Breaking Bad (Habits)

breaking bad“Paradoxically, it is true that your brain will develop habit patterns and decide what’s good and bad in the art that you’re making. And as your brain is making those decisions you will not find the letter ‘o’ in the alphabet; you may end up sticking around ‘b’ and never get past it because you did not want something peculiar to happen.”

This quote by the pianist Keith Jarrett basically explains our fear of the unknown and how the suffocating and pedestrian life of routine can lead to bad habits that will eventually suck the life out of us all. Jarrett has made a career out of taking risks and became a wunderkind of the jazz world with his legendary concerts of improvised solo piano music. Like an artist with a blank canvas, he would walk on stage and begin to play without any preconceived ideas — composing music in real time and creating a unique experience for himself and the listener.

So how do we eliminate bad habits, especially those at work. How do we get to the letter “o” if we’re still hovering around “b”? If you’re a member of an in-house creative team, you may be plagued by repetitive work projects that are paralyzing and limit your ability to stretch and experiment with new ideas. If so, here are a few suggestions that have worked for my team and me over the years.

Swap Team
Often a designer will take ownership of a particular project type because it provides a certain level of comfort. But over time this can lead to uninspired work because the designer is no longer challenged. Try moving projects around the room to give your designers the opportunity to spend time on project types that may be unfamiliar. This will get them out of their comfort zone and hopefully inspire them to try something new.

In Your Own Backyard
Encourage your team to work on initiatives that will help to enhance your department’s profile – a website, open house, promotional campaign, capability brochure or overall marketing strategy. Projects like these not only help the department but build morale by giving colleagues the opportunity to have an invested interested and contribute to the department’s success.

Go Pro Bono
Does your department take on any pro-bono work? If not, contact your Public Affairs department and find out how you can become involved in supporting local and national organizations such as the March of Dimes, Salvation Army or the United Way. This will give you and your team an opportunity to open up a new box of crayons and be a bit more adventurous. And doing good makes you feel good, too!

Side Orders
A good way to keep your design skills in shape is by working on side projects during off hours — a CD package for your friend’s band, a menu for a restaurant that you frequent, a website for a local non-profit or a promotional kit for your Chamber of Commerce.

Tag Team
Tag-team design can provide a break from the routine and be a lot of fun as well. For example, let’s say you have a newsletter that needs to be designed. Have one of your designers set up the infrastructure, layout and grid, and then pass it off to another designer to choose and layout the type. Don’t stop now. Keep things moving, and pass it off to yet another designer to develop the color palette, then to another to determine if the imagery should be photographic or illustrative. Well, you get the idea.

Take it Personal
Personal requests (event flyers, wedding invites, birthday posters) can provide a break from the routine and give your designers permission to have fun, experiment and draw outside the lines. Remember to avoid anything that may be considered offensive, illegal, immoral, suspicious or pornographic, or just in bad taste.

Don’t be limited by your job description. Always welcome new responsibilities and expand your role whenever possible. Joining cross-functional teams and interacting with different departments and business units can provide you with a deeper understanding of your organization’s business, goals and vision enhancing your business acumen.


inHOWsemanagersconferencecollection2013 InHOWse Managers Conference Collection
You’ll be ready to tackle in-house specific issues with this collection of exceptional presentations from the 2013 InHOWse Managers Conference. Learn new strategies and techniques for managing an in-house team, workflow and more. With nearly 14 hours of professional advice, you’ll discover plenty of new ideas!