Someone has already solved it
Last week I watched some episodes of Netflix's Abstract. A show that takes a deep dive on the art of design.
In an episode that features the iconic typeface designer Jonathan Hoefler I felt particularly inspired. As the show writers followed Jonathan around in his process, it was amazing to see the types of places that he would go to look for inspiration on various letter forms.
He would go to antique watch shops and spend hours examining the numbers and letters on a watch face, trying to find unique flourishes and what might tie them all together. When he was stuck, he would go to the reference library and pull out giant ancient maps to see how they may solve for interesting design challenges. Always keeping an open eye to how others may have wrestled or encountered similar challenges that he is facing.
In my work, we are constantly presented with interesting design challenges and I think that it becomes so easy to fall into patterns of applying old solutions for the sake of speed. No longer noticing all the details around us, that we spend our careers creating for others. How in the spirit of busyness or achievement we stop noticing others who are trying to solve similar problems as we are.
As I reflect on this there is a level of shame and regret. We have been working on a package design that requires a lot of information in a very small space. I'm blown away by how few packages I have stopped to admire and examine. When I stumble on a new brand, do I stop and appreciate the details and the decisions they make, or do I make a quick judgment like a customer? This is the work that I have chosen to do, that I believe in deeply, yet I'm not taking the time to appreciate how others have decided to approach the same mission.
I define creativity as "connecting things". How am I able to connect new ideas and solutions if I'm no longer taking the time to notice them? It shouldn't come as a surprise that most creative breakthroughs happen when I go for a walk, or meet someone new. This is because whether consciously or subconsciously I'm noticing new ideas or approaches that I may apply to all the challenges I'm facing at the moment. Every design challenge that I face, someone has solved a version of it.
I want to move slower. I want to notice the amazing solutions that others came up with. I want to be intentional about finding new ideas and mediums because this will allow me to connect more ideas.
Perhaps to live a creative life, is to live a life where we notice the small things. Notice other's challenges and admire their solutions.