Finding Your Creativity | Talks With Dava
Now that in-person events are starting to rev up again, we are so happy to have the opportunity to join friends and clients in the wild. Specifically, the wild of the Redwoods, with our friends from Camp Earnest. It’s no secret that we love to partner with kindred spirits, organizations whose values are strong and drive wholehearted business. That’s definitely the case with Camp Earnest, a gathering space dedicated to supporting connection with people and planet.
Recently our founder and COO, Dava Guthmiller, was invited to speak to a group of creatives at this hallowed ground. The following is a written highlight of her introduction and the thoughts she shared with the group.
Hopefully we’ll be able to see you all in the wild, happy and healthy, very soon! For now, please enjoy this “TedTalk-style” conversation with Dava.
Location: Camp Earnest, Twain Harte, California
Hosts: Raman & Karin
My job as leader of a design agency is to help my team, and my clients use their creative muscles to find new ideas, methods, and interpretations to solve communication and brand challenges. We layer in data whenever possible, but if we don’t access creativity in our work then it all starts to look the same, sound the same, feel the same.
At Noise 13 we have a collection of workshops and activities that help us listen & discover insights of authenticity about our clients, validate relevance and resonance to their audiences, and find the white space to stand out from the competition. But all these activities need that added spark to be truly creative and fresh.
Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns and to create meaningful new ideas, methods and interpretations.
To find true creativity in our design projects we need these new ideas to emerge. Something needs to spark a new connection; a new angle in which to view the problem. In my experience these sparks do not come from looking at examples of what you are trying to create…ie: looking at brochures to be inspired to design a new brochure. Be it an identity design, a process or even a new color combination, the best new ideas come from another alternative source.
You need to reach beyond your own team, your own inherent experiences, open your senses to something else that can mix with your experience to make something new. I tend to find that spark in two main ways. Others and stepping away.
When I talk about others this expands on things like human centered design and user research. Other people bring with them other life experiences, personal challenges and baggage, alternative skills and frames of reference. From collaborating with other people on your team, to getting feedback from the non-designers in your company, to bringing in the audience you are designing for, and even talking to your client’s employees that are not on the team that hired you, these outside voices and fresh eyes can see things you can’t and provide a perspective that brings new ideas.
One example of this process in play was for an identity refresh we did for Creative Explored. CE is a studio-based collective in San Francisco that partners with developmentally disabled artists to celebrate and nurture their creative potential. They hired us for a logo update and fresh take on their color platelet and design system.
Normally, we name the colors of an organization’s identity system to compliment the brand’s message and tone of voice. This time we were inspired by the passionate artists that work at the CE space. As we were outsiders to their workspace and some of the artists are very sensitive to newcomers, we dropped our normal process and literally handed over the process to their team of teachers and creatives. We shared why naming colors was important, provided a framework of how to think about the range of colors that we chose, and asked them to collaborate internally to choose names that resonated with them.
Our process + their collective creativity = greatness! This list of colors names was by far the best thing about this refresh. We stepped out of the way but provided the tools for them to play. I’ll let you visualize the colors that come to mind from this list, but their word choices said so much about their collective experiences that we would not have captured on our own.
Big Papaya Smile
Foggy Day Gray
Mission Mango Salsa
Safe Sea Green
The second way I like to find that spark of creativity is to literally step away. Step away from examples of what you are trying to design or create and look at other industries, other expressions of design. Step away from the computer and work with your hands. Or even step away from your workspace altogether and go outside.
Stepping away from exact examples is a huge first step in any design process. You might need to start your research there for some context but think outside the box. How about the next time you need a layout for a website or printed piece, you look at architecture photos or floorplans? Or the set of colors for that brand, you look to fish or flowers for color combos. Trying out a new dish for your restaurant’s menu, explore flavor combos from cultures you have never visited.
At Noise 13 we regularly activate the step away from the computer exercise with Creative Flow sessions. These are 30 minute activities that anyone regardless of talent or experience can do to work that big creative brain muscle. These are great for team building but as designers it’s also a reminder that other materials and activities can bring a spark to paying projects. Examples of fun activities to let loose: watercolor with oversize brushes, or only using your left over coffee as paint; building a lego piece that reminds you of a team member; making paper airplanes; pictionary or other visual games; or even challenging yourself to come up with a back story from a found photo. Tactile activities are the best but the ideas here are endless.
This activity of stepping away also means allowing your mind to wander. Our best ideas are sometimes in the shower or while wandering on the beach. This one works really well when you’re stuck on a creative idea. You have done the research, and gotten all the bad ideas out of your system. Go do something else. Walk the dog, bake a cake, read a book, smoke a joint, even just work on something else for a day. Give your mind a break from that project and let it wander into something else. Those other experiences could help you find a new source of inspiration or they could just be the mental space your creativity needs to connect the dots in a new way.
What is a project you are working on, personally or for your job, that you could use some creativity and new thinking to solve the problem?
How can you either bring in others with alternative points of view or different experiences than your own to help you find a new connection?
Or, where else, other than your computer, can you look for inspiration?
As we were outside at this lovely campsite I challenged everyone to walk the grounds, take photos, feel the energy of nature and use something in that experience as a new point of inspiration. The Good People Dinners are also a gathering of varied experiences and viewpoints and a safe place to have those conversations.
If you’d like to invite Dava to inspire a group you’ve gathered, she loves to engage in these passionate chats about design and brand challenges. Just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s great ideas to discover together!