Let’s get cerebral
I think I’m finally ready to admit it. I’ve known for quite a while and it’s time to lay it out there. I’m a hoarder. Thankfully, not a hoarder of the frightening danger to oneself and others variety, but a pack rat nonetheless — always stashing away a digital amassment to use in my creative development.
To create great things, a designer’s mind must be fed.
My hoard is a massive bricolage of the bits and pieces I’ve culled from collective consciousness of the age. I index this digital ephemera into an ever-expanding cerebral gumbo that I stir often and guard jealously.
Chances are your friendly neighborhood designer has a hoard of his/her own they’re tending to. I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about mine and why you shouldn’t hesitate to create your own or put mine to task developing your next campaign or tone of your brand’s voice and mood.
The heterogeneous content of my hoard contains but is not limited to the following: music, movies, photography, type specimens, disembodied bits of poetry, pattern, half-started pieces of vector art, recipes, pages of bookmarks and saved searches. Pretty ordinary stuff actually. The part that makes this all so very special, and why I’ve brought this up, is how this stimulates my designer brain.
The act of saving these cultural artifacts (eg. a Charles Bukowski excerpt, David Hicks tablescape, a bit of gorgeous hand lettering) and separating them from their original context allows me to assign meaning to them in a process that’s intensely personal and particularly developed among creative types.
I start by tossing everything into a common folder — flippantly named “cool stuff” or something equally inane — in which it languishes, sometimes for months. This period is essential to the process as it gives time for my emotional state and context to cool after which I often change my mind about pieces that piqued my fancy and have now faded from memory.
When I feel the need for a creative recharge, I come back and literally comb through meticulously and re-categorize the stash with not only specificity but intentionally occasional vagueness to give my imagination room to wander. This organization isn’t as much categorical or taxonomical as aspirational. I not only see myself as a curator of these items but as a kind of freelance archivist with a playful bend. This process is very editorial and I’m not necessarily tending to a collection; I’m actively working to form opinion and refine taste — what I delete is as important to the exercise as the items I save.
By reaching into my psyche and sense of self, I give meaning to these visual and emotive materials and strengthen the neural pathways that help me form opinion, make sense of pattern, and connect pieces of stimuli to touchpoints in my consciousness and personality. The larger and more interconnected this mass of cognitive flotsam gets, the more I’m able to assimilate and process new stimuli in poignant and culturally appropriate manners that evoke response.
The point to all this: The pre-execution phase is the most important in any project and should never be shortcut. During the pre-execution phase of the creative process, I voraciously get an eye and earful of my clients’ business and objectives. Immediately after, there’s a period in which I must unplug for some “Big Think” and allow things to incubate. It’s in this phase that my subconscious leverages its hoard-fed self against the research stimuli to produce a response distilled through my distinct point of view. If we’ve both done our work correctly, the response looks fantastic, is on brief and culturally significant.
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