A Designer’s Practice — Exercises to Enhance your Creativity
Design is about making decisions — a series of many small decisions that make up a whole picture, product, service, or platform. To excel as a designer, one must have discernment as to what is aesthetically, symbolically, and functionally pleasing to the user. Depending on what is being designed, all of these characteristics can come into play at any given time. A great designer has their own perspective, but realizes that this perspective isn’t always what is best for the user of their product.
For a good designer to bring themselves out of their perspective into someone else’s requires an open mind and an extraordinary amount of empathy. This is why design is such a difficult thing to teach. Many times, it’s something that is inherently ingrained in some people more than others — an inner knowing and connection to all that is. Or at the very least, the ability to connect with another person and understand their struggle.
As human beings, we are all technically designers. We all have the ability to empathize and we all order things in our lives in some way, shape, or form. The difference between good and bad design is awareness, attention to details, and what value the design provides for anyone who is participating in the final product.
Awareness and mindfulness are things that can be taught and can become a part of a daily practice. Not only will this help you tremendously as a person, but will enable you to become the best designer you can be. Having the ability to clear your mind and visualize an outcome is one of the first steps when designing something of value. Getting feedback from your inner and outer worlds and synthesizing this feedback into your product is the path to success.
Below are some exercises that I practice daily as part of a morning or evening routine.
- Be Silent
Whether it be a meditation routine, or just taking a break here and there to go sit in a park and get away from the noise of life, not only will help to de-stress, but also with getting a new perspective on a problem or decision that needs to be made.
One thing I like to do as a morning routine, is sit outside on my back patio in silence. I close my eyes, and try to pick out all the sounds I hear in detail. The wind brushing through the trees, a bird chirping, maybe even try to recognize the type of bird making the sound, a train rolling by. Try to figure out the speed. You’ll be surprised as to how much is actually going on in the world, even when you’re perfectly silent. The problem then seems like one of the details of a part of the working whole. I am better able to see how it fits in with everything else surrounding it when I get away from it and gain perspective.
I found this exercise cleans the clutter out of my brain and helps me look at my work with fresh eyes.
- Draw What You See
Another part of my routine is sitting outside on my patio with my sketchbook and drawing a plant, or my dog, or my bird feeder, or I’ll go to a park and draw people. Drawing from life helps sharpen your observational skills and hones drawing skills, which an essential skill to have and maintain as a designer.
- Visualize Potentials — Give Yourself a Prompt
I have my own little flavor of guided meditation. I give myself a prompt, close my eyes, and try to visualize what is happening. Not only do I do this regularly with where I want to be in the future, but I give myself random questions just for fun — like if I were homeless, how would I live? Or if I lived on the moon, what would that be like? Then I meditate, and just try to visualize how it would feel and get all the details. What does my home look like? What does my daily routine look like? What am I eating? I’ll then write it all down in a journal or draw a picture of it. This is a great exercise for not only to increase my ability to visualize but to strengthen my empathy.
If you feel like you can’t think of a prompt or that’s it’s just not for you, you can also find some great guided meditations on YouTube, Spotify, or Audible.
- Write in a journal
There’s tons of resources out there on different ways to journal. But I found for me, just free-writing first thing in the morning before work or before I go to bed works best. I write everything down I am thinking about without judgement. At the end of the day, it might look like the diary of a mad woman, but it clears my mind and helps me prepare for the day or get ready for sleep.
I also typically use my journal as a ‘catch-all’ for my visualizations, ideas, words of wisdom, or anything I want to remember. The important thing is to get it out of your head however which way you choose, so your thoughts don’t haunt you later on.
All of this mixed with a good, healthy breakfast and a cup of coffee and I’m ready to tackle the day.
I love learning about other people’s morning routines. Do you do anything in your daily routine to become a better creative? Let me know in the comments.