Ideas don’t fall from the sky out of nowhere into the brain of creatives. Instead, creative ideas are always in some form a reinterpretation of existing things being seen or experienced consciously or subconsciously.
‘Punk is not dead’ for example became a very ironic punchline when it comes to fashion trends as it has probably reappeared on runways every other half decade since it was born. But, how can we consciously make use of the ‘inspirational ballgame’ and control when we are at our creative best?
Let me share with you my top 5 insights!
1. Documentation is key
Your personal inspirational triggers should be deliberately utilized. You constantly stumble over them in the daily flood of information and it’s your responsibility to make them available when urgently needed.
I’m an adidas designer working in corporate communication, currently on a rotation program at the adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm in New York where I get the chance to work with a team of creative superpowers from various design fields.
Commuting to work by foot through New York every day means by the time I’ve arrived I have passed at least one freshly painted Mural, an avant-garde fashion Ninja and not too unlikely a guy who takes his iguana for a walk on a leash.
If you’re an illustration person, make a quick drawing in your sketchbook. If you’re more the photography-infused designer like me, make use of your phone, your all-time-available camera. It’s for your personal reference only, so no-one needs to sign a release contract here.
2. Save and organize your inspirations
On your iPhone you can mark your best snaps or screenshots with a heart to save them in your favorites or collect them in an album so you find them when needed. You can do these unpopular image-sorting obligations when bridging time and waiting in the supermarket queue for example.
And: in case you’re not lucky enough to walk through Brooklyn every morning but sit on the train and swipe your Instagram instead – mark all inspiring posts with the little flag on the right and thereby save them in your ‘collection’. Create sub-albums in your collection to organize your inspiration into topics.
Same goes for findings you stumble over when working at the computer: create folders for your inspirational findings, named by topics, like ‘portraits’ or ‘graphic design’. If you’re an editor, it can also be a folder called ‘quotes’ where you collect screenshots of good copy you find reading your daily dose of blog browsing. Collect everything specific to your needs.
Save these folders in your favorites to make them easily accessible. Honestly, it is a bit of extra work, but cultivate a habit out of it and trust me: after a bit of time this will become your magical inspirational trigger repertoire when you have a creative block hindering you.
TAKE A DEEP DIVE INTO OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREATIVITY
Creativity requires focus, passion and above all, practice- take it from those who know.Unleash your inner creator
3. Get to know your inner clock
The early bird catches the worm. But: ever thought of the night owl getting the big steak? For some reason society has decided that working days should start at 9am at the latest and successful managers need to work out before 6am to live up to their top performer standards.
There might be people who luckily tick this box but for me personally mornings have always been a torture rather than a pleasure (although chirping birds are genuinely a nice thing, don’t get me wrong).
After years of feeling guilty being the last one sneaking into the office I finally accepted that I cannot force my biological clock to change. If I want to have an overall happier life I have to simply accept this fact and live according to it. I am better doing sports at night, and also working creatively at night when the world around me seems to be less distracting and I can get into my zone more easily.
Observe yourself and find out at which time of the day you are usually at your creative best. Make your schedule work around it. A good manager will not judge you by being 9-to-5 in the office, rather by delivering good quality work that meets the deadline. Of course, you shouldn’t disrespect meeting hours and be unpunctual, but luckily an employer like adidas allows you to have a flexible schedule and offers the possibility of mobile working and home office.
4. Deadlines might get your creative juices flowing
By viewing your inner clock as your ‘tool’ trust yourself when it comes to being creative under time pressure. Are you most efficient at spluttering ideas and concepts when the deadline is around the corner and there’s not much time left to think (but adrenaline is rushing through your veins)? Or do you panic, unable to get a thought straight with the deadline looming?
There’s not a tailored approach for everyone, it’s all about knowing your own patterns and behaviors and consciously utilizing them.
In our team at the Brooklyn Creator Farm a great game we play in our creative sessions is the ‘10 seconds sketch’ to consciously trigger creative output for new sneaker silhouettes under time pressure. 10 seconds to sketch a shoe? At first it seems impossible. But it makes you go with your very first emotional impulse (which is often the best!) and don’t overthink the challenge. The outcomes are so much more unexpected and playful, especially when you call out a theme for each sketch (‘astronaut sneaker’, ‘Stone Age sneaker’ etc.).
5. When in doubt, go for a run
This is not breaking news: sport and exercise help your mind to focus. But running is definitely one of my all-time classic amplifiers when it comes to creativity. It will bring your ideation process into new swing. It’s almost magical, but once I start moving – be it on the treadmill after work or conquering the real ground with a night run in the city – not only my mood rises but also new ideas start igniting in my brain, even unintentionally.
Running brings me into my zone, I take the time to listen to my favorite playlist and unplug from the never silent WhatsApp group chats stressors (I put my phone on flight mode). Especially in a city like New York running can be an inspirational experience on its own, taking into account the different neighborhoods you can pass within only a few kilometers and street art you can see everywhere here in Brooklyn.