As a designer, one of the most frustrating phases that I occasionally go through is feeling like I’m stuck in a design rut. You might also know the feeling, everything you do starts looking the same, the same color palettes, font choices, even compositions begin repeating themselves. Even worse, the blank page – which for most designers is a playground of creativity – begins mocking you, daring you to try something new without looking amateurish or stale.
To be fair, the design process I go through typically protects me from this cycle most of the time. I had a professor in college who repeatedly challenged us during our critiques. “If you can’t defend it, if you can’t explain your choices, don’t bring it in here….and ‘it looks good’ is not a defense!” That phrase (thanks Professor Rose!) helped lay the foundation for my own design principles, which is if it doesn’t mean anything, if it doesn’t relate to the information you’re trying to communicate, it doesn’t become part of the design. Although staying focused on the best way to deliver information to the viewer helps most of the time, there’s no getting around those occasional creative doldrums.
I was reminded of this recently as I was asked to officiate a wedding (don’t ask…LONG story). Since I was performing the ceremony, my wife was left with my three daughters (young daughters might I add) which left absolutely nobody to take pictures. Well…almost nobody. My oldest daughter was 5, and fairly advanced for a 5 year old. Figuring something was better than nothing; my wife gave her that camera and had her shoot away.
The result astounded me. Not because Morgan took great pictures of the wedding…she didn’t. No, what really caused me to do a double-take is the totally different perspective that came through in Morgan’s set of pictures. I was presented with the wedding through the eyes of my five year old, and realized that she had a very different take on the evening than I did. Not only that, she managed to catch some things and some textures that I know I’ll use in future designs; things that I didn’t think a five year old was capable of focusing on and capturing. This led me directly to the point that I’m making in this post: When we feel like we’re in a rut, one of the best ways to lead ourselves out of it is by changing our perspective. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes or looking at your assignment through the eyes of another can really help you find a solution that’s outside of your normal, comfortable old bag of tricks.
So in celebration of Morgan I present you with a few of her images from that evening…un-retouched and in their original glory. Look closely, you’ll see some textures and objects that will undoubtedly show up in a few of my future designs…
Well, there you have it, just a few examples of Morgan’s unique perspective. Occasionally taking a fresh look at things from a different angle can steer us in directions we might otherwise have missed. For example, the Featured Article banner image was made from several of Morgan’s files, can you spot them?
So hey, if you’re really stuck…hand your camera to a five year old and get out of the way…
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