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Design Talk: We asked our senior graphic designer about creative blocks, stereotypes, and more!

We are back with another Design Talk series! In the past, the design team was asked for their thoughts on aesthetic vs. function, popular trends, and more! But this time around, the team was interested in finding out what makes me tick. They peppered me with questions about the creative process, stereotypes, and working with clients. I feel exposed! Ok maybe not, but I hope this provides some helpful insight into the daily life of a designer.

Why do you think design work is undervalued sometimes?

This is a loaded question because I think there are a few factors that play into this. One is the cliché that creatives should work for free to build their portfolio or get their work noticed. Or because we love to create and it comes ‘easy to us’, so we shouldn’t get paid for doing what we love. It could also stem from all of the DYI resources and templates that are available now, that our profession can sometimes be seen as a ‘hobby’ and not a real job. However, like most professions, people go into it because they have an interest in it and/or are good at it. It’s no different than asking a mechanic to fix your vehicle for free because they love cars and are good at it. That mechanic put in the time to learn their trade, they’ve bought materials and resources to do their job, and they’ve spent the time to complete the work.

How do you feel about the stereotype around ‘creative types’ (that they need to be quiet, alone, undistracted, sensitive, etc.)?

In my opinion, I don’t think it’s true. I know and have met many creative types throughout my career and life. Each of them has been different in their own way. Some are introverted and prefer to work alone, while others are extroverted and love working with others. I’ve met sensitive types that use their emotions, and I’ve met confident types who are more analytical. To be honest I don’t know a creative person that fits that description perfectly. Like most stereotypes, I think it’s based on the impression of a group of people with common interests and skills. However, I believe that all creatives can have similar characteristics but still have their own unique identity and personality.

Gif of many colourful images going through a skull

What are some things that cause a ‘creative block’ for you? How do you get through them?

There isn’t a black and white answer for this since inspiration can be a finicky thing. Sometimes it hits you like a tonne of bricks and other days it can leave you high and dry. Creative blocks can happen for several reasons, like having too much or too little information. It could be caused by a daunting deadline. Or it might be from Imposter Syndrome where you don’t believe in your capabilities. The reasons are endless and sometimes we don’t even know why. Just like athletes sometimes have off games, creatives are no exception.

What I do to get through them can vary. Sometimes I try talking it out with my team members to get a different perspective. If I’m still feeling stuck, I’ll take a break and work on something else to be productive. Or I’ll walk away from my desk entirely and do something else like go for a walk or take my lunch. Sometimes even coming back to it the next day after sleeping on it can help!

How much personal pride do you take in your work? Has that changed over time or project-to-project?

What’s interesting about working at an agency like Stryve is that no project is completed fully by one person. I don’t see the work that I accomplish as ‘my work’ but rather as ‘our work’ because a lot of the ingredients that go into a design are what makes it successful, like strategy, content, and analytics. But I do take pride in my work because I always try to do my best and strive to be and do better. Whether or not that has changed over time I can’t really say. What I have learned over time though, is that personal feelings need to be taken out of the equation. At the end of the day, design is a service we’re providing. If our clients are happy with the end result then that’s the accomplishment, not what I think or feel about it.

Gif of Shia LaBeouf flexing saying

What do you do to motivate yourself and get inspired when a client’s vision doesn’t align with your own?

Similar to what I mentioned above, design is a service and what the client envisions and wants is the main priority. In these situations, I find it helps to do the work the way that I originally intended to. This gets it out of my system and relieves me of that ‘creative block’ so that I can be more open to working on another version using their ideas. Or something else I like to do is to go home and work on my own personal projects like painting or drawing. Being able to start and finish something that is 100% your own can be liberating.

How do you work on a project when the style is completely different from your own?

At an agency, this is something I face on a daily basis with clients coming in with an established design system or a style they have in mind. When I was in school we were told that “to be a good designer, you shouldn’t have a distinguishable style”. Being in the workforce now for a few years, I don’t necessarily agree with that statement as much anymore. I think being a successful designer is more about being able to adapt to different styles that you wouldn’t instinctively or personally have chosen. Since design and art are subjective, we naturally lean towards the styles that align with what we perceive as ‘good design’. I’ll be the first one to say that not all design trends are my cup of tea, but in the instances where I need to design in that style, I do my research and gather references. Lots and lots of references. Then I try and get inside the mind of those designers and figure out why they made the decisions they made.

Hopefully, that provides a bit of insight into the inner workings of me! Do you have any questions you’d love to ask a designer?

Grace Cole

Graphic Designer

Grace's love for all things creative keeps her busy whether she is thinking up her next great idea, or staying up-to-date on the latest trends in art and technology.

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