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  • Lacking creativity, leave the field?

    Sorry for the novel, but here it goes

    So this issue has been plaguing me for a while-- I REALLY struggle with coming up with creative graphic design ideas. Now, I know creative block is a common problem that people have from time to time but I feel like I suffer from it more often than not. I'm currently a graphic design student and I'm technically a junior, but I'm just in a pre-graphic/general design program that I'm required to take to apply to the graphic design program. I'm in the pre-design program because I transferred here from another school with a much weaker program (so it'll take me a total of six years to actually get my degree...woohoo!) At my previous school I took graphic design 1 as well as typography and I felt like I was just struggling my way through with pretty uninteresting ideas (there was also very little instruction or critique from this school.)

    I suppose my overarching question is does it get easier to get ideas flowing as one studies graphic design more? I know good ideas don't just appear out of nowhere and I also realize that a lot of people reference ideas from design inspiration websites, but I feel like there's a very thin line between inspiration and copying. I think graphic design is really interesting and I feel confident that I know what works and what doesn't when I see a design, but I struggle so much when it comes to creating my own work. When I do make something that works it's really exciting but usually I stare at the screen frustrated. I've been running myself into the ground wondering if I need to leave design to pursue something more finite (and boring) that will put bread on the table or if I should try to stick it out and hope the creativity comes.

    On a side note, is graphic design a versatile degree? I'm also getting a minor in advertising and hoping that if a career of actually designing doesn't work out I can use my GD major and advertising minor to get into the marketing side of things.

    Any input is appreciated
    Thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by Traeto View Post
    I suppose my overarching question is does it get easier to get ideas flowing as one studies graphic design more? I know good ideas don't just appear out of nowhere and I also realize that a lot of people reference ideas from design inspiration websites, but I feel like there's a very thin line between inspiration and copying.
    You've asked a question that countless other design students have asked themselves, and the short answer is "Yes, it does get easier."

    The kind of creativity necessary for graphic design isn't magic, and it doesn't just pop out of a vacuum and into people's heads. You've reached the point in your studies where you realize what good design isn't and you've gotten a good idea of what it is. Unfortunately, your limited experience doesn't give you a wealth of information to draw from when creating your own work.

    Copying is generally bad, but in all honesty, few things are truly original. Most all good, creative ideas originate from the insights gained through experience. In other words, a novel solution to a design problem might appear totally original, but in reality, it's the amalgamation of hundreds or thousands of good ideas that have been seen, internalized, torn apart, reinterpreted and reassembled by the designer to solve the problem at hand.

    For the past 30 years, I've analyzed every new sign I've seen, every brochure I've come across, every new website I visit and every bit of corporate branding that crosses my path. It's become part of who I am, but you're just getting your feet wet, so it still feels a little alien and uncomfortable. You're a student, and it's supposed to be hard. You're just learning, and you're not expected to be an expert -- yet. It will happen. Not all at once, but it will get easier as you move ahead.

    As for combining a graphic design major with an advertising minor, yes, it's a good combination. It will make you more marketable, and it will also help orient your thinking to the fact that graphic design is a profession of solving practical problems (usually of a marketing, advertising and communication nature) and not just about making cool, award-winning stuff (although that part's sort of nice too ).
    Last edited by B; 04-07-2014, 08:44 PM. Reason: Typo

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    • #3
      Too often, new designers take the first idea or one of the first 5 ideas that pops into their head. That's not design.

      What inspires you? How do you brainstorm? You should be able to come up with 50 concepts for every logo right of the bat. Write or sketch the idea down, move on to the next idea. When you are done, review the ideas, rework some of the best into concepts that you might be able to work with.

      The hard part isn't coming up with ideas. The hard part is curating and editing ideas into something useable.

      Research is important, but research things slightly outside of your problem to get inspiration.

      For example if you were doing a logo for a baby food company, you shouldn't just research other baby food brands. Also research adult food, restaurants, baby products, baby animals, children's books, playgrounds, music for children, farms.

      There may be a thin line between inspiration and copying, but that thin line is red and in RED it is very strong.

      There are many jobs within graphic design and jobs you might not may never even need to design a logo. As for if it will translate well to marketing, yes, it can. But I wouldn't go into the field hoping for failure.
      It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Buda View Post
        Research is important, but research things slightly outside of your problem to get inspiration.
        This is a really big and important step, and out of the design process, probably THE most important. You really need to know what you are dealing with when it comes to making a logo or any other piece for someone, and the best way to help you out is to research lots of examples to see what is out there currently, and what works. You don't need to stick to what everything looks like, but it is a good guideline to watch.

        When I get bored sometimes and want to explore and get inspired I go to sites like Behance where you can see what kind of work people are making. There are tons of websites out there, and books, lots of good books.

        Try to make a folder dedicated to design with many different websites, blogs, articles, etc. on all aspects of design (software, trends, ebooks/books, really good portfolios and websites, etc.).

        I am just a 2nd year student at the moment, but I'm still quite confident that my advice will help you out at least a little.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Traeto View Post
          usually I stare at the screen frustrated.
          Theres your problem ^

          Get away from the screen, use a tools without presets like pencils and paper, it's already been said, but research is EVERYTHING, it's easily 90% of the work with new clients. It's virtually impossible to design something that works if you don't know anything about what you are designing it for or how the piece will be utilized. Truly design is for people who can't stop learning.
          Design is not decoration.

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          • #6
            Is it something you're excited about doing for the next 20 years? If the answer is yes, see above, if not then that's your answer.

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            • #7
              This book http://www.amazon.com/Zig-Zag-Surpri...ywords=zig+zag was helpful to me. Finding creativity isn't something you're born with (surprise!) but something that requires work. There's a number of concepts that will help you become more creative, for me it was realizing that creativity is a result of coming up with lots and lots of ideas. Einstein didn't write one paper, he wrote hundreds, it turns out, and a few turned out to be really good ideas. Same with graphic design. If you come up with lots of ideas one of them is bound to be creative.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by salsa View Post
                This book http://www.amazon.com/Zig-Zag-Surpri...ywords=zig+zag was helpful to me. Finding creativity isn't something you're born with (surprise!) but something that requires work. There's a number of concepts that will help you become more creative, for me it was realizing that creativity is a result of coming up with lots and lots of ideas. Einstein didn't write one paper, he wrote hundreds, it turns out, and a few turned out to be really good ideas. Same with graphic design. If you come up with lots of ideas one of them is bound to be creative.
                I took a look at the book (Ok why do I sound like Dr. Seuss with that sentence...) I realized it is definitely something to get, and I added it to my wishlist of design related books that I have going so far which has probably about 10 or so books in it at the moment. Usually I look at a mixture of the ratings by users, which is really good. I also consider price obviously, and this is a somewhat lengthy book and hardcover for like $20. I flipped through a few pages and it seems like a really good buy, thanks for your input.

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                • #9
                  I think what really helps me (which can partly come from the fact that I'm web design) is taking a look at the problem the design is trying to solve. Very rarely in my experience is a design just a piece of art to have out there. It's trying to solve a problem such as how to make a company stand out from other companies, how to convey the values they want expressed (i.e. trustworthiness, luxury, passion, organization, creativity). And I take their problem and try to find out as much as I can about the problem and tinker about with solutions until I find some ideas that fit. It may be drawing many many logos until I have 10 I like and then working the 10 down to 1 by refining them or creating a web site and changing everything on it (saving previous versions as a reference) until it looks like a solid solution and going back and seeing if there is a better way to solve the problem. It doesn't feel so much like trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat that is creativity. It feels more like a puzzle. And I love puzzles.

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                  • #10
                    I joined this forum to ask this question - it's surprising that i'm not the only one who faces this issue, and i've reserved the Zig Zag book at my local library! Hopefully I can get over my creative block soon.

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                    • #11
                      Hi Adrddr and welcome to GDF.

                      We ask all new members to read very important links here and here. These explain the rules, how the forum runs and a few inside jokes. No, you haven't done anything wrong, we ask every new member to read them. Your first few posts will be moderated, so don't panic if they don't show up immediately. Enjoy your stay.
                      Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.

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                      • #12
                        Because I'm a mean, nasty SOB I have to point out that design is not for everyone. There is a certain amount of talent that has to be present plus a lot of knowing how to think and learn independently. If you aren't always curious, if you aren't savvy about doing research, if you don't have the resources to be inspired, then design work will always be just that. Work.

                        The internet is a boon to the graphic designer. Think about how much more work you would have to do if you couldn't just type something on your keyboard and have a world of knowledge appear on your screen in seconds. Researching for design has never, ever been easier.

                        Graphic design isn't about art. A lot of students go into GD because they think they are good at Art. Graphic Design is about communicating. It's about dealing with people. It's about knowing why people think the way they think and do the things they do. It's about learning about your client, but more importantly learning about your clients' clients. It is often the case where a client may not even know their own clients. You see it here often with a designer bemoaning a client that wants blue puppies in their logo when they are selling death metal hair extensions.
                        If you don't have the drive to see projects through, provide solutions that work, and strive to increase your clients' bottom lines then maybe design isn't for you.

                        There are alternatives to design but still staying in the field.
                        I hate dealing face to face with people. I can talk to them on the phone all day though.
                        And because I can be a mean, nasty SOB, I realized early on that I was not going to make it in the presentation/sell arena of design and make any good money at it. I do production work instead. Anyone who has ever met a pressman knows what I'm talking about re: temperment. Meanwhile the designers get to deal with the clients. I get to deal with the designers. Works for me. Most days.

                        Still, I probably spend about 4 hours a week just keeping up on the industry methods and materials through trade journals and such and the software/hardware/rip/output equation is a constantly changing monster of a headache that constantly requires my attention. You can never be lazy and you can never stop learning.
                        Last edited by PrintDriver; 07-11-2015, 10:38 AM.

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