Searching with my good eye closed…For Inspiration in Design.

Some days this ingenious song lyric (Chris Cornell via Soundgarden) is how I feel about finding inspiration for new projects. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my day job, and one of my hobby’s is graphic design.

Now that’s a pretty big umbrella statement, as (GD) has a multitude of facets, and I am hardly a guru in all of them. Like they say, a jack of all trades is a master of none, so I’ve had to pull back on my desire to learn something useful about every single facet of graphic design and focus instead on a core group of skills that are near and dear to me. But at its heart, (GD) is still about producing artwork, perhaps not “Art” but commercial art nonetheless. No matter how hard I try I don’t ever feel like an artiste. Even though I make 100% of my living off of producing quality images, logos, compositions, type set pages etc etc… To me I don’t feel like an artist. I may well be more artistic than the average bear, but I don’t dress all in black, nor do I walk about covered in paint/ink/chalk, nor do I wear a beret or act particularly bohemian. (I know that is a fairly stereotypical account of what an artiste is, but it’s a hard image to break inside my own head). I’m also a pretty shallow person (in mind set) I’m not all that concerned with symbolism, reading between the lines, undertones or subtext. I’m… for lack of a better turn of phrase; blunt. Like a grey cinderblock. Perhaps because I have eschewed the preposterousness of pretension I feel like I’m not an artist. I also have very little creative control over the substance of what I produce, except for where the item(s) are for myself. Artistic integrity is a luxury I can’t afford at this stage. Not to say that some things don’t rankle my bones, and make me spitting mad, but my job is to produce what others have asked for, in the format they have asked for it. Perhaps those high level agency types know what it is like to be able to walk away from a project over “creative differences” or “artistic integrity”. I don’t quite have the weight to throw around like that just yet.

Back to my main point, which is, searching for and finding inspiration. A real creative spark. I personally have no formula to follow, no checklist to run down in order to find that spark of life which will turn an average idea into something that really gets people talking, or creates a very visceral response. I am not even all that superstitious, so I don’t have the luck to believe that wearing the same socks, or hat or sitting in the same chair will bring that feeling back. So some times that fabulous little spark finds me, and some times I do what I can without it.

So then, what does searching with your good eye closed mean? I don’t actually try to look at stuff with my eyes closed, that’s preposterous… well unless it was a tactile object meant to be experienced, touched, interacted with, rather than just observed… but you hardly close your eyes and touch a poster (scratch & sniff excepted here). It is a whole lot like reading a page while not paying attention to it. Your brain is reading the items, but the words flow in one eye and out the other (I almost said in one eye and out your mother, but that’s another Soundgarden inside joke). You sort of know you read the words but you didn’t take in all in, you just weren’t all that present while you read it. You were on a sort of distracted auto-pilot. Then you have to go back and actually re-read it again (This idea isn’t new, by any means. Any sociology text book or phycology text will have a far better explanation of this than I will ever put down in words.) But what I mean is, there are a whole lot of times when I am searching for inspiration under time constraints, and rather than soak up the nuances of the research materials I’ve gathered for a project, I’m glossing over them and missing that … that, I don’t know, just that “THING” that jumps out at you, akin to a mental domino in your brain that falls against something else and begins to snowball and before you know it your synapses are firing like mad and a picture is forming in your head, and you just start pouring work out onto the page. That excited rush of ideas crashing over you in waves, some of them so fast and furious you don’t even have the time to get them out onto the page before they have slipped out of reach again, but you have flashes of them still, which you cling to and work off of. If I’m lucky a few of those little snippets are enough to bring the idea back into my conscience thought  as a whole idea and I can take it even further. Other times I’m left with parts of a good idea, but have to really work to unify them, or pull them apart and use them piece-meal elsewhere.

In order to be (oh god, I am going to say this, Ugh) “open” to finding inspiration, I need to really take the time to look, and see what is in front of me. Not just view it absently, but really take the precious time to not watch the clock, not be consumed by the deadline, and just look, think and brainstorm. Sounds really hokey, and wishy-washy I’m sure.  But it happens to me, I get so tied up in the technical details that I don’t take the much needed time to really look and see. I have to just keep reminding myself to come back to it with fresh eyes, and positive outlook.

But, you say, even when I have the time and am really aware of myself and my subject matter, there is no guarantee that I will find the inspiration I seek. Yes, sadly that is true. I have no real insight into helping anyone else with this same issue. But perhaps you are taking a breather right now while reading this. That might be all the help you need.

I always feel just a little bit better after putting things down on paper.