Here We Go Again

I haven't written a blog post here in years. Four and a half, to be exact, which is right around the time I stopped freelancing and started working on Baron Fig.

Originally this site was intended to be a way for me to get new clients. Hence posts like "On Choosing a Designer" and "The Design Process." Once I moved on there wasn't much of a reason to update. 

Now I find myself in a completely different place in my life: Baron Fig has a full team and serves over 60 countries, I live in Hell's Kitchen NYC with my fiancée, and my days aren't solely filled with design anymore, to name a few. Despite the changes, one thing has stayed constant: Writing.

Since my college days I've been committed to a daily habit structure to make sure I put my energy in the right place. Over time my focus has changed—I don't Draw daily like I used to, for example—but Writing has never left my short list. Different projects have allowed me to write on a daily basis, mostly Baron Fig, but often journaling, poetry, and even the occasional short story. Now I'm going to give a shot at maintaining a regular blog, inspired by my conversations with fellow designer, Khoi Vinh.

The Hypothetical New Focus

Yeah, I know—it sounds like I'm already hedging my bet, calling it "Hypothetical" right off the bat. Does that mean I'll drop off after a few posts? Or does it mean that I'll change subject matter and never look back? Hell if I know. 

Here's what I'm going to attempt to do: 

First, I'm going to aim for one post a week. Short, long, whatever—I just want to publish something in the beginning. If there's anything I've learned about habits, it's that when forming one it's far more important that I show up rather than make a masterpiece.

Second, I'm going to write about Creativity, Productivity, Design, and Culture. The rule of three says I have one keyword too many, and it's probably correct. Right off the bat "Culture" lets me share the things I enjoy, like movies, video games, and books. That leaves the other three to battle it out. I'm not a "Designer's designer," but I am a designer, so it seems like Design should stay. I could go on, but you get the point. Only time will tell.

If you want to read my posts as they come, subscribe to stay updated. I won't spam. Hell, I might not even make it past this post. 

📝

The Design Process

Every project has different goals and expectations, yet the process by which a designer gets the job done is nearly always the same. It can be boiled down to four fundamental steps: Absorb, Explore, Refine, Define.

Absorb

Design is more than the literal sitting down and creating of images. Before that can happen the designer has to understand what he’s working towards. He has to understand the client’s business, clearly formulate who the target audience is, and clearly grasp the project itself. This includes researching appropriate fields to provide himself with sufficient ancillary knowledge (e.g. designing a propeller company identity benefits from knowledge of flight, propellers, aerodynamics, wind, and so on).

  • Value: Research
  • Result: Full understanding of the client’s goals and the project; attain appropriate project-related knowledge.

Explore

Information has been assimilated, now it’s time to begin applying it. The Explore stage concerns the shaping of ideas. It’s the part that varies wildly from project to project; the designer walks down a new path each time, not knowing where it leads or at what point it will bear fruit—ample time is required to truly benefit. (As cliché as it sounds, creativity cannot be rushed.) The goal for the step is to have project concepts to present for discussion.

  • Value: Conceptualizing
  • Result: Clear, appropriate, and effective ideas for the project; sketches to illustrate one or more ideas.

Refine

At this point the designer has one or more ideas and now it’s time for you, the client, to enter the discussion. The designer begins this stage by presenting the results of his Exploration. He explains his reasoning for the choices he’s made and together you Refine the ideas into a chosen direction for the final stage of the design process.

  • Value: Deciding
  • Result: Unified direction that is well thought out; appropriately expresses the project goals; appeals to the correct audience.

Define

The final step is akin to sharpening a pencil to a fine point. The ideas have been labored on, discussions between you and the designer have taken place—now it’s time to take all of that work and hone in on the final solution. This stage is set in motion based on the direct feedback from the previous one. After all is said and done, your final product is design of value that is unique to your endeavor.

  • Value: Finalizing
  • Result: A final product that is intelligent and interesting—which accurately expresses the client’s intentions and appeals to the correct audience.

The Artist's Mistress

Creativity is the artist's mistress: a thing to be loved, missed, and forever inciting inner debate as to whether or not she will show her beautiful face once more. 

The Infatuation

Creating is a passionate experience: the mind and body meld, then fade away. What's left, the creation, is the residue of the spirit in the moment. Nothing matters save the task at hand when the artist is with his Mistress; he's not connected to her, but is her, dropping from his own consciousness and fully connecting with the present. Fire and ice tussle in her presence; one moment the artist boils with anger, disgust, excitement; the next moment he's frozen in fear, anticipation, and even failure. 

The love of the Mistress doesn't last forever, however. Eventually the artist comes down from his passionate high and finds himself sitting on a mushroom of serendipity in a forest of fog. The moment is no longer as beautiful as the past—time is back to normal in its foreign irregularity. The Mistress has disappeared, but not without leaving a token of her love: art.

Gripschesoteque

Coming down from this high, the artist must come to terms with what's happened to him. His Mistress has come, art has been created, time has warped—and then it’s over. He looks at what's been done and already feels a disappointed detachment. Fear creeps through his cheeks, into his eyes, takes captive his soul: Will he ever see her again? Will his muse, the creative spirit, visit him once more? 

Time will tell, but forcing her to return won't satiate his yearning—her inspiration only rears it's rose-colored head when she comes of her own accord. The artist must invite her back by leaving the door open. Patience becomes the virtue of choice, the means by which creativity is coaxed through the threshold, into the thinkspace of the mind.

Fear, the Fickle, Fiendish Friend

If creativity is the artist's Mistress, then fear is his guide. Fear shows him where he needs to go next, the place of pure challenge, an area where failure hangs from every tree like leaves of antithesis. It's in this place, from the ever-climbing mindset of Sisyphus, that the artist becomes consciously connected to the present. 

Some artists shirk the things they fear, some attack. If an artist wants to see his Mistress once again, he must attack his insecurities and work at what he finds most difficult. Without perpetually pushing boundaries there can be no newness, no creativity—no Mistress. Fear is the bull-faced guide who reveals the challenges and, thus, the direction with which the artist must head for growth. 

Requited Love

When the present, the Now, is valued, when all other thoughts and worries fall behind, when the challenge is accepted, the artist creates. It may happen gradually, it may happen suddenly, but if the artist can calm his spirit the Mistress will make her return, powerfully and with resolution. She is the charge before the gun shot; the contraction before the explosion; the decision before the execution.

The artist will always yearn for her passion, chase her shadow, call out her name in tumult. There is nothing to do but love her and set her free—and hope she comes back.