idApostle


Why Time Drives and Refines Creativity

by Steve Zelle, Graphic Designer, Ottawa Canada

Why Time Drives and Refines Creativity by Ottawa Graphic Designer idApostle
Deadlines force graphic designers to act, to focus, and to create. Without a deadline, projects can easily drag and lose momentum and the designer’s interest along the way. I find the most difficult logo projects are the ones for myself. If a client inched a job along the way I do when working on my own branding, I would go nuts. Like many designers, I feel limits are what drive inspiration and creative problem solving.

I recently completed both the idApostle and Processed Identity logos. While the Processed Identity logo was completed in a respectable two months, due to a deadline, the idApostle identity was kicked around, forgotten, revised, and obsessed over for almost one year.

As I worked on these two identities, two thoughts about time and my creative process came to light. I work best when time is limited in some aspects, and expanded in others. I do best when the project has a deadline and also allows time for reflection.

Limiting time sparks my creativity. Increasing time for reflection refines it. The act of putting a project aside for a few days enables me to look at it with fresh and critical eyes. After a few days away I will likely want to tweak something about the identity that I did not see before. What may seem like trivial changes, combine, resulting in a refined logo. Too often projects are rushed, and this time for reflection is squeezed out — often the first victim of a time crunch.

Time for reflection for both the graphic designer and client is essential in making an attempt to understand how a logo will settle into the minds of the intended audience. I suggest that while clients consider their first reaction, they also weigh how they feel about the logo a week later, as their audience will be looking at it for years. A week, or at the very least, a few days of reflection seems like time well spent to me. A small tweak to a logo is a change to every single time that logo will be seen in the future. Considering it this way can magnify the value of these changes.

The problem with reflection and a designer, however, is that most graphic designers would go on forever changing things. So the client brings that all-important creative limit, thankfully — a deadline. The balance between the two is what I will be looking for in the future.

Have you come to love deadlines? How do you encourage your clients to allow for reflection? Please share your comments using the form below.

 




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Please add your thoughts to the 10 notes about ‘Why Time Drives and Refines Creativity’

  1. I like having as much time as possible on any project. Similar to what you said above, I too design something and then come back to it a little later… even as quickly as an hour later gives me an entirely new perspective.

    Good article.

    • Steve Zelle says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Great of you to leave a comment and glad you enjoyed the article. I agree that even small breaks help, jumping back and forth between multiple projects is a great way to do this.

  2. Thanks for the article, Steve. It’s true that we designers are never satisfied with our own designs; I find myself continually wanting to redesign my website and logo, and eventually I have to put my foot down and work on something else!

    I’ve also learned that creativity flourishes best under restrictions, be they in the form of deadlines or specific design requirements. There definitely must be a balance of a deadline to motivate you and enough time to reflect on the design.

    Thanks for your insight!

  3. Walt K says:

    Oddly, the same idea applies to creating copy.

    If the web content is due Friday, write it Monday. Fast, under time constraints.

    Put it aside till Thursday. You’ll notice you didn’t really say what you thought you said.

    Give yourself ONE shot at tweaks and tinkers. Under deadline.

    Then ship.

  4. It’s a personal thing.

    Some people prefer to work without a deadline because they either a) can’t handle stress or b) have enough self discipline to not procrastinate. I’ve noticed that those people usually are not found within a graphical profession :P

    I like a little bit of pressure as well, it’s quite logical in human terms. Pressure, which is a form of danger of sorts (fear) pushes humans to take action.

    Admittedly I do not do client work at the time because I prefer to focus on other things than on projects at the time.

  5. Steve Zelle says:

    Arik and Leighton — thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Walk — I would assume this works anywhere a critical eye is needed. The key is working it into a schedule by highlighting the benefits when your client wants it NOW.

  6. Mikel GNZ says:

    heh, heh.. funny.. i think it goes both ways, i mean the client also “overdesigns” if there is a lot of time.. the whole thing just becomes a monster and you end up with the first thing you had. I think you have to look at the works as “it is correct?” that is, does it transmit what it supposed to? is it to the client’s possible liking? sometimes you hace to stop thinking outside the “i like it” terms and switch on to the practical side. Not all projects are going to be a “piece of art” .. but sometimes, doing that thinking you end up with something nice as well, heh, heh.. btw nice site ^_^

  7. Steve Zelle says:

    Thanks for stopping by Mikel and for taking the time to comment. Very true that time can be just as much a driver for the client as it is for the designer.

  8. Amy says:

    I like having as much time as possible on any project. Similar to what you said above, I too design something and then come back to it a little later… even as quickly as an hour later gives me an entirely new perspective.

    Good article.

  9. Bruce says:

    It’s a personal thing.

    Some people prefer to work without a deadline because they either a) can’t handle stress or b) have enough self discipline to not procrastinate. I’ve noticed that those people usually are not found within a graphical profession :P

    I like a little bit of pressure as well, it’s quite logical in human terms. Pressure, which is a form of danger of sorts (fear) pushes humans to take action.

    Admittedly I do not do client work at the time because I prefer to focus on other things than on projects at the time.

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