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Creative Inspiration: The Power of Thinking Differently

Jonny Elwyn

Be inspired by these creatives!  Boost your own creativity and productivity by thinking differently.

The point of this post is hopefully to inspire you to not only think differently, but act differently and in acting differently create better work. I’ve pulled together a few of my most recent inspiring finds (in the hope that they’ll inspire you as much as they have me) to think, act and do differently…more creatively and more productively. The original inspiration for this post came from a story I read about the design simplicity for a juice box in Japan:

Thinking differently

Design Thinking

“Rule of thumb: if you think something is clever and sophisticated beware-it is probably self-indulgence.” – Donald A Norman.

The first point of inspiration is that of simplicity. In good design, the form and the function are rolled into one seamless, attractive entity. There are no extraneous parts, flourishes or bit and bobs. This banana juice box just looks like a banana-juice-box. It’s pretty perfect. Any extra writing or labels or information would kill the striking simplicity of the design. Its not confusing in anyway.

Good design lets the user get straight to using the your product, service or software without reading the manual or asking for help. Apple are famous for their good design and for very good reason:

In The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A Norman (which is one of 5 books for creatives that everyone should read) he points out that by simplifying design we can clearly communicate to the user what they need to do to use a product.

As a film editor this call for simplicity makes me think that I can add all the flashy graphics, cool looking color grade and sound effects I want, but if the story in its simplest form doesn’t work, the rest doesn’t matter. Less is still more. What would it look like to strip what you create, down to its simplest form?

Re-Thinking Thinking

Re-thinking Thinking

I was reading recently about the process of adapting to living in New York that a post production guy was going through, after moving to the US office of one of my favorite London production companies. Having to downsize dramatically not only required thinking simply but also creatively. For a flavor of what I mean, check out this intensely creative use of 420 square feet of New York real-estate:

So often I find myself thinking that I need more stuff – tools, plugins, gadgets and gizmos to get more work done. But really I just need to make the most of what I already have with some thoughtful, creative re-thinking. By re-thinking I mean forcing myself to look at what I do in a whole new light. How can I make small tweaks to what I do day to day that would make me much more productive and creative?

Templates and presets spring to mind as my video editing equivalent of fold-away furniture. Sure it might only take me a few minutes a couple of times a day to throw something through a compression program to make a client’s email-sized video file. But that’s still exporting the master file, opening Compressor, setting the parameters, hitting submit, opening the batch monitor and waiting for the file, finding the file and copying it to the Dropbox folder (or uploading via WeTransfer), copying the public link and pasting that into an email.

So I’ve made myself an automator solution that does it all for me.  All I have to hit is ‘export’ and walk away. Sometime later I’ll get an email that I can then easily forward to my client. If building that kind of thing sounds too complex then a simple droplet on your desktop could do away with half of your work in one move.

Taking the time to re-think what you do is the most valuable time you can spend. Find the things you do regularly and see if you can think of a better way of doing them, streamlining your processes. It could be incredibly simple things like mapping new keyboard shortcuts in your creative program of choice or building a template invoice for each client or whatever your equivalent is. Taking the time to re-think will most always be worth it.

Outward Thinking

Ron Finley is an incredibly inspiring gardener whose art is to take over public spaces and make them fruitful again:

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, defiance, beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

I find Ron’s story to be both an inspiration and a provocation. An inspiration to dust off my window boxes and try to persuade them to once again sustain fruitful and useful life – herbs for the scent and the flavor – and a provocation to be creative in ways that are outside of my ‘normal’ creative field.

Creativity is a habit that grows through being fed, nurtured and worked. Finding creative sources that inspire and provoke you, but originate from outside of your usual sphere will bring in fresh insights (in a cross pollinating way – to really stretch the gardening metaphor) and fresh challenges to your creative work. Open up your thinking to what’s happening outside.