Creative Juices: Part 1

Wherein our hero chimes in on the art of creation

Posted by Orville Bennett on 8 October 2012
Read time: about 5 minutes

True story: I used to draw comic books. Stick figure comic books mind you, but I was proud of them nonetheless. I was prouder still of the stories these comics would tell. However, despite dabbling in comic book creation, I never considered myself a creative person. I personally felt that ideas were just too hard to come by to warrant any legitimate claim to that title. Then came web development, which changed things.

Before I started down the road to web development I would agree that sure, I could create things — but were they any good? If not, could I still be considered creative? Web design made this line of thinking irrelevant as it is, undeniably, a creative endeavor. I dislike using the term designer to describe what I do, fitting though it may be. I prefer the term developer as it more accurately describes where my interest — and to be perfectly honest, my strength — lies. Yet, to make websites worth viewing, to create something that (to my mind) is even worth visiting: design I must.

It's not uncommon for me to spend hours prototyping with pen and paper, then coding a design, then spending days (sometimes weeks) tweaking minutiae like color hues and gradients; making and unmaking as I see fit. As a matter of fact the design of this very blog is an ongoing experiment. An investigation into the feasibility of fixed, non-centered designs on mobile browsers. I hate it — for a variety of technical and practical reasons. I don't regret taking the time to make it though. Having designed this particular abomination I'm now better able to inform clients on the perils or benefits of such a design choice. I've personally found this design to be a poor fit for mobile, but i actually love the result on the desktop, where we typically have more available space to work with. In experimenting like this I've come to appreciate the creative process a bit more. I'm at a sort of happy medium where I realize that I don't need to love everything that I create, and I see that even things I dislike can afford a valuable opportunity to learn something new. Still, I do get frustrated with things not turning out the way I had envisioned them in my mind.

It is with some trepidation then that I've dipped my feet into the world of logo design. I've always assumed that here, even more than with the design of a website, I'd become more frustrated with the process of not being able to bring out what I see in my mind's eye to life. As it turns out, it has actually been a more enjoyable experience. I like it. I like it more than I have any reason to, and I think I know why. And in knowing why I believe I've discovered something that will actually help with web design and, by extension, web development.

I'm no good at drawing. Because I'm no good, I've forced myself to keep my logo designs simple. Even for ideas that weren't simple I'd break it down, like an equation, into simpler parts. I've begun to realize that simplicity and elegance are where my skills lie. That's true for both logos and websites. In simplifying the (relatively) complex task in my mind, before ever attempting to create, the creation process goes much smoother. Remember when I said I like developing (writing coding) more? Those tasks are a prerequisite for any good developer: planning what you're going to do, then breaking it down into smaller steps.

I never imagined that the creative process would benefit from this type of planning, or even thought about it much. My usual process was: sketch a webpage layout → approximate some sizes I thought would be good → Go! Problem is, no real thought was put into color, font size or many of the other small details that affect the flow and look of a webpage. Now having designed a few logos for myself and liking it, I can see clearly now how it helps. If you're curious what the flowing of these newfangled creative juices has led to I'll show you in part 2. Better yet (I hope) I'll walk you through the process a bit to show that, really, it's not that hard once you have an overall driving concept. Once you have that concept: Plan, Design, Refine. :-)

You'll see what I mean later this week when Creative Juices: Part 2 goes up. In the meantime, if you have something to say/share? Fire off a tweet to @opinion8d_logic on twitter with the hash tag #creativejuices.