Processing design and creative thinking.

We have just been given a new brief, and we start the process of designing again.

As a process, design is one I’m passionate about, the fact that we are on a journey throughout excites me, but, it can be a funny thing really. The nervous feeling of getting a new brief, and the million questions which go through our minds as we start to decipher how the work could be produced. Quite a lot of the time we can jump to conclusions of what the outcome could be, and often we have to strip it back to basics to start the process. There is only so much our minds can take, when given what can seem like an impossible task. We could give design a load of tick boxes, and hoops to jump through when getting the brief; it makes a lot of sense to do so, often design is about simplicity from the outset and not over thinking the process.  The only real tick box there should be is; the deadline and whether the work is completed or not. The process for me usually starts with research, of what could inspire me, what I could potentially produce and looking at styles and treatments of a design. This can be both a help and a hinderance, as we look to improve our own work there. Is a chance we feel that the work we find is too good for us to fathom, and make us creatively inadequate.



There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. The notion, that a picture can hold a thousand words, this is similar to a design, as we can encapsulate and explain enough for someone to buy a product or to get to the right place on the map. As designers we are in the asked to compose something and that could be a thousand words or do we have to make sure we don’t confuse the message?

Designers, have to ensure that what they produce has some purpose and that they reach the right audience. The ‘words’ may all be there but, the clarity and the ability to show a clear way of thinking and not get them muddled on insignificant details which we think look pretty. A lot of the time that helps, if the work we have produced is something the viewer admires then that will draw them in from the start. It will work on a cognitive level for the viewer, the fact when a statement is being proposed in front of us. There are other things at work with regards to having the right elements, such as the semiotics of the typeface, the colour and the composition etc.  These are all there to point the viewer into a certain mind set. If it feels right, then why is there any need to question it. Examples of this are, in road signage, designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir, the fact we never question what we see everyday as we drive around our respective towns and cities in the UK. They seem to just feel right to the everyday user of them. We can often slip into designing for designers and not the everyday user of design.

Design can often be a conversation, even though we are the sole person who is creating the work, asking others what they think of the design can improve the work. It can remove the pointless elements, which just don’t help with the message. I find when designing, asking people both with a creative mind and those who would possibly be the recipient of the design as to see whether it works.

Creativity as a whole can make us go into lots of different ways of thinking. It can take us on tangents we do not expect, as I found when researching for the ‘Place’ project. I was looking in to wet floor signs and how the figure looks on them. Here is what I mean by a tangent.

Slippery when wet or SAS

Slippery when wet or Have you called the SAS?

It made sense at the time, as my mind felt creative and I could see the ideas in while researching.  The process can often be unkind as well, as it might be a hard place as we look to communicate the concept. It may just be that we hit the proverbial brick wall. The stress levels of any designer when they get to the point of deadline can rocket and the often we need that to feel like we are on the top of our game or it can break us as we see others maybe further on in the project.

I personally find the process one of the most rewarding, I have a particular appreciation of where it can take you. Through the research, to the development of what seems like the smallest of ideas to  the final printed piece.

As we start this new brief and think back to the way the design process has maybe treated us in previous projects, as the mind skips and jumps from the multiple places it might take us but here is too another journey over the next four weeks.

©  2014 Matt Finch. All rights reserved.


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