The creative process can be mysterious. Unlike processes in other fields, creative inspiration and innovation can’t be plotted out on a flow chart to guarantee success. What do creatives do to stay sharp, successful and at the top of their game? What lies ahead for the design industry? And what are the top concerns of creative professionals? The Creative Group and AIGA sought to find out.
Creative Professionals Tell All in The Creative Group’s New Survey
TCG and AIGA polled more than 750 creative professionals for its annual Creative Team of the Future program. Read on to learn how they get inspired, do great work and remain relevant.
Finding Fresh Perspective
Staring at the same monitor for hours is a sure-fire creativity killer. That’s why innovators constantly seek new visual and auditory stimuli. Fortunately, inspiration can be found almost anywhere. For example, one creative professional we surveyed is influenced by the typography of street signs. Another works for an agency with “Inspiration Days” – trips to museums and tours of artisans’ studios. Many designers get some of their best ideas from simply being out in nature and alone with their thoughts. If you can’t escape the office, take a short break to feed your brain by browsing images on Pinterest, Behance, Instagram or Dribbble. Or listen to some tunes because as one respondent mentioned, “Music makes you imagine.” Networking is also an important part of innovation. When you participate in discussions, it spurs new ideas of your own. Look for local meetups of creative professionals to share ideas about industry trends, processes and workflows. Design conferences can also shake you out of a slump and re-energize your work. Sure, to be good at something, you have to keep at it. But if you’re trying to stave off creative stagnation, don’t think about work for a while. For a fresh perspective, one respondent wrote, “I remove myself from all things related to my field.” Take a pottery class or try writing a short story. Learn a foreign language and travel. Read science fiction, fantasy and biographies. Go hiking, surfing or sea kayaking. Join the maker movement.
Adding a Human Touch
Design work is increasingly reliant on technology – for good and for bad. Most of our work would be impossible without computer hardware and software, and new media may be the main focus of your job. But an overreliance on digital design can make your projects seem cold, sterile and unwelcoming. To get a good balance, go a little old school. Incorporate DIY photography, hand lettering or analog animation into your work. Some respondents told us they look to the past – antique shops, old magazines, historic buildings – for creative inspiration. People love the human angle – storylines that are unique but relatable, and images of real people versus models. It’s one reason why more than 9 million people follow the Humans of New York Facebook page. Another reality is the ever-shrinking attention span. So cut the fluff and boil it down. As Scott Kirkwood, editor in chief at National Parks magazine, says, “The more succinct you are, the more likely you are to get someone’s attention.”
Fretting About the Future
What keeps creative professionals up at night? Meeting deadlines and client demands, for sure. But staying up to date with new trends and technology is a growing concern. In fact, nearly all (94 percent) respondents said they are worried about keeping their skills marketable as the industry changes. In addition, half of the creative professionals we surveyed rated their company’s training resources as fair or poor. They’re right to be concerned. With the constant innovation in advertising, mobile marketing, and design and presentation applications, it’s tough to keep up, and easy to be left behind.
What sets the creative team of the future apart from the ones stuck in the past? Forward-looking creatives make seeking inspiration an integral part of their professional and personal lives. They are masters of new technology, yet are able to incorporate that oh-so-important human element. And they understand that what they know today is not enough for tomorrow; staying relevant means being on a constant learning curve.
For additional tips on sharpening your creativity, download The Creative Group’s new report, Innovation in the House: Creativity Lessons From Five Top In-House Creative Teams, and visit and subscribe to the TCG Blog. Staying ahead of the creative curve means staying on top of your web design skills. Patrick McNeil’s new Intro to UX Design course will immerse you into the world of user experience. If you’re looking to get started with user research, usability testing and the fundamentals of solid interface design, this is the place to start.