I am in the business of creative communication. Ideas. Images. Shaping together thoughts, images and communications into stuff like Web applications, brands and the visual and sensual experiences that make memories and impressions. I have been at this business for a long time but that doesn't make it any easier to find the right idea. So what have I learned about creative that keeps me at my job and serving a lot of different clients? Namely, that perspiration leads to inspiration...
There have been a handful of occasions when the right concept just came to me. Like the scene in "Lust for Life" where Kirk Douglas (playing Vincent van Gogh) attacks a canvas then reveals a plein air masterpiece. But this is more movie myth than reality. If you ever read Letters to Theo, you get the other side of the story and the real struggle to come up with a style of his own. Then there was the sheer volume of work the artist actually did to get to that point of success. In other words Vincent worked his butt off.
Lucky for me, I knew from the history of visual art that creative breakthroughs are rarely instantaneous. Most artists lead a very workman-like existence like Picasso. He was know to be in his studio every day around 6am and spent the better part of his day at work in the studio. The result was a prolific career spanning over 13 thousand paintings and over 100,000 other handcrafted works.
Aside for putting the time into the work itself, one has to show up prepared to make the effort to do good creative work. You have to come in prepared and focused. I like to come in with both the schedule and my tasks up to date and the deck cleared.
Before I can contribute to good design and creative I have to know the background of the assignment or better yet, be part of the learning process for the objective. In my business this means some good investigative teamwork that will eventually live in a brief or document. It might be a persona study or even a video of real customers.
The point is time must be dedicated to understanding what the creative work is supposed to do in the context of experience. I have found more success when I am actually part of that process of intelligence gathering than when I am handed the discovery work. I think this is because the creative process takes time and my mind is working on the issues in the background while I am typically focused on something else.
Creative concepts take time. I have heard it called incubation time, described as ideation and the failure of it termed "writers' block". I think that making new connections and insights within various sets of data requires time to process and then reform the connections and filter out the obvious and most likely ideas that would not differentiate the creative work. However we describe it, it takes time and effort and filtering to get good work. Good creative is work.