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How Designers Can Save the World

I’ve just been catching up on my feeds and came across this inspiring post from Ben at Noisy Decent Graphics. I was going to put it in the next Creative Links but it’s so good I thought I’d point it out to you now.

A Design Brief

It’s easy to think of design as an aesthetic discipline – Ben points out it can be much more than that. But amid all the preaching and pontificating, it probably takes a designer to remind us that saving the world can also be smart and cool.

Thomas Heatherwick Podcast Interview – RSA Website

The Ingenious Thomas Heatherwick has been one of the most popular posts on this blog. So I thought you’d like to know about this Thomas Heatherwick podcast interview on the RSA website. (It’s at the bottom of the page.)

For anyone who hasn’t heard about Heatherwick’s versatile design talents, you’re in for a mind-boggling treat. My original Heatherwick post was my reaction on seeing the stunning BBC documentary about his work. The drawback of the podcast is that you obviously can’t see his amazing designs for everything from handbags to skyscrapers, but he’s charming and fascinating to listen to. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, visit the Heatherwick Studio website.

By the way sorry things have been a bit quiet round here recently – I’ve been working hard on some writing projects ‘behind the scenes’, some of which will see the light of day here, some sooner, some later. Watch this space…

Less Is More

Small but perfectly-formed thanks to Tim Siedell for introducing me to A Brief Message – a new blog about graphic design.

Less is more

A Brief Message features design opinions expressed in short form. Somewhere between critiques and manifestos, between wordy and skimpy, Brief Messages are viewpoints on design in the real world. They’re pithy, provocative and short 200 words or less.

With contributors of the calibre of Steven Heller, the blog looks a seriously good investment of time for anyone involved in design. Personally I’m fascinated by the literary challenge inherent in the word limit. As a fan of haiku master Basho, I love seeing what writers can do in a small space.

Well, there it is. I won’t witter on about it.

Neil Tortorella Talks About ‘Business of Design Online’

Chris Ritke at 49 Sparks has recorded an interesting interview with Neil Tortorella, one of the founders of Business of Design Online. Neil talks about how the idea evolved for a site dedicated to helping designers master the business of running a design studio, as well as the people involved and plans for the site’s future.

BoDo logo

As a guest author on BoDo I’m pleased to hear about the buzz being generated by the site, and Chris and Neil do a great job of outlining what it’s all about. BoDo and the interview are worth checking out even if you’re not a designer – the business skills they cover are relevant to most creative professionals.

Introducing: Business of Design Online

Here’s a new site that should be of interest to any creative professional looking to balance creative enthusiasm with business know-how: Business of Design Online. Created by Cat Wentworth of Designers Who Blog fame and her colleagues Neil Tortorella and Jay Wickham, it looks set to be a fabulous resource.
Here’s the lowdown:

BoDo blogs about the business of design including: starting your own design business (online or off); marketing; dealing with clients; working with printers, photographers, copywriters and other surrounding industries; pretty much anything to help a design business grow.

I’m delighted to say I will be a visiting author on the site, writing about creative coaching and the ‘people dimension’ of running a design business. If you look at the range and level of expertise amongst the other visiting authors, you’ll see why I’m so pleased to be included in their number.

BoDo is a brilliant idea – given the range of skills that are required to run a design studio or freelance design practice (or come to think of it, any creative enterprise), it makes perfect sense to gather together a set of resources and authors who are focused on helping designers deal with the business of design and get on with the business of designing.

But a brilliant idea is nothing without execution – I know Cat and the team have put a huge amount of work into the project over the past few months, which is why I’m so pleased to see it up and running this morning, and eager to recommend it to you.

Have a look for yourself – don’t worry if you’re not a designer, I’m not and I’m sure I’ll learn plenty from the site.

See you there…

Creative Links – 16 February 2007

Introducing the new, slimmed-down, weekly(ish) version of Creative Links

Hats off to A Consuming Experience for bringing to my attention a series of podcasts of business advice for artists and creatives, produced by the Enterprise Centre for the Creative Arts in London. They include How to Handle Clients and Commissions, How to Make a Name for Yourself and the irresistibly-titled How to Cook the Books.

I’m going to try to resist including Noisy Decent Graphics in every creative links post – basically you should read the whole thing if you’ve got any interest in design, creativity or the business of running a studio. But I’ll just draw your attention to Cruel to be kind? about how to give feedback on terrible creative work – plenty of good suggestions in the comments. And a thought-provoking series about Sustainability in graphic design, where lots of questions are asked and we learn that “wedes don’t really have complicated messages that need to be communicated across several territories”.

The same goes for Creating Passionate Users and Russell Davies – both consistently excellent, so I won’t post every week, just remember that Quantity equals quality and whatever you do Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company.

I had the pleasure of coffee with Johnnie Moore yesterday – as engaging and inspiring in person as he is on his blog, which is hardly surprising from someone who has written 117 posts about authenticity. He writes about an eclectic mix of interesting things, including More Media and Less Stuff?, Alphabet and Goddess and The Popcorn of Therapy.

Bestseller Interviews has a collection of links entitled How to Conquer Writer’s Block – The Ultimate Guide. I know what you’re thinking – “How can it be the ultimate guide if it doesn’t include Mark’s 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block?” – but it’s a fantastic collection so let’s not split hairs.

And if you’ve ever wondered How TV shows get made, TV Grouting reveals all.

That’s all folks, have nice weekends. I’ve got a fascinating weekend ahead of me – will tell you about it next week.

Creative Links – January

OK I might have made a mistake by promising to do Creative Links on a monthly basis – there are simply too many good creativity posts. Or maybe it’s like buying a new car – as soon as you decide on the model you want, you see it everywhere. In the interests of keeping up and keeping things fresh I’ll have a go at doing Creative Links weekly from now on. But first here’s the edited highlights of what I found in January, sorted into categories to keep it manageable.

Where do ideas come from?
Scamp takes issue with a piece of research that claims Where Ideas Come From is other people. Beeker claims it’s ethical to Steal Well, and Faris, true to his motto that Talent Imitates, Genius Steals, Couldn’t Resist the joys of plagiarism. Neither could I – here’s the picture he doubtless nicked from someone else:


If you’re looking for a balanced view, Doc Searls weighs up the pros and cons of disclosing your ideas vs keeping them secret in his post 10 Ideas About Ideas (via Creative Generalist); while Brian Lee advocates a middle way between plagiarism and the pressure to be original, reminding us that Creativity Is A Communal Act.

Tortured Artists
It may just be wishful thinking but I don’t see why artists shouldn’t enjoy themselves (and their work) as much as anyone else. I’m glad to learn that at least Douglas Eby agrees with me, in this great post on Pain and Suffering and the Artist.

Creative Partners
The subject of torture brings us neatly to relationships. Scamp continued his excellent series of Tips for Creatives with Finding the Right Partner and How to Have a Good Relationship with Your Partner – useful advice interlarded with (for me) flashbacks to my days as a couples therapist.

As a fan of creative synaesthesia and inter-disciplinary creativity I was pleased to see Mark Hancock catch the synaesthesia bug when he ventured out of the advertising world and spent time with videogame creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Noisy Decent Graphics did a brilliant piece on What I see when I listen and Russell played around with Electroplankton, which looks a bit like an online, affordable version of the Reactable.

Creative Flow
Speaking of altered states of consciousness, Steve Pavlina wrote a great description of My Experience of Creativity, prompting my inner Creativity Trainspotter to tick off Csikszentmihalyi’s Nine Elements of Creative Flow – can you spot them all? Steve followed up that post with 7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creativity.

Adliterate hosted a cracking debate on the question Is Blogging Killing Planning? I’m not a planner so I’m not qualified to answer the question, but reading through the comments on that post and judging from the general quality of blogs in the plannersphere, I have to say planning is doing wonders for blogging.

Creative Collaboration
Staying with planning for a moment, John Grant argues the case for Planning as Mediation – between the (potentially conflicting) interests of the client, creatives and customer. Simon Darwell-Taylor bemoans the lack of inter-disciplinary communication in ‘the typical ad agency’, as opposed to the more collaborative approach of TV production. Yet the grass is always greener – Richard Wilson has started a wonderfully dour blog called TV Grouting, where he says:

TV and the internet don’t seem to me to be natural partners. The internet is based on the principle of sharing information and ideas and making everything cheaper. TV is about owning and jealously guarding ideas and extracting as much money as possible from them

He contrasts this sad state of affairs with the world of advertising, where planners like Russell are ‘willing to share their ideas ‘with any number of people who might be prepared to nick them’. (As if they would…)

So what can we conclude about creative collaboration?

  • Creative people need to share to be creative
  • Creative people get scared of sharing because someone might steal their creativity
  • Creative people sometimes need someone around to get them to share a bit more
  • Creative sharing looks terrific fun from a distance, it’s a bit messier close up.

For the pitfalls of creative collaboration, see Kathy Sierra’s brilliant The Dumbness of Crowds.

Creative Think
It’s almost impossible to single out individual pieces by Roger von Oech, they are all so consistently and variously creative, you might as well pick some at random – which is exactly what you can do if you click his picture on the Creative Think homepage. A couple of blog posts that stood out for me in January were Set A Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices, countering the received wisdom that creativity is all about freedom from constraints; and his invocation of the God Janus to usher in the New Year by thinking something different.

Enterprising Blogging
Hugh McLeod knows a fair bit about blogging and being an entrepreneur, his random thoughts on the subjects are more memorable than most people’s considered musings.


Making a Living as an Artist
The online opportunities for creative producers can be bewildering – Jonathan Bailey clarifies the strategic options available in an excellent post on The New Content Economy.

Delve into the voluminous archives of Liz Strauss’ blogs and you’ll see she’s no stranger to Unblanking the blank screen so it’s worth listening to what she’s got to say about it. She’s got loads more great posts on writing, but 10 Ways to Start a Blog Post should keep you going for a while.

For What Not to Write, look at Claudinho’s post about 20 Words Most Used in Press Conferences. ‘Best of breed’ anyone?

And just when you’re relieved that the words are finally starting to flow, up pops killjoy Brian Clark to tell you Why Creativity Can Kill Your Copy. Brian’s a master of the headline that draws you in – admit it, you’re itching to know what’s so bad about creativity, aren’t you?

Wishful Thinking Featured on ‘Designers Who Blog’

A big thank you to Cat Wentworth for featuring Wishful Thinking on Designers Who Blog today. She’s even gone to the trouble of creating a Wishful Thinking banner for the feature, which I’m proudly displaying here.


Designers Who Blog does what it says on the tin:

DWB features blogs discussing graphic design, web design, illustration, marketing, photography, branding, writing and advertising.

As a non-designer I’m particularly pleased to have made the cut. DWB has an excellent – and very extensive – selection of blogs. If you’re involved in any of the above industries I’d say it’s a must-read and must-subscribe. It was an instant addition to my blogroll and feed reader.

As well as the featured blogs, there are some great articles on DWB. At the moment there’s a New Year’s Resolution series, Learn to Write, which includes some good practical tips as well as thoughts on Why Designers Should be Writers.

Although I only ‘met’ Cat this week when she proposed the feature, I’ve been very impressed with her already – not only is she very passionate about what she does, she’s already been very helpful, offering suggestions and site recommendations on an almost daily basis.

Cat’s other projects include Creative Latitude, “a worldwide community that unites various creative disciplines for collective promotion, education and ethical business practice”, and NO!SPEC, a site on a mission “to educate the public about speculative, or ‘spec’ work” (i.e. designers being asked to produce work with no guarantee of payment) on the basis that “that spec work devalues the potential of design and ultimately does a disservice to the client”.

I don’t know how she finds the time for it all, but judging from the buzz on her sites there are lots of people who are glad she does. Including me.

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Creative Links – December

I’m going to make Creative Links a monthly feature, highlighting posts about creativity and related matters that are inspiring, interesting, useful or preferably all three.

Here’s what I found in December:

Procrastination is a classic way to block creativity, so if that’s your Achilles heel, read Kathy Sierra’s Creativity on Speed, on the excellent Creating Passionate Users.

One of the best ways to be truly creative–breakthrough creative–is to be forced to go fast. Really, really, really fast. From the brain’s perspective, it makes sense that extreme speed can unlock creativity. When forced to come up with something under extreme time constraints, we’re forced to rely on the more intuitive, subconscious parts of our brain. The time pressure can help suppress the logical/rational/critical parts of your brain.

Kathy Sierra’s trailer is one of the creative workspaces featured in Alexander Kjerulf’s gorgeously-illustrated list of 10 Seeeeeriously Cool Workplaces. Other featured offices include Pixar, Mindlab in Copenhagen, Volkswagen in Dresden, and of course the Googleplex.

It was great to get a Christmas present from Design Observer when they linked to my enthusiasm post in their ‘Observed’ column. I can’t imagine them getting quite so excited about a link back from me, but Michael McDonough’s Top Ten Things They Never Taught Me in Design School is worth reading (even if you didn’t miss out on the top 10 by not going to design school). The list includes ‘Talent is one-third of the success equation’, ’95 percent of any creative profession is shit work’ and ‘When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance’.

Staying with the business of design, Graphic Define has a good list of questions for aspiring designer/entrepreneurs – ‘Are You Ready to Open Your Own Design Studio?’.

Thanks to Three Minds @ Organic for pointing me to the New York Times’ Year In Ideas Issue, covering the ‘serious and silly’ ideas of 2006, such as ‘The Comb that Listens’, ‘Empty-Stomach Intelligence’ and ‘Wine that Ages Instantly’. Three Minds also introduced me to the delightful Samorost Interactive Adventure (Not Safe for Anyone with Lots to Do).

Scamp is writing a great series of Tips for Young Creatives. No.4 was Pretend You’re Two Blokes in the Pub and try to convince your mate of the value of the product you’re working on:

It strips away all the marketing bullshit, and can lead to something simple and honest.

I’ve been using a similar technique for ages, to get writers (including myself) unblocked and strip away the ‘literary bullshit’, so it’s good to see it applied to advertising. Other tips in the series – 1. Don’t Over-Polish, 2. Choosing an Agency, 3. Play Family Fortunes, 5. Dickett’s Finger, 6. Use Never-Seen-Before-Footage and 7. How to Approach Agencies. Hopefully there will be plenty more in 2007.

Apart from being essential reading for anyone with a presentation to give, Presentation Zen provide plenty of general creative inspiration offers inspiration like this end-of-year post on The Need for Solitude in the creative process.

Finally, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is one of the most consistently useful blogs on the web – if you write a business blog, website or e-book you’re probably reading him already, but if not you can’t afford to miss The Best of Copyblogger.

That’s it for December – I’ll post January’s creative links early in February.

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Creative Links

There are some excellent creative blogs out there – here are a few recent posts that have chimed in with my creative interests.

Whistle Through Your Comb

A new discovery this week, via Russell’s post of the month. Having blogged about creative environments, I thoroughly enjoyed The Perfect Office – which is emphatically not the kind of creative showroom where ‘the architecture is meant to communicate to the onlooker, “we’re highly creative.”‘:

I think an agency should not look at its office as a place: it should look at it as a tool. In other words, agencies should not create architecture that communicates creativity. They should create architecture that generates creativity.

Among the suggestions for a truly creative office are “No headphones… ever” – the author evidently agrees with the Creative Review blog that iPods Can Seriously Damage Your Creativity.

Noisy Decent Graphics

Great post on what it’s like to be a graphic designer – The Design Disease. Subjectivity rules on Wishful Thinking – I’m always fascinated to glimpse the world of someone who works in a different creative field, and this gives an good idea of what it’s like to be thrilled by arrows and tormented by shocking kerning. I draw the line at choosing a book by its cover though.

Cookin’ Relaxin’

Another new find, with an ingenious analysis of ways to consume Time based media such as music and radio programmes. With creative synaesthesia fresh in my mind, I’m intrigued by the visual representations of radio shows – and it’s worth reading to the end for the fractal bit.

Logic + Emotion

David Armano has put together a nice end-of-year e-book in the words of his readers:

2006: The year of…
PC (Power Consumer)
Business + Design

Download page: 2006 in your words