For the first 20 years of my life, I created without any thought or idea that there was a process behind what I was doing—one that could be tailored and ritualized to me, a process that could have a much deeper impact on the work that I was producing. Until I was immersed in a fully creative environment and placed next to other layered thinkers like myself, I was only able to see projects and tasks for what they were at their face value. In a series of classes, primarily Creative Process and Technology for Fashion Presentation, I was prompted to unbox my mental steps, address and assemble my thought process and stretch and exercise my creative capabilities in ways that I didn’t know existed. For me, this was extremely liberating and there are often times that I’ve become more excited about the research and idea collecting and creating than I am about stitching the final project together. For anybody reading this that might be learning about the creative process for the first time and might not know quite where to start from, my process looks a little something like this:
- Consider the problem I’m trying to solve or the goal I’m trying to meet.
- Is there an initial idea or spark? Chase it! I write down every detail of the concept before discerning importance.
- Research, research, research—whether I have an initial thought or not. This means the web (Pinterest, Google, even social media when applicable) and hitting up the library for the print and design section on the upper floor, the archives for historical reference, etc.
- Lay it out—this means sketches, mock-ups, and first drafts. Concepts aren’t always clean or able to be fully developed and that’s okay. Just get it on the page.
- Development—start refining, selecting ideas, considering opportunities and realities and putting these into a harder copy page or design.
- Seek advice, wisdom, and expertise from trusted teachers, fellow classmates, and friends. Your writing and designing will always be your own (so long as it’s original or well cited if inspired by others), but there is inherent value in fresh, understanding eyes looking at the work that you’ve conceived into your temporary child.
- Continue to refine—sometimes that means seeing step one again.
The beauty of each process is that it is never final, it can always be refined. As you and your work grow, so should your process. Regardless of the kind of work being produced, I truly believe that recognizing and building a creative process personalized to you lends to an increase in creativity, efficiency and enjoyment, and a decrease in creative blocks from the beginning. Not being a designer doesn’t excuse you from having a process, and there is no level of achievement that has to be made before being able to unlock your own process. Dissecting the way you work isn’t about being an expert, it’s about looking at what you intend to do—your end goal.
As a future graphic designer, I have learned to embrace and love each stage of the creative process. Each stage is extremely critical to the overall success of the cycle. At times the process seems like a mixture of conscious and unconscious ideas all flowing out of control. But, as I continue to grow as a designer, I find it easier to break the process down into 5 stages:
The Hunch: you must go for it and do your research. The Sponge: use your experience to sponge up ideas. The Architect: this is where you develop and build. The Confusion: taking the critiques and finding ways to develop them further and revise. The Big Breakthrough: implementation and production—everything’s final.
With that said, the process will often seem longer than just five steps. And it often will not be as simple. But it might be reassuring to remember this quote from one of the most influential artists, Pablo Picasso, “I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” You must remember everything big starts from an idea. Now, get to thinking.
Graphic Created by Jasmine Meurer