Monday, June 7, 2010

Designer's Block

The life of an artist is meant to be spent in appreciation and with the freeness of expression. But sometimes we run into little de-motivators called Blocks. This is mostly associated with writing when an author stumbles upon a "writer's block."

In this blog, and for the first time on Designing God, I'm going to provide an informative approach to the struggles of the creative process. I will describe that there are two struggles with creativity and finally I will suggest a way out of these struggles.

Leo DaVinci was a very bored man. He couldn't limit himself to just painting. He had to study science, philosophy, engineering, sculpting, pottery, literature, and music (apart from other studies he was interested in). I'm quite sure that Leo, being the first renaissance man to be as gifted as he was, suffered from the terrible struggle of Designer's Block equally as much as modern designers.

At times, we feel that the limitations of our perception persuade us to give up on a given design. Projects pile up and deadlines get closer. So in that angst, we struggle to finish something that we know for a fact looks like a turd. I too, on countless occasions, have been a victim of such artistic tragedy. Let me address the two types of Designer's Blocks that exist.

Block 1: Brainstorming
All artists need an idea to start with. You could never begin a project without processing a thought that becomes an organized idea. It's preposterous if you think you could, and plus we're not anywhere near Hogwarts to test such a proposition. Every organized idea, whether it be for a business/school project or personal expression, has an influential element of inspiration.

We need inspiration! Have you ever encountered someone who stares at their blank canvas and blatantly says, "I NEED INSPIRATION!"? Have you ever noticed that these people are usually lazy by nature? This is by no means an insult, but a mere truth about artists. Most of our artwork is mental and not physical. So the main objective is to conjure what our brains have generated and convey that mental display onto a canvas. This is not the struggle I'm addressing though.

Brainstorming is difficult and, without inspiration, we artists cannot thrive as we do. We need a little ADHD time to ourselves in order to gather our thoughts like eggs in a basket. I suggest surfing the web and copying some ideas from work that has already been created. This isn't stealing. Being original isn't an ability, it is a lens of how we see our vision apart from others. And plus, all the ideas presented throughout history have already been done. Being original is a delusion. It's safe to copy other's ideas and make it into your own. It's difficult to do, but when you get past your lack of faith in yourself, eventually the ideas start flooding in and your work will begin with a bang.

Additionally, the best ideas usually come from sources in close proximity. Opening your mind to the environment and the internal clutter of your own thoughts generates a pure creative thought completely out of spontaneity. This one technique is a little tricky because we tend to close our minds up to avoid confusing ourselves, but it really helps if done correctly.

Block 2: Production
This block is very simple to navigate around. The most obvious demonstration of this block is when we're in the middle of a project and we cannot find any more coal in our steam engine of creation, hence the term "running out of steam." As a result, we tend to half-ass our way through a project and just concentrate on the "details" instead of the overall scaffolding of our presentation.

Preplanned assignments are honestly the most important part of the overall project. When done with enough dedication and patience, the result is pure magic. Don't allow yourself to bend over backwards just to magnify a detail of your project. Every bit you do is all-inclusive.

What I do is carry a notebook with me, write notes sometimes when an additional detail comes to my attention, continue with what I'm doing (preferably, pre-planning the entire presentation) and finally look at my notes periodically to see when it is a good time to make those final touches to the piece.

And most obvious of all to this particular Designer's Block is that we sometimes lack the motivation to continue our project. Sometimes work is tedious and boring; whether we're outlining a margin or cutting a measuring multiple distances in our layout, just remember that it's part of the design process.

A sure way to destroy self-doubt and boredom in your production time is to constantly focus on the objective. Do not get caught up on how something looks at the beginning or near the middle. Focus your energy on your vision with full seriousness and determination. Most mature graphic designers who have dedicated their lives to this discipline love their jobs to the Nth degree. You too could be as successful and happy with what you do if nothing else exists in your world except you and your work. Building that relationship with your work is more than worth the while.
"We need solutions"
- Bush [rock band]
We have thus far looked at two Designer's Blocks that trump us in the creative process. Their problems and solutions are unique but workable. To recap, the first Block is Brainstorming and the solution to this is to seek inspiration and simultaneously open your mind to the traffic of information flowing through you. The last Block is encountered in the Production phase which can be eliminated by fully focusing on your objective and keeping that vision in your mind throughout the whole time you're in the lab. Good luck fellow designers!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Their Ego Again"

"It's not so hard, just forgive yourself"

Don't let the picture fool you, this blog is not going to be another rant on the ladies. I just like female figures. Seriously ... I couldn't find a good picture of a male loving his own reflection as much as this image. Go figure ...

Any who, thoughts have once again seeped into my mind and it's time for another moral lesson. For the spiritual audience who reads this blog: Aren't you tired of this nonsensical frustration we have with our own self-image? Everything we think of is in relation to our ego. It's very difficult to think of a way in which any thought or action is ego-less. We're hopelessly devoted to the motive of "me."

Who ever thought of the notion of a selfless act, was probably stupid. There is no such thing. The concept of love or empathy is always going to be related to our own experiences.

Now you might think I'm wrong in saying this, but lets first define a selfless act as an act that caters to the betterment of others in which the faith of oneself is completely absent; we are constantly selfish because everything we do is for the furtherance of understanding ourselves. We're far from the depiction of angels on earth. We are completely reliant on our ego whether we like it or not.

Ken Wilber has predicated research about the stages of moral and spiritual development. The more we grow in moral understanding the less we rely on our selfish genes and steer towards the betterment of others. Sounds good right? But the following proposition is a good example of when reality sinks it's sharp teeth into our polished butt-cheeks:

No matter how much we grow in moral/spiritual development, we still carry the previous stages of egoic moral development. This means that even a distinguished moral philosopher could behave like a reptile given the preferential conditions. Sounds good right?
We like to think we've evolved and advanced because we can build a computer, fly an airplane, travel underwater, we can write a sonnet, paint a painting, compose an opera. But you know something? We're barely out of the jungle on this planet. Barely out of the fucking jungle. What we are, is semi-civilized beasts, with baseball caps and automatic weapons.
- George Carlin (Life is Worth Losing, 2005)
Of course, not each human is identically predetermined based on one element of moral life. But, given the reality of developmental stages it's time to stop fooling ourselves in assuming that we graduated from the ego-centric ways of thinking.