Escape the Comfort Zone: Uncanny Creativity 41

Making art often means getting out of the comfort zone.

Alan Henry of Lifehacker explains the science of breaking out of your comfort zone:

Routine and patterns minimize risk. Making something scares us. Creating something inherently feels risky. Who knows if it’ll be good?

The comfort zone feels happy with low anxiety and low stress. This is why most people never make anything.

Optimal Anxiety

Slight anxiety helps us. “Optimal Anxiety” increases performance. Too much stress and we do poorly. Comfort is the opposite of productivity. Volunteering as a designer helps me escape my routine. It can feel stressful, yet also I’m helping people.

Regularly facing fear in controlled ways prepares you better for out of control problems according to researcher Brene Brown:

Try this: Venture a new medium, performance art, visual arts, practice new tips. Small tweaks to normal ways of producing art involve exploring your curiosity.

Productive Discomfort

It gets easier to push boundaries the more you do it. Alina Tugend describes this effect of “Productive Discomfort” for the New York Times.

It’s easier to brainstorm if you’re seeking new experiences, new skills. You get used to looking at the world in new ways and question confirmation bias. Old problems will seem new.

Try this: Do old things differently. New restaurants, drive a new route, switch out apps you normally use.

Take small steps

Avoid putting things off. Keep a list of “someday maybes”. Review it regularly to see if they match with your schedule. Always wanted to paint dogs or nudes? What’s the next small step to make that happen.

Take small steps. Set small actions. Weekly daily. Think big in the long-term and small in the short-term. If you want to have a huge gallery show, first you need to slowly make painting
Try this: find clarity through action.

Remember to return to your comfort zone. Have rituals that you return to for comfort.

Try this: Slow down or speed up on decisions that you have to make. Be more spontaneous in areas where you’re usually very planned. Try being more calculated in the parts where you usually are carefree

The Sweet Spot Between Overconfidence and Anxiety

Optimal levels of anxiety tested as middle range by scientist, Business Insider explains. If we’re overconfident, there may not exist enough anxiety to focus and perform the task at hand. With too much anxiety, we’ll have trouble performing even basics of tasks. Self-described worriers tended to have “high levels of brain activity when they made mistakes”. The test became difficult compared to those with less anxiety.

Try this: Actively Practice worrying less. Actively practice worrying less. Working out. Meditate. Question and answer the facts behind your worry. Practice optimism. Seek help – friends, family, therapy.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

When Creativity Feels Hard, Take Action

You might think being creative on demand is “hard”. Here’s what I’ve learned on the job.

I’m sad that society heavily sells this idea that creativity is “too hard” That we are constantly being indoctrinated into it. Adults spout tropes about the difficulty of creativity, sounding like children talking about monsters under their bed. No evidence of a monster, just fear. (See also: Face the Fear of Failure)

Hard is one of my least favorite words. Most of the time considering difficulty is impractical. When you catch yourself doing it, take it as a sign to practice. Pondering how easy or difficult a task manifests as a common procrastination habit. We place mental blocks in front of our own goals to protect us from imagined outcomes.

Anyone who got to the point where they could read this has already tackled countless difficult tasks.

Fairly early in my career, a more experienced designer told me starting with a blank page is the hardest part of the job.

So I’ve found to make it easy, at the beginning of a project I focus on the most practical parts of it. Break apart the project. Open a document. Get the size right. Put something on the page without judgment.

If it’s a particularly creatively challenge project, I name the file “Project Name Ideas”. Then it’s a super judgment-free space.

If you know any text or ideas for text, put it on the page. If it’s even more intimidating, scribble some messy thoughts on paper.

Sometimes just drawing boxes or grabbing a photo or texture works. Or make a list of steps.

Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Look at inspiration and try using very specific parts of what you like in your own idea. Draw from a few inspirations and try getting them to mesh together

Try out the bad ideas too. Afraid of becoming unoriginal? Copy something and then try to fix it until it’s unique. Make something hideous and see if you can fix that too. Even at your worst, you’ll have some usable thoughts.

The important part I’ve found is to show your work. If someone could see you, could they describe an action? Thinking is not an action in itself.

Think through actions and through making.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Let Your Personality Type Choose the Right Design Career For You

Many people look at a group of designers and assume that every designer performs the same job, has the same passions, and will have the same lifestyle. This could not be further from the truth. Graphic design and web design are some of the most wide-open career fields in the job market. There are some jobs that suit some people better than others. If you have earned or are earning a design degree, you should consider what type of personality you have before committing to a job. Here are some jobs that are the best fits for certain people.

Larry the Leader

In every group there are chiefs and there are indians. If you are a chief, you naturally rise to leadership positions and have a knack for directing people. You might fit in well as a creative director. Creative directors are in charge of creative teams that produce artwork for various media and entertainment outlets. They make sure that all team members complete their work on time and at a high level of quality. Directors have the final say on products and services performed by their team. If you would enjoy an administrative position and can handle responsibility, this area of work might be right up your alley.

Tina Technology

For those who feel more comfortable in front of a computer screen than a sketch pad, design jobs requiring technology are growing more rapidly than ever. Web design has become an indisposible part of most companies. Web designers handle the layout, graphics, and continuity of websites. Their work is sometimes seen by thousands of people each day. The latest trend is the use of Flash, a multimedia graphics program from Macromedia. It is used to create interactive and animated websites, and is being used by nearly everyone. So for the designer looking to unleash the computer geek within, there is plenty of demand for designers in the tech industry.

Photo Phil

While some designers enjoy creating their artistic masterpieces from nothing, other prefer finding the beauty in things in the world around them. Photographers take a simple image and turn it into their work of art using equipment such as lights, lenses, and especially their creative vision. As we progress through the digital age, photography is evolving due to technology. Many people make careers as photo editors, especially through the use of Photoshop. Photoshop gurus manipulate photos to add even more  artistic value to them. If you are handy with a camera, you could end up in one of these professions.

Artistic Amy

Some designers are purists and just want to focus on the heart of the matter: the art. Illustrators transform ideas and stories into images that are used in printed materials as well as commercial products, such as greeting cards and stationery. Technical illustrators primarily use digital media to create illustrations. 

Brian the Businessman

There are some people that enjoy being part of large companies with widespread recognition and influence. These corporations need designers, too. Brand identities and logos are the products of graphic designers. These products must be constantly evolving to remain on the cutting edge. If you prefer settling into a single job, especially with a large company, you might fit well into this category.

These are just a few of the jobs that are available to graphic and web designers. Many designers are independent or freelance, so people who enjoy frequent change can find their niche as well. Now you can evaluate yourself and decide which kind of career is right for you.

About the Author

Chris Faires is a writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them search for online degrees that can help them reach their goals.

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Do work you love and stop doing what you hate

Once upon a time, I once started a job as a graphic designer.

A brief introduction to design work. All my jobs have been in design. You just put some colors, text, and shapes down in a way that looks nice. Your day gets filled with Color Purple Moments.*

There’s often other business and administrative tasks. File paperwork, mark time, organize digital files. Most of which I enjoy to varying degrees as a break. This department was perhaps a dozen or more office workers at various levels.

Until one day – only a few months into the position – my manager calls me in. Maybe I’m in trouble. Instead, I’m promoted. It’s retroactive. The next check adjusts my pay as if I was paid that way for the last month.

(Sounds great on paper, except that I made very little. So small that I just now had to double check to make sure I was above the Federal Poverty Guidelines.)

Here’s the thing. I reacted with confusion.

The manager explains that I had been doing the new job already. First, I handled all of my own work. Then did work for the vacant position that I filled.

From my point of view, I thought everyone in the department did that. Split the overload, right.

Plus, I was bored!

I’m data driven. Obviously so are they as they had time records and accuracy (never my strong suit).

Cool news right! There was and still is a part of me that’s like “Why work so hard???”

The truth is, most of the time the concept of “hard work” doesn’t often cross my mind. Thinking about difficulty feels unhelpful, impractical, and stressful. [Cue “Stop for A Minute” by Keane]

I really try to veer toward answering questions like “Is it possible to do it?” “What would it take to do it?” Focus on the steps, tools, and behaviors involved.

I’m sure I read this in many productivity books when as a young adult. I tried it. I noticed I felt less stressed.

(The 2012 paper “When thinking about goals undermines goal pursuit” by Fischbach and Choi tested this concept. This story takes place before then.)

The early pre-smartphone internet leaned more geeky. So the productivity boom was afoot.

Flash forward a few years, another job as a graphic designer.

Once again, I’m called in to discuss with my manager. Let’s make more duties official. This time it was not really design oriented work without any immediate incentives – salary, flexibility, and perhaps if there was a new title it would be more out of my intended field. So I was less enthusiastic.

From my point of view – once again – I thought everyone helped do this work! They asked us to split the overload.

I learned a valuable lesson and acted on it. If you can get away with just doing more, you can get away with doing less. That’s exactly what I did.

All of this new administrator work – I didn’t want to it and so I didn’t. And it all just went away.

Someone else in another office somewhere did it I guess. Or they decided no one needed to maybe. I don’t remember because I stopped being involved.

That part of me that asks “Why work so hard?” That’s super annoying when you have goals you care about. Useful when you have anti-goals that you want to stop caring about.

Nowadays, still bored.

 

  • “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How Yesterday’s Type Has Inspired Todays Styles

In todays modern world the term ‘typography’ is used very loosly and you could argue that, since the digital age, typogrophy is no longer a specialized occupation. Furthermore, it is performed by anyone who arranges type such as comic book designers, graffiti artists, art directors, clerical workers and graphic designers. There are many instances where the modern typography we use today was inspired by old styles. In this article we will take a look at how yesterdays type has inspired todays styles.

Initial

The large letter that is often seen at the beginning of a chapter or paragraph in printed publications such as novels and newspapers is referred to as the ‘Initial’. The name initial comes from the latin initialis which means ‘standing at the beginning’.

Going back to the very early history of printing the initial would be added to a manuscript or text by a scribe or minature painter annd not by the typesetter; The typesetters just left the necessary space so the Initial could be added later.

There are several different types of Initial, the first type is the one you will normally see on a computer, sat on the baseline and flush with the left margin. The other type of Initial you might see in html is in the left margin with the text to the right and indented.

The last, and probably the most common, type of initial seen in newspapers, magazines and novels is the drop cap, where it runs several lines deep with the text wrapped around so the left and top margins are all flush.

Old Style Typefaces

Often reffered to as Humanist, the ‘old style’ typefaces are inspired by the hand lettering of scribes before the modern typefaces we’re introduced; The very first old style fonts we’re produced in the early 1500’s.

The thick to thin transitions that can be seen in the old style typefaces highlights its relation to calligraphy and they look very much like they have been drawn with pen and ink. If you we’re to draw a line between the thinnest parts of the character you can see that ‘the stress’ is always diagonal and the serifs on old style fonts are very angled.

Old style fonts are generally best suited to pages with lots of body text on as they are very easy on the eye and are often found in magazines, newspapers and books. One of the most common used sans-serif old style fonts used in the web today is ‘Times New Roman’.

Modern Style Typefaces

The modern style typefacesare often referred to as ‘Didone’ and despite the name ‘modern’ it is not a new typeface. Going back to the eighteenth century when new advanced printing methods came to to light and when the paper qualkity drastically improved there we’re changes in how typefaces we’re created.

Compared to the old style typefaces the Didone have thin and very long horrizontal serifs, the stress is vertical rather than diagonal and the thick and thin transitions syle is much more clear cut and a dramatic difference compared with old style typefaces.

These fonts can be very eye catching when used in large sizes and are not suited to pages with lots of body text due to their thick lines becoming too powerful and the thin parts been nion impossible to see. The modern style fonts are best suited to titles, headings and sub-headings and common ones you will see on the web today are Didot, Onyx and Times Bold.

This article was produced on behalf of PrinterInks – suppliers of printer cartridges, toners and stationary services throughout the UK and Europe.

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Does mood impact creativity?

Each week, I answer questions about creativity and productivity in a series called Q&A Monday. Today’s question asks about the list between mood and creativity:

“Why are we most creative when we feel down?”
Anonymous on Quora

Which moods are scientifically linked with creativity? Various research links negative moods and feelings to a decrease in creativity:

UC-Blog-Feature-Study-MoodA 2010 study published by the Association for Psychological Science linked creativity most with positive moods. Using music and video clips, researchers primed participants for certain moods by researchers of the University of Western Ontario. Those who listened to the happiest music or watched a cheerful video were most able to recognize creative patterns. The happy volunteers were better at learning the rules behind patterns than those in neutral or sad moods.

“Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking.”
Ruby Nadler, University of Western Ontario

Creativity has been associated with mood disorders. Preliminary associations compiled by the University of Iowa found higher rates of mood disorders and alcoholism among writers and playwrights. This study did not include a control group to draw comparisons against. (The relationship between creativity and mood disorders) Among those who were studied, almost all involved reported less creative output during depressive or manic states.

Positive moods enhance creativity. Creative performance increased according to an analysis of 62 experimental and 10 non-experimental studies by Mark A. Davis of the University of North Texas. Understanding the relationship between mood and creativity: A meta-analysis

Matthijs Baas of the University Of Amsterdam focuses his research on creative psychology. His work indicates that happiness, fear, and anger are the most creative enhancing moods. Sadness, relaxation, and relief decrease creativity since stimulation encourages flexibility and idea generation. Happiness leads to creative flexibility while fear and avoidance lead to creative persistence.

UC-Blog-Pinterest-Mood

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.