5 steps for building your design muscle

Monday, February 25, 2008

grey is the new blonde inspiration board

As some of you who have worked with me or have read this blog for a while know, my take on creating inspiration boards is a little different than most. Many people use photos from weddings that have already happened to pull together a look, which is fine, as those boards serve a certain purpose. However, using photos from previous weddings results in weddings that look like . . . well . . . like they have been done before. As a professional who is hired to design stylish weddings that are different and unique, this method just doesn't work for me.

The board above, entitled Grey is the New Blonde, is still one of my favorites that I've created simply because I am moved creatively each time I see it. I love the different shades of grey (which is picking up steam as a hot wedding color and will continue to be for about another year and a half) and the combination of textures. The board - inspired by the first photo, found on the Sartorialist - lets me imagine a handful of different event scenarios and doesn't lock me into elements that have been done in the past.

Perhaps, though, this board does absolutely nothing for you. Zip, zilch, nada. That is the power of art and why it is so important, I feel, to put together boards that evoke emotion and creativity in you. So how do you find inspiration? Well that is easy. And not so easy. All at the same time.

The easy: Inspiration can be found anywhere - from a flower growing against a chain-link fence surrounding a construction site, to the way light filters through a stained-glass window, to the classic standards such as the fashion runways in Milan and art museums. Original inspiration really is all around you!

The not-so-easy: While inspiration surrounds you all the time, the key is training your eye to look for it. If you're an event designer working in the wedding industry, this is crucial. If brides wanted their weddings to look like someone else's they could easily design that themselves. They are paying you to make their wedding special and different, so being on top of your game is more important than ever before. Training your eye and your artistic gene includes an action verb: training. Action, by definition, involves work and this is no exception. The good news is that, like a muscle, the more you exercise creativity, the stronger it grows.

Here are some exercises that may help you boost your creative eye and start to see artistic vision in the most unlikeliest of places:

1) Write. Every day is best but a minimum of four times a week should get those synapses firing. It doesn't need to be published on a public blog: it can be done on a private blog, a word document, or even emails you send to yourself. Sometimes journaling with pen and paper allows for a different flow of thoughts, so if you find yourself stuck on the computer, try switching to the classic version. Writing forces you to put into words what you see, think, or feel. Carry a small notebook in your purse or keep one in your car and jot down ideas as they come to you. Even if the creativity you want to grow is not writing-related the process of getting those thoughts out of your head and on to paper unleashes all sorts of other creative ideas.

2) Create inspiration boards for events that don't include any photos of previous events. This can be difficult at first, so if you are used to creating boards with a lot of wedding photos, scale back in small steps. Set a goal to create a board with 9 photos, but only three can be event-related. Then two, then one, then zero.

If you do this second option, feel free to add them to the Wedding and Event Inspiration Board group we've created on Flickr. Include photo credits and links as available.

3) Creativity breeds creativity, so give it away. I'm not telling you to undervalue or undercharge your services. You have mouths to feed and fashionable shoes to buy. What I do mean though is that creativity is a renewable resource, and the more you share, the more ideas you will come up with. If you have a completely awesome, never-before-seen concept, then implement it at your client's event and blog about it afterwards. There's no rule that says you have to share the idea the minute it pops into your head. Plus, by blogging your ideas you are going on record as the one who had the idea first. There's no use going through life bitter and upset at people who had a similar concept or who tweaked your idea to fit their purposes. Be a trendsetter and relish in the fact that your ideas are worth being copied.

4) Keep a point and shoot camera in your purse or car and take snapshots of people, places or things that inspire you visually, evoke emotion or generate an idea. I am personally horrible at this one as I always forget to take pictures of things. I've made using my camera more frequently a goal on my 101 in 1001 list so that I can be more intentional about making this a habit.

A way to make this one more applicable to exercising your wedding design ability is to take your camera and set out on a Project Runway challenge from seasons past. Take pictures of whatever - graffiti, pebbles in the gutter, etc - and then use your favorite photo to create a wedding inspiration board. Post those boards up in the Flickr group too!

5) Pick up a copy of Thinkertoys, stat! Do not pass go, do not collect $200. This book needs to be in your collection and its cover needs to become well worn from use. Thinkertoys is hands down one of the best for getting your brain to start thinking outside of the box on a consistent basis. It's a workbook that asserts you can be a creative person, even if you've never thought of yourself that way, and the exercises in it force you to think about and see things differently than you are used to.

Becoming consistently creative and a go-to source for original ideas is a discipline, but as with most things that require discipline, the rewards are huge and the journey is never finished.

What are some of your methods for building creativity? Share them in the comments section!

{originally posted on January 30, 2008}

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