Creativity is a fugitive to ownership. It is located in the brain supra 'fuzzy' center and we are invited to travel, poke and dwell on its edges. Welcome to the unrelated edges of creativity.
Being on the edge is better off than being 'left field' if you get my drift. Based on this metaphor I prepared a short list of what to seek for and steer from in order to tap and grab a piece of creativityland.
Intangible. Just the name itself makes a lot of people queasy and don't we know, how an uncomfortable a term, a place, to be this is for clients, bosses and number crunchers. They would rather all steer clear off and usually most, do. But us, as designers, we need to set up camp right in its midst.
The mind works wonderfully in that area. But fuzzy is not a 'tasker'. Nah, you need to become an imagination wanderer. Anything attempted to do a 'hard' focus and the elusive fuzzy idea wanders off nowhere to be found.
So set the cruise to no defined space. In the next new world - it's GPS (Global Positioning Systems) that will drive cars. In our world, it's the fuzziness a.k.a. the state of unclear picture (yet) that drives us to creativity.
How does one wander? Certainly not by sitting by waiting for 'it' to happen. You need to drift away… in milliseconds if need be!
Was there a design that you've long longed to start? Then get going. Was there a book that you just wish you had time to read? Read some. Do you need to catch up with your mail or have a lunch with a friend? Or cleaning up your desk or do laundry? Do it!
Impatience is the absolute enemy. So beware.
Practicing objectivity, from experience, works 100% of time. For example, I have this assignment don't know where to begin. I know where I gotta end - no clue as to how to get there. I got this fuzzy picture but feel completely unsure of its worth.
Ah! Voilà! Perfect time to let my intuition run wild BUT having someone to soundboard 'it' with. You need a good listener that will ask the right question. When I'm asked the right question - the wandering stops dead in tracks and it's amazing to watch the tumbling over of thoughts that I was not even aware were so fully 'formed'. Pay attention to indifference and turned off signals from the listener. If these arise… ciao you need to go do some more fuzzy wanderings.
If there is interest - perhaps even more questions - start taking notes NOW because something is definitely happening. The 'threading' of the concept emerges; I call it the back burner activity. Unknowingly, you were already playing with loose ends that the question forces to fetch from what you have read and seen recently to what your talent and experience have stored in memory.
If you are alone - you need to discipline your mind to answer the client / project objectives with the same kind of overflowing spontaneity. Creativity is part intangible fuzzy unstructured leading to rational logic structuring.
No structure no tangible results!
You can help the 'back burner' activity by playing. One of my colleague after we had an intense brain storming session will disappear, charged with seeding ideas and chill and recollect himself. Then he always comes up with stuff to show. Every time I ask him: "What are you doing?" invariably his reply is: "I'm (just) playing". His attitude is telling: by 'playing' it implies that he does not try to deliver something - or force a design onto one of those ideas - or nailing 'it'.
I realized that I do exactly the same. Different ways. But I will do completely unrelated stuff just to get my mind 'off it' for a little time. I have learned through experience that most of my best ideas and concepts form in the 'backstage' or the 'back burning' space of my mind.
So give yourself some space to play TODAY.
Start right when you go in fuzzy wanderings. Through in bits and pieces (logo, color, forms, pictures, graphic, illos, fonts) whatever you like, together in a .psd file. Organize each bit in its own layer - best its own directory. And start playing. Don't try to SOLVE anything. Just have fun and engross yourself with what you like to do most. Also, don't judge the results and set neither limits nor restrictions.
Any interesting idea or flow or direction you see? Make a new directory or save a new copy numbered so you know which iteration is the last 'best' you liked - make a lot of different layers - don't throw anything out.
Don't use too much layer masking because these prevents exploration. Accept to do the different filter and blending options permanently to each layer - don't stack these - what I do is identify each with a shortcut of filter or command I have used.
When coaching the most repetitive comments I make are:
"Stop being trigger happy" (doing things too quickly - sometimes a great idea will come from a 'mistake' or how the copied layer lands. Take time to look and assess slowly. Think fast act slow. 'Have you made a new layer or directory (if many layers are linked or related) before making a new command?' and lastly 'Have you saved?'. Someone once told me that they save work every couple of hours - well if you haven't crash and lost work - I guess its hard to appreciate this. Keep in mind time is of the essence… and redoing 3 hours worth of work to be the same… is at best, impossible.
The emerging mock up should be the basis to scrutinize the intangible and if, that played up mock up is a corollary of the objectivity (sounding board) process… you are actually threading a concept.
For myself, once the concept, which btw is NOT a single idea but the assemblage of many that are hinged together logically. Simply it makes sense. Meaning there is something directing the mind to see the logic behind. Voilà! You have reached the Eureka moment. Once the structure is identified, it's almost down to filling the blanks, like a colleague said recently.
The 'thread' is conductive to staging the intangible into the tangible. Once you have this tenuous line that you see weaving itself, you can say the story. You can articulate the concept. It becomes a storyboard. A storyboard can be ported across many media which ever is required by the project or client's brief.
When you arrive to this stage you are in fact entering 'production'. Production per se is the rendering stage. When intangible (concept) becomes tangible. Keep in mind that each media has constraints which command refinements and adaptation (forget about cookie-cutter design solutions that are more decoration than problem solving) but having nailed 'it' expect creativity to be flowing.
Since creativity seems to require the capacity to risk all to encompass 'it' and get to the new and uncharted then maybe 'cutting edge' is not so much about WHAT we design but moreso cultivating BEING on the cutting edge.