Creative Workbook: Design

Your office, studio, or shower aren’t the only places creative genius strikes. In-transit moments between points A and B allow for a particular kind of reality suspension; a place where every flash of landscape out the window is tangible inspiration, where being “locked” into a seat for hours at a time leads us to a place of inevitable daydreaming.

For designers, this time can be the poignant crux between iterations, a moment to reconsider medium, audience, and element. To free your imagination at 30,000 feet, we’ve developed a list of questions and activities that encourage creative thinking. Jot your answers down in a notebook, or copy them to your notes on your mobile device and use this uninterrupted time to reflect on your creative endeavors. Take inspiration from what works, leave the rest. Skip what doesn’t resonate. Revisit as needed—and check in with it again on your return.

photo by Andrew Neel

photo by Pedro Nogueira, PNG Design

"In-transit moments between points A and B allow for a particular kind of reality suspension."

Quick warm-up exercises:

1. Take two minutes to keenly observe the space immediately surrounding you. How does the space function? What is working? What are its design flaws?

2. Think of the last thing you ate—list its qualities and selling points. How would you describe it to a complete stranger?

3. What are the first five words you think of in relation to your destination? What about your destination is inspiring? What do you plan to take back with you?

photo by Christin Hume

"This time can be the poignant crux between iterations, a moment to reconsider medium, audience, and element."

The design deep-dive:

  1. 1. Your subconscious is packed with images and concepts yet to be unlocked. When do you find that these ideas come to the forefront? What are you doing when they arrive? Where are you?
  2. 2. Where do you most seek inspiration in other sources (art, film, fashion, history, architecture, etc.). Which resonates most with you? Why?
  3. 3. Think back to your most recent work within the last six or 12 months. Is there a particular process you always follow when getting started or wrapping up? A mutual starting point or inspiration reference? Someone you seek out for clarity? If so, what or who? Why?
  4. 4. Pick a design cue at random (texture, color, contrast, scale, etc.) and list 15 examples of it that you have observed and admired from any source: film, print, social media, advertising, architecture. What do they have in common? Which stand out as the best? Why?
  5. 5. Architectural structures are a rich source of visual inspiration and many buildings are based on a grid structure. Consider how division of space, building structure and perspective lines can impact your work.
  6. 6. Organic shapes, lush flora, and magnified images from nature can serve as excellent springboards when considering scale, shape, contrast, and structure. In fact, the Crystal Palace in London, UK was based on the ribs of a lily leaf. Consider the patterns of a butterfly wing, repetition of fish scales, or the transformative quality of a caterpillar. How can your work incorporate this inspiration?
  7. 7. Man-made industrial objects, from the balanced design of Palomino’s Blackwing pencils to the timeless quality of an Eames Lounge Chair, are the result of skillful craftsmanship and solid design principles. Consider how a design object you admire can influence your work.
  8. 8. Consider the continuity of your work. If you had to suddenly turn your current project into a series, what would that look like? What theme would emerge?
  9. 9. Choose three alternate mediums for your next project. Examine the constants across each. What transfers regardless of medium? What is lost?
  10. 10. Imagine there is no audience for your next project—that you have sole sign-off on concept and execution. How would the parameters change? What blue-sky ideas (or elements of) could you take to your team or client?
  11. photo by Easton Oliver

    Written by Kim Budziak