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Design Stagnation and Renaissance

Tonight's posting has been brewing for several days, but wasn't fully steeped until I came across Design In-Flight Magazine earlier today. Jason Santa Maria's excellent cover story, Fighting off design stagnation was the key to releasing these thoughts.

I found Design In-Flight magazine via Andy Clarke's excellent And All That Malarkey weblog. It was today's post, Fighting off design Stalinism which caught my eye, along with Andy's hearty recommendation of DIF magazine. I decided to buy the yearly subscription for $10 and boy what a great deal! DIF is an excellent magazine.

Jason's article is superb, both for its timing and ideas. Having been in the Shadow of the Valley of Creativity last May, I could immediately relate to Jason's thinking. Here's an excerpt from the opening paragraph:

I’ve only been out of school and working in the industry for a few years now, but I can already feel it. The feeling like my hands are getting tied. Like I am coming up with the same old ideas or dipping into my overused bag of tricks too often. I am left racking my brain for new directions and feeling like the design world will surely leave me behind to make way for today’s new design youth. You might laugh because it’s only been a few years, but this is where it begins.

That was pretty much how I felt in early 2004, feeling in need of a boost of creativity. I didn't doubt my skills as much as I knew I needed to kick-start my creative juices again — often easier said than done.

Lately I've been experiencing a serious creative renaissance, which I can now actually trace back to that very post on May 27th. It was the admission, not only to myself and my wife or friends, but to my weblog and its readers, which set me on this forward path.

I now see clearly that the very first step toward my coming to grips with this situation was admitting where I was. Once the cat was "out of the bag", so to speak, real changes could take place — like the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I've seen portrayed on TV.

"Hi my name is Mike, and I'm a designer."

Since that May, I've taken several steps toward change. I've intentionally taken the time to sketch regularly, both for work projects and just for fun. I've furiously pursued XHTML & CSS design, becoming more fluent in those two languages in the process.

I've also found myself contemplating design much more often, seeking out good design like well-brewed espresso. Reviewing logos on trucks, in magazines and on websites. I even find myself trying to decipher why designs do or don't work. Design really has become a passion again, and I'm loving it.

There's been another change in these past months, my weight loss of 30 pounds on the South Beach diet. While not directly design related, this physical change has generated much more energy for pursuit of work and play. Feeling good has provided a positive burst, impacting all other parts of my life. Even more though, losing weight has provided proof to myself that I really could change, if I admitted where I was, believed it and did something about it. It was difficult at first, but wow, is it worth it now!

So, if you're finding yourself in a funk at the start of this new year, maybe the first step is to admit to yourself and maybe your family and friends, where you're at. Once you can realistically point out your position on the map, it's much easier to find the way home.

Reader Comments (4)

Mike, Great thoughts! The greatest freedoom is to admit where you are and the feelings you have and then assess them to see what is real and what is just in your mind. Keep it up!
January 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
Steve, thanks for the kind words. Indeed the greatest freedom is admission of where you really are. It's often hard to do, but always seems to make the difference.
January 11, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Those thoughts are part of my creative process too. As a painter, I regularly (but not often!) enter a period of repetitious work. During those periods I try to perfect a concept or a style. The problem is that I get bored very quickly and start doubting. That is, until I realize what's happening!I chose a creative job for a reason: I hate repetition. I'm glad to see we share some of that!

For me the key is to try something totally different, often inspired by someone else's work. But before I can get out of the rut, out of the groove I'm stuck into, I too have to say:

"Hi, my name is Robert and I am a painter"
January 12, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRobert
Robert, thanks for the comment! Good to see what I''ve experienced is also true in others' lives. :-)
January 13, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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