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.

Choosing Graphic Design Work that Matches Your Values

How do you make sure that your work fits in line with your personal ethics? Although this is a post targeting designers and artists, almost every working person deals with this issue at some point. You might have seen a colleague who thinks it’s “just business”. And chances are you don’t trust this person, even if it seems like they’re a fine upstanding citizen outside of work.  When taking a job, full time or client based, do you think about the clients ethics?

What are work values?

These are the set of beliefs that you’ve acquired over your life. Mom and dad instilled you with a sense of right and wrong.  There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to do something you’re fundamentally against to survive or because you’ve agreed to a job you don’t agree with.

Evaluating Your Client

First of all, let’s qualify this by saying you should understand your potential employer. Go in with an open mind.  Sure this company may have a bad reputation in your industry for it’s practices, but without discussing it with them and doing your research you don’t really know if it’s a good fit. If you’re hoping for repeat business, ask your client about any potential for more work.

Core Ethics

Take the time right now to do a self assessment. Figure out what your core ethics are. Perhaps it’s important to you that you have a certain amount of autonomy with your projects.  Accept nothing less.  There are clients out there that will trust you to complete the work.  I’ve designed marketing projects where I’ve heard very little from the client and they’re happy with the end results. Your dream client is out there.  Imagine that you want autonomy and have no part in the decision making process. How upset will you be?  Imagine if you thrive in variety and have to do a monotonous job.

In the end, you won’t be truly happy with your work unless you’re following your own morality. It’s not just business, it’s a huge part of your life.  Figure out what’s really important and use that knowledge in your decision making.  Say no to the clients and career moves that don’t match up.

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

Designing Something You Hate?

I ♥ Graphic Design

I ♥ Graphic Design by Craig Keeling

How do you deal with that tough design project?  The one that you probably shouldn’t have taken onto in the first place.  Or it’s the part of the project that you knew would be least fun. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to work on this project.  This could even apply to a full time job or your whole career.  Here’s a few tips on how to deal

Stay positive.

Your positive attitude can be infectious. If it’s that project where the client is never happy, maybe it’s just that they don’t know what happiness looks like.  Point out the positive elements to yourself and others.  Don’t spend your time away from it complaining. Or at least limit your complaints. Your family likes you better when you’re focused on the upside.

Planning.

A plan can make something you hate turn into at least something you can bare until the check clears. Figure out an escape plan, detailing all the steps from here until the end of the project.  If you have an exit route in place, you might find that it’s not so bad after all.

Find time for what you enjoy.

If you could afford to quit, you probably would have by now.  You agreed to the work for a reason.  But it shouldn’t consume your life.  Take the time out of every day to do something that truly makes you happy and takes your mind away to your happy place.

Learn from the experience. 

Next time you’re faced with taking up work you don’t want to do, remember this day.  Do whatever it takes to never have to tackle the nightmare project again.  If your full time job is one nightmare after another, it’s time to move on.  Figure out your exit plan.  Fire your trouble clients.  Get away from the boss you hate. Don’t get away from one situation just to end up in a similar situation elsewhere.

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

How do you bridge the gap between creativity and business?

We asked in our recent survey, how can you fill the gap between creativity and business?  When I try and come up with my own answer to this question, I look at my work as an editorial designer.  I’m the kind of person who tries to push boundaries and try to make something as close to art as I can get in a commercial environment. The business side takes over when it comes to selling my concepts and convincing others that people will “get it”. That’s the thing a lot of people don’t get about design. Not only does it take technical skill (knowing how to use programs and understanding design and color theory), but there’s a huge sales aspect to the most successful designers.  It doesn’t matter how artistically successful your work is if no one will buy into it. You have to convince people to be on your side and practically get them out there, selling for you.

Take a look at the responses from our panel and chime in with your own advice and experiences.  If you’d like to be featured in a future blog post and share your advice, take our latest questionnaire.

  • “You bridge the gap by learning about and doing as much as possible in both aspects.”

    Tearra Marie (@AhorashiiKagome) is an inspiring singer/song writer, actress, and novelist who blogs daily her writings and struggles in the music and publishing world at AhorashiiKagome.livejournal.com

  • “Unfortunately, mortgage companies don’t accept stock options as payment. So designing interfaces that convert (into paying customers) is *the* most important thing to keep in mind.”

    Paul Singh (@paulsingh) is an entrepreneur and advisor to startups doing interesting stuff. He blogs at www.resultsjunkies.com/blog

  • “You have to be serious about the business side first. Otherwise, there will be no creative opportunities. Running your own business, you will realize you are more of a business owner than a designer, as you will begin to have more in common with business owners than with designers. This is good, since having your clients as colleagues is very beneficial.”

    Lisa C. Jackson (lisajackson.biz) is owner of a Company Identity Solopreneurship, Lisa Jackson Design, and helps small local businesses to succeed.

If you like this post, you might also want to check out the previous post in this series “What advice would you give to someone just starting out in a creative field?” And don’t forget to let us know how you’ve found a balance between your business and creative sides in the comments.

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

How To Make Your Own Christmas Lights

Drill

Christmas costs can rack up without the extra financial expenditures associated with both indoor and outdoor decoration. One aspect of decoration that oozes with holiday spirit is adorning the house, trees, shrubs and bushes with glimmering Christmas lights, giving the home a glowing and comfortable ambiance. Though traditional Christmas lights bring a brilliant appearance to a home, there are several homemade versions of lights that can separate homes from the pack, differing from more typical appearances lining the neighborhood streets.

One method of dressing up holiday lights is by adding your own special touch. A small clear plastic cup drilled to offer room for a small light to peek through offers a different spin on Christmas lights, offering brilliant displays that can be strung on patio areas as well as within the home. The finished balls of lights can be dangled from almost any safe location in the home or outdoor spaces for a dramatic look that can’t be achieved for such a long cost with one’s own tow hands. Pride ensuing provides an even more beautiful and glimmering appearance from homemade Christmas lights.

Necessary Supplies

(50) 9 ounce plastic cups
(2) Strings of mini Christmas lights (50 count each string)
electric drill
3/8 drill bit

Instructions

With care, each clear plastic cup should be drilled with additional cups available in case one cracks during drilling. After drilling each cup, line 12 of them up side by side, laying on the longest ends of the cups on their sides into the shape of a circle (not sitting up like a cup would). The cups will look almost wreath shaped with the top of the cup pointing outwards. After stapling to hold them into place, place two of the mini lights into each cup. The next layer of cups will consist of only nine counts, arranged just as the base layer was. After that level is arranged, it should be placed on the base and fastened with staples (or soldered). Fix two lights into the cups as previously done. The remaining four cups will be layered differently, fastened to the other cups to create a more 3D appearance rather than merely laying them flat on top.

After the cups are stapled together creating the desired shape, they should then be filled with two lights per cup, being careful during insertion to prevent cracking. The finished ball shape can be hung outside like outdoor ornaments or hung inside for tasteful decor that doesn’t break the bank.

Other Uses and Options

Though it may be more convenient for some to use a drill to make holes in the bottom of the plastic cups that will eventually transform into a Christmas shaped ball, it may be easier for others to use a soldering tool to solder through the bottom of the cup and create a hole for the lights to protrude.

While the ball shaped Christmas lights created above exude feelings of dangling ornaments, lit within the home or yard to create extra feelings of holidays and Christmas, using the same idea, different decor can be created. Cups can be stapled into the shape of a wreath or star for different shapes and decoration. Additionally, different colors of lights can create a different feel, corresponding with other decorations lighting up one’s yard or living room. A theme tree sparkling in front of a living room tree can gain pizzazz from a similarly colored homemade Christmas light ball. Different shaped cups, such as a fluted design can offer a different look and more delicate feel to the design, creating a different shape altogether. Arranging several completed balls together can create a bouquet feel, offering an array of colors and sizes if desired.

This is a guest post by Mark who has been blogging for 5 years.  He currently contributes to one various topics such as savings and ways to utilize qr code generation.

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