Constant Creativity In Graphic Design
Creative careers are tough. No matter how much experience you have or how much training you have, there will never be one absolute right answer to a creative problem. It’s not math. There might be dozens of solutions that work, and hundreds that don’t. It’s your job to find at least one solution that works. That’s just the nature of a creative career, and that demand for creativity in graphic design can be rough at times.
Designers are forever asked to create brilliant, unique concepts that exceed every project expectation with minimal markers for determining if a solution is right or wrong. Sure, we can ask questions like “What should this project achieve when it’s competed? How will we know it’s a success?” These types of questions give you a great direction to take things, but the creative part is still up to you.
The constant demand of creativity in graphic design can be stressful, especially as a new designer. In the beginning of a designer’s career it might even be too much to handle; so much that it causes a a career rethink. Fortunately, learning to deal with the demand of creativity in graphic design does get easier over time, you just have to stick with it.
No Right Or Wrong Answer
Every single time I get a project I want to just know the right answer. My logical brain needs it. Say a client needs to redesign their old, outdated logo. What should the new one look like? What colours should it use? Should it be more of an evolution of the old logo or something completely new? These aren’t questions that can be answered right away, but instead need to be explored.
This is where company brand and competitive research comes in. Though, even when all that is complete, the final resulting logo won’t be something that was made from inputting some numbers into a calculator.
There is no single, absolute right logo that will be perfect for your client.
You need to sketch out your ideas and explore visuals that could work for the client, then continually narrow down your design options until you have something great. What you eventually end up with in terms of a visual identity still won’t be the ‘right answer’ because that doesn’t exist. Instead, it will be something that works for the client’s present and future needs, and that’s what matters.
Creativity With Constraints
All projects that designers are tasked with, print or digital, still have to follow rules that give our creativity constraints. For example, business cards are usually designed at 3.5″ by 2″ for a reason, and we need to design with that constraint in mind. Similarly, things like rack cards, social media posts, posters, websites, etc. also typically have standard dimensions and specific ways they will be viewed and used.
Being familiar with those constraints is half the battle; how to use them and when to break them. Those specific constraints will guide the amount of creativity we can put into a project.
Designing Within Constraints
Let’s say you need to design a brochure for a new condo development. You’re given 300 words of copy, five photos, and a logo. The company doesn’t have a consistent visual brand strategy, so the fonts, colours, and elements are up to you. Maybe you decide to go with Open Sans and Baskerville and use a combination of grey, cyan, and orange with duo-toned imagery. Done.
Should the text be 9pt or 10pt? Should the design be very image heavy or should the given images be secondary to the text? Well, the type size might depend on if the demographic for the brochure is older, in which case you’d want a larger typeface, possibly even 11pt. For imagery, you might mix the sizes, showcasing the best image(s) on the front of the brochure.
With the initial, logical design decisions out of the way, you can figure out if you want to get really creative with the layout or stay with something safer within the given project constraints. Maybe you want to add a custom die cut to the top of the brochure to make it really unique looking, but doing so means you’ll have to lose two of the images. This will also jack up the printing costs. Is there another way to make the brochure stand out? Can you rearrange things better and not lose any imagery?
There is no right or wrong answer here; there is just what works, what doesn’t, and what the client likes, and doesn’t like. If you’ve done your research up to this point and are familiar with what the client is after, you should have an idea of which direction to take.
Creativity In Print & Digital Constraints
In print design, creativity doesn’t have to stem from the design itself. You can incorporate physical embellishments and enhancements, such as a die cut, unique paper choices, or even foil effects and/or spot glosses to really make your design stand out. Just know that these additions can get expensive. But if the client has a larger budget, you can really expand how creative you want to get.
With digital design, the constraints are constantly changing. Social media imagery standard sizes change as platforms evolve, website design technology improves, physical mediums for viewing digital content change, and so on. We need to be aware of the constraints of digital design so we can maximize our creativity within it, and really test the limits of what we’re capable of doing in a digital medium.
The most creative works of design can stem from the most rigid project constraints. Explore your options and look for inspiration.
Creatively Comparing Yourself To Others
Creativity & Your Peers
One of the benefits of working on a design team is that you can build upon the ideas and creativity of your peers. Unfortunately, it also leaves room for you to second guess your own talents and creativity by comparison.
If you currently work with other designers, there are probably at least a few whose work you constantly compare yours to. This can be helpful for inspiring you to learn new skills and explore different ways of approaching a project, but it can also hurt you mentally and cause you to judge your own skills to harshly.
The reality is that each designer on a team has a unique perspective and plethora of design experiences that make what they bring to the table different from their peers, so comparing your work to theirs isn’t fair to you.
For instance, you could take a team of designers with the same level of skill and experience, give them each the exact same project, and they will each come up with an entirely different solution; each one succeeding at the initial task but entirely unique from the others.
It might be impossible to determine which solution is actually the best, especially if all are at the same level of thought and quality. In the end, the creative director or client will decide which direction to take based on his or her own preference and the ultimate goals of the project. If your design isn’t chosen, it just tends to amplify how much you compare your creativity and skill to other designers. If your design is chosen, well, you’re probably still going to compare your work to your peers because that’s just what we do. You’ll just be happier about it.
If you’re like the majority of creatives, you’ll always feel a little bit of imposter syndrome; like you don’t belong among your talented peers. Just know that they probably feel the same. Learn from them, be inspired by them, but don’t let their unique creativity dampen yours.
Creativity & Every Designer Ever
Looking for design inspiration online is one of the best things you can do for finding consistent creativity in graphic design. Seeing the types of design works that are out there in the world beyond your local community can provide you with new design perspectives and ideas.
Unfortunately, just as with comparing yourselves to your design peers, comparing your design work to what you see online can also really dampen your creative motivation. Looking at work from the ‘best of the best’ can be humbling and cause you to doubt your own skills.
I know it’s hard, but try not to compare other designers’ work to yours in a negative way. Whether you’re a new designer or a seasoned one, your skills will grow over time and soon other designers will look to your work for inspiration. You just have to keep at it.
Creativity In Graphic Design – In Summary
The struggle for churning out constant creativity in graphic design is the hardest part of working as a designer. While it gets less stressful with experience, it never really goes away. That’s just the nature of a creative career.
The more time you spend learning about design, looking at inspiration, leveling up your skills, and finding other ways to explore your own creativity, the easier it will be for you to call upon it when you need it. Just remember there is no single right answer to a creative problem, just a variety of solutions that could work if you explore and showcase them properly.
What’s the hardest part about being a creative? Do you find the demand of creativity in graphic design to be the most difficult part of the job? Let me know in the comments below.
If you struggle with the constant creativity in graphic design, check out The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry. It talks about the struggle of creativity on demand and how to manage it as a creative.
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