The Creative Process

Oh the creative process. I have to sigh before even writing this post because if you are a creative, then you can know the joys and woes that come along with the words “creative process.” I have often said that it’s a marvel and a curse. It’s a marvel that such a process exists where you start from nothing and in what seems like magic, something beautiful, wonderful, insightful, fantastic, and tantalizing presents itself and the world is saved once again (yes, it can totally feel like that).

The curse comes when that process betrays you. Each creative has their own process and they are as varied as there are stars above. But sometimes that process gets stopped or blocked. It is either someone else blocking our path because of budgets and asinine requests (insert the word “client/committee” here), which once you’ve been in the “creativity as a service” industry long enough, you kind of get the hang of dealing with them. But then what happens when YOU block yourself. When that innate part of you that you’ve always been able to call upon refuses to give you that spark of inspiration. Or refuses to run smoothly, where each step forward feels akin to running into a brick wall repeatedly. Oh yeah, it can feel like that. And mind you, all of this is taking place inside your head. Yikes…

But us creatives keep coming back for more. There are those of use who do turn their backs on their creativity and that spark because it’s too emotionally draining, but most of us keep coming back for more. We can’t help ourselves. To be without it would be to be missing part of ourselves. Plus, look at the tangible items that come from the creative process? Houses, planes, sculpture, spoons, posters, films, fashion, cars and the list goes on. Our world has seen some pretty freaking awesome things come from the creative process.

I’ve spent three paragraphs attempting to explain the creative process and didn’t even come close to it, if you haven’t experienced it yourself. But I came across a commercial for Dodge (It’s always the car companies. Damn them and their huge marketing budgets…) that attempts to show not only the creative process, but the process of specifically bringing a vision (car) into a reality.

So if you have a creative process, then you’ll definitely identify with the video. If you don’t have one, then you’ll get the most accurate version that I’ve seen of the creative process out there, even though it’s about cars. Enjoy!

Polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene technology aka Money!

I’m hoping that the title of this post makes you scratch your head, make a weird face, and ask yourself, “What the heck is she talking about?” Because it should! I was out last night with friends and co-workers and for the first time in my life, I learned about plastic money or polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP for short). I specifically learned about the Australian version of this type of money. We had a charming Australian amongst us who was more than happy to talk about home!

Being the inquisitive person that I am I kept bugging my Australian counterpart to see this money he spoke of, some part of me not quite believing him. Sure enough though, in-between karaoke songs, out of his wallet came some of the most colorful money I had ever seen. They’re really quite beautiful! Then he mentioned the plastic part and showed me that you can’t even tear them in half! I think I yelled, “Nooooooo!” as he attempted to tear the money. But there the dollar (aka banknotes) remained, all in one piece if only slightly bent where the attempt on it’s life was made.

Before the use of polymer money, Australia had paper money just like the rest of us. But due to an increase of counterfeit 10 dollar banknotes, the government started to get concerned and decided to make the switch in 1988 to commemorate the bicentenary of European settlement in Australia. While there was a switch-over period, all bills are polymer now.

Now that we have the history, let’s get down to the fun part, such as color choices and imagery! Each bank note uses what I would define as suites of color, with each note specifically tending towards a dominate color, making it very easy to recognize denominations. As for imagery, after talking to my Aussie friend, it ranges from the Queen on the 5 dollar banknote to other figureheads in Australian history. Then add to that secondary, completely detailed images and then place all of that on complex, swirling patterns and you’ve got yourself something that is not only beautiful, but a warning/deterrent to anyone thinking that they could easily forge one of these banknotes.

Now if talking about beautiful colors and fantastically detailed drawings haven’t gotten your interest yet, I’m about to make it worth your while. When was the last time you were able to see through your money? I don’t mean holding your money up to a light and seeing the somewhat incoherent image of a president swirling around between paper fibers. Actually see through your money, like a window? The answer is you haven’t because that’s just not possible with paper money, but with polymer, apparently anything is possible!

An added security feature has been added to the Australian banknotes called simply enough “transparent windows” that was introduced to polymer money in 2006. On each banknote there is literally a small window that can be shaped like anything and with the absence of ink, the clear polymer shows through. Of course everyone held it up to their eye and looked through. Naturally…haha

Besides learning about something new, the reason the Australian currency attracted me like a moth to light, is that money is a completely utilitarian object. We use to as a tool and mode of function but really nothing else. Some people collect coins and other currencies, but for the most part it sits in your wallet, purse, or pocket until you’re ready to part with it in exchange for something better than some pieces of paper. And while I also understand that all the colors, images and intriguing parts of the money is to deter forgeries, they could just as easily have made the money ugly, but still have the same security features. But countries continue to make their money colorful and interesting. My hunch is that if you have to look at it every day, you might as well make it the least visually offensive you can make it!

I tip my hat to you Australia! Keep up the good work!

But are you really a graphic designer?

My week has been, amongst other things, slightly consumed with making a design test for graphic designers that are interviewing for open positions at my job. My wonderful copy writer really got the test started by writing out things that are important to a designer and skills a designer should have. Then it was my turn to really drill down into the test and make sure we were using the right terminology and finally actually making the test. I even had a fellow designer Laura Rings take the test to make sure it could actually be passed by a graphic designer. By the way, she passed with flying colors.

So the question begs, what makes a graphic designer? There are people out there that have never gone to school for it, but have a tremendous portfolio of work. But then you also have people who did go to school, but even comparing between them, there are noticeable differences between their creative process and technical skills. Once again I ask, what makes a graphic designer?

While many answers may come flying at me via the comments section after people read this, I don’t actually have an answer. The answer all depends on who you talk to on a certain day, at a certain time. But I do offer up something fun to entertain you: A test that sees if you really do know your stuff when it comes to typography and specifically kerning. So follow the link and test your skills! I promise it will be entertaining! Be sure to post your results in the comment section!

Click for kerning test here!

Inspiration #2

I originally thought that when I did these “Inspiration” posts, it was be other people’s work, pictures, paper, etc. So basically it was inspiration that affected my own work. But then I saw this video and it made me think: Why not have inspiration to inspire your life and not just your work? Life inspiration, career inspiration, I often feel it’s one in the same for graphic designers and often times for creative people in general.

So this week, I was inspired by by a video. A young woman who owns the company/store front called Orange Beautiful, based out of Chicago, Illinois. So enjoy the video and feel inspired about more than just your next project!

Emily Martin of Orange Beautiful from ReadyMade Magazine on Vimeo.

HOW Design Conference

Well the waiting is almost over and that special time is quickly approaching…HOW Conference! Watching designers all over the world get excited about this conference is a sight to see. You could easily say the anticipation is equal to little children waiting for Christmas. The event is also like Christmas too in many ways: We get tons of gifts (Who doesn’t love paper sample books, free iphone apps, t-shirts, and beautiful silkscreened posters?), great amounts of amazing food is consumed, and in the end you come away with some funny and sometimes awkward photos…

This will be my second year attending HOW and I have to say, last year was one of the best experiences and I’m sure this year will measure up. The gist of this conference is this: You walk in and there are at least 500 other people who are exactly like you. Okay, not EXACTLY like you. Everyone has their different industry, but under it all, we’re all designers that face the same struggles with clients or a pesky glitch in a software program. You find a few people, grab a beer and let the talking start! No having to explain what kerning is or that 300 dpi is really not negotiable on a print piece. You instantly get a sense of place amongst all these people.

So everyone leaves feeling relieved of their stresses, more informed, their bags slightly heavier than on arrival and creatively rejuvenated. ::Sigh:: I’m counting the days! Look for a blow-by-blow when I return!