3 Surefire Ways to Feed Your Creativity

Have you ever seen a baleen whale breach the surface of the ocean? The name “baleen” may not be familiar, but the image of a humpback whale emerging from a sea of poorly designed inspirational posters on the walls of corporate America may jog your memory.

The breathtaking humpback and its cousin, the blue whale, are members of a subgroup of toothless, mustachioed behemoths known as baleen whales; baleen is a hairy filter-feeding system found in the oral cavity of these mammals. This particular species of whale spends its time navigating the salty waters of the world with its hairy mouth stretched wide open filtering microscopic, swarming schools of nourishment from the sea.

feed your creativitySorry for the Animal Planet-esque references, but as an in-house manager, I believe there’s a valuable lesson to be learned from baleen whales in their search for sustenance.

Ask yourself this question: How do you feed your creative belly?

There aren’t many jobs where one must merge both the practical and creative sides of the brain to produce solutions to propel major corporate initiatives toward success. As you are well aware, corporate roadblocks abound, which can make for a whole lot of strategic and creative pressure!

Finding creative inspiration, and then creating something out of nothing in the murky waters of business is a daily requirement for most corporate in-house teams. It’s incredibly important that individual contributors of these teams maintain a high level of mental agility and creative buoyancy.

If you’ve ever sat at your desk reading the umpteenth email request or reviewed yet another brief and felt completely drained of ideas, well, you’re not alone. I’d like to suggest that you begin cultivating a healthier, creative life outside the office, one that will also sustain you when you need it most in the office. Take some time off during the week, or set time aside on the weekend devoted to solely reviving your creativity.

One of my favorite visual artists, Romare Bearden, said it best, “The artist has to be something like a whale swimming with his mouth wide open, absorbing everything until he has what he really needs.”

Determine how much time is required for you to refuel. Whether it’s an hour, a day or an entire vacation week, do only those activities that inspire and energize your artistic sensibilities. Pursue a long put-off passion project on Monday; begin a hands-on woodworking project on Tuesday; take in a movie (or film your own) on Wednesday; choose a theme and spend the day photographing it on Thursday; scour a junkyard for forgotten treasures to refurbish on Friday; volunteer with a charity such as Habitat for Humanity on Saturday; or simply read a thought-provoking book on Sunday.

When I’ve recently needed to find creative inspiration, the following three books have not only quenched my artistic thirsts but also ignited a fire in my belly with their imaginative exercises:


Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
by David Sherwin
I learned about this book after taking a workshop led by the author at my first HOW Design Live Conference. I particularly enjoyed the exercise “Execution: Sixty-Second Deadline.” I used it as a design charrette prior to a gigantic brainstorming session for an important integrated campaign. It was a perfect new-team icebreaker that got everyone warmed up ­­– and the creative juices flowing.

Creative Stuff: An Activity Book for Visual Thinkers
by Dave Gouveia and Chris Elkerton
I had great fun completing many of the activities, but especially liked pretending to be Johannes Gutenberg by creating moveable type carved out of Idaho potatoes purchased from my grocer.

D30: Exercises for Designers
by Jim Krause
There are 30 days of awesome creative inspiration in this little red book of idea-enhancing exercises. “Junk Drawer Printmaking” will open your mind and get you playing like a kid again. We’re all guilty of stuffing odd-shaped trinkets, forgotten mementos and ephemera collected over the course of our careers into various drawers. I refreshed those old memories by creating new, artsy ones with this exercise.

Whatever ways you decide to feed your creative belly, whether it’s diving into an inspiring book or making a typeface out of potatoes, make like a baleen whale and swim with your mouth wide open.



HOW Design LiveGet even more inspiration at the In-House Management Conference at HOW Design Live 2014. Be sure to register today (February 11 deadline) to save $300.