach each project in a similar way, whether it’s commissioned or self–initiated. My working method is straightforward: I think of all the logical steps and practical production methods that I know will work. I tend to mull things over and work out problems subconsciously. If you give an idea a few prods and prompts, eventually potential solutions float to the surface. That way you can let problems work themselves out - don’t try to overthink them. If you complicate things too much, then the first spark of an idea can become overworked and lose its spontaneity. Trust your first reaction - try hard to hang onto your initial creative impulse. In order to fly, an idea has to feel satisfying on lots of different levels - what fonts or colours to use, how to make it, working with collaborators. All these considerations have to feel complete and ‘right’.
2. If you feel uninspired, give yourself breathing space
Creativity isn’t a constant dependable resource, it needs to be cared for and nurtured. There’s nothing worse than feeling uncreative, it can become difficult to deal with and very hard to unblock. Giving yourself breathing space and being careful not to overwork is a good way of keeping your creativity healthy. Sometimes the most effective way of working is not to do any work. When I’m feeling ‘design fatigue’ I find it hard to get excited about things that I’d normally be interested in. I take that as a sign that I need to have a break for a few days and give myself a complete rest from work. After a couple of days I find myself thinking about getting back and slowly the creative urge starts to grow again.
3. Reduce work stress by not taking on too much at the beginning
Manage your workload carefully - it’s the one thing I’ve learnt about staying happy. Don’t take on too much and don’t spend every waking hour worrying about projects. Everything always works itself out and if there is a crisis, a solution will be possible.
4. If the project isn't going well, communicate your feelings
Constant communication is the key to keeping things running smoothly - if you are unsure about something, ask. It’s better to know what people expect of you rather than make a guess. Be clear about what you are due to deliver and when, get it done and send it in time.
5. Try explaining through problems and be open to discussions
It’s part of our job as creative people; try to work through problems calmly rather than getting too emotionally involved. There is always a solution that everyone will eventually agree on, it’s just a matter of explaining your decisions and demonstrating that your ideas are valid. If you feel strongly about something then you need to be able to explain why. If I’ve made a decision about something that I feel is valid and it’s questioned, I’ll fight for it as much as I can. Explain how you reached your outcome and show that you’ve tried alternatives but they weren’t as successful as the route you prefer. If you explain your reasoning and it’s sound then it should make sense to everyone. While it’s important to stand up for yourself it’s also key to be flexible. If something really isn’t working, be happy to start again in a new direction. Be open to discussion and always ready to listen to input from others.
6. Allow personal values to feed into your work
My personal values dictate and inform the work I produce. I’ve always been conscious that I’m continually working on a single body of work during the course of my career. Once you’ve been working for a few years, you begin to see patterns and themes that are repeated. I think this is positive, it shows that your impulse to produce work is coming from a single place.
7. If you are working on something you're not happy with, consider the project from all angles
When you’re starting a new project, whether it’s commercial or self–initiated, question it from every angle. Is it a project that positively represents you? Do you support the business or message that is being promoted? Of course, it’s not always that easy. I couldn’t always afford to be choosy - I would gladly accept any commission that was offered. After a while I was less happy about taking on jobs that I didn’t feel comfortable with. It’s down to personal choice, what sort of designer do you want to be? Are you motivated solely by money or do you want to say something with your work? There is a way of combining a personal ethos with commercial work. The two are not mutually exclusive. Develop a strong sense of who you are and work on projects you feel strongly about.
More about the author
'If you’re stuck for an idea, have a big decision to handle or need a new perspective on a problem, here are some approaches for thinking, communicating and creativity. An upbeat guide that anyone can use to help with the big and small challenges we face every day.’ Anthony Burrill
A life-affirming guide to new thinking, creative problem-solving and getting things done from graphic artist Anthony Burrill. Full of inspiration and ideas, his best-loved prints as well as new work, this book will get you thinking bigger and better and recharge your creativity.