How do you improve your creativity?

creativity

Question background

As a designer, “how did you come up with the idea?” is a frequently asked question. If the person who posed the question happened to be a designer, then the question would become something like “how do you improve your creativity?”

Answer

I can not agree more with Steve Job’s famous quote: “Creativity is just connecting things.” The Eureka! moment is actually the moment the connection between a random thing and the design is developed. Sometimes, I knew exactly what people, objects or events inspired me. Sometimes, I can’t tell the exact root but I’m sure it comes from a combination of experiences internalized in me.

Therefore, improving creativity, in my opinion, is synonymous with increasing the chance to make that connection happen. Some people might contribute this ability to designers’ gift, but I think everyone has that gift and can do something to strengthen it. The following are four steps I took and found effective, which builds up one after another:

1. Explore

Inspirations come from everywhere. It’s a no brainer. For life in general, go traveling, learn new skills, talk with different people….For design specifically, check out dribbble, Behance, deviantArt…For ideas specifically, go to Medium, FastCompany, TED…I guarantee these things are already enough to fill all your free time.

2. Feel

Only to explore is not enough, because aimless browsing wouldn’t leave anything but the mental burnout. You got to stop and feel. What I meant by feel is to take time and dig deeper on things you relate to. For example, after an enjoyable movie, think about what you like and dislike about it? Which scene leave the deepest impression? Any quotes you remember? What would you do differently if you were the director? Perhaps check some reviews to see what other people think. Be introspective. Don’t settle for the transient entertainment and stimulation.

3. Collect

Only to feel is not enough, because we are forgetful. We might have strong feeling at the moment, but the feeling goes away quickly over time and new experiences wipe out the old ones. Therefore, it is paramount to collect things. In other words, to systematically and habitually create your “inspiration pool” that you can always reach when you get stuck. Personally, I found Pinterest do this trick pretty well, which I used almost daily. Every time I got a new assignment, instead of starting from scratch, I already have a pool of things I found inspiring and appealing. By quickly skimming through it, it’s really easy to spark new thoughts on the topic I’m working on.

4. Produce

Only to collect is not enough, because the connection won’t be made until you actually produce something. Creativity does require regular usage or it gets rusty. As the best-selling author, Srinivas Rao, said in his article: “If I was willing to produce enough garbage, I would come with just enough gold.” You got to produce a lot. In the process, you would naturally develop necessary techniques, tips and the design sense that you can apply next time.

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