Gavin Strange reminds why keeping your sense of perspective is vital for creative work
Bristol based designer Gav Strange takes on the concept of 'Creative Perspective' in his third column for Inkygoodness.
Perspective. What a marvel. The ultimate free tool that awards you instant clarity! The only problem is, most of us forget about it (myself included), buried at the bottom the toolbox, covered in a layer of rust and unidentified bag-crap. When we pick it up (as we were reaching for something else, let’s be honest) we look at it and say “How does this work again?”
I think now, more than ever, it’s so important to use that tool and use that tool for good. See, there’s two ways in which you can go when you step back and take a look at what it means to be creative – one can make you feel like you have a calling and a purpose, like you’re doing good in the world, following the vocation of your dreams. The other route is a spiralling free fall of existential apathy, questioning just what’s the point when all you do all day is muck about with words & pictures.
See, there’s two ways in which you can go when you step back and take a look at what it means to be creative – one can make you feel like you have a calling and a purpose; the other is a spiralling free fall of existential apathy.
I think both of these are valid and natural responses, but both can, more importantly, be used as positives and light a bigger fire under your bum to do more.
I talk a lot about being lucky. I bang on and on about how fortunate we are to be creatives. Now, to some, that may sound disrespectful, disregarding all the years and years of hard work and graft it takes to appear ‘lucky’ enough to get wonderful opportunities in this industry.
Not for a second would I ever rubbish that. It does take a very long time and an awful lot of hard work, that will always be true. What I mean is an even more abstracted piece of ‘luck’, the fact that we have creative bones and we get to use that as a job. That’s AMAZING right!?
SOMEONE GIVES US MONEY FOR SOLVING PROBLEMS USING PICTURES AND WORDS.
What!? How is that a job!? That’s brilliant!
That’s what I mean by it, that abstraction and shouting-out-loud what we do helps reinforce how lucky we are. When I hear those words it reminds me not to take anything for granted.
When you know that your job has such a pure and exciting core, you can do anything. Try and remember this for when it does get tough and everything feels like it wants to pull you down. See it as a test;
Client wants to see a version 27 of your design? SURE! VERSION 26 WAS JUST A WARM-UP!
Can you make that black have a bit more colour? OKEDOKEE! I RELISH A SLIGHTLY INSANE CHALLENGE!
Can you make the logo… bigger? AGGGHH! I mean YEAP! LET’S MAKE THAT BAD BOY HUGE! THE BIGGER THE BETTER!
Because here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter! Make the logo bigger, give that call-out more ‘pop’, create something subtle yet attention-grabbing! This is part and parcel of commercial art and design. We get given money to make the visions of others come true – and sure it might not feel glamorous when you are on version 27 of that design which you know will actually result in version 2 being chosen – but that’s the reality of it, that’s the small price you pay for being able to call this your life’s work.
We get given money to make the visions of others come true – and sure it might not always feel glamorous – but that’s the small price you pay for being able to call this your life’s work.
Sure, sometimes client feedback hurts a little and it doesn’t feel like ‘your’ creation anymore, but here’s the thing – it never was! It’s the clients, it’s your bosses, it’s whoever asked you to do it. Once you know that, you can approach it with gusto, you drop the ego and you give it the full force of your creative arsenal! Don’t feel creatively satisfied because you don’t feel ownership over anything? Well then start something yourself that is 110% yours! In the evenings, in the mornings, in your lunch times – whenever! If you don’t find creative satisfaction in one area of your life, seek it somewhere else!
It feels like I’m glossing over all of these things right? All of these massive elements of creative life: Clients, feedback, miscommunication etc. Sure, I am glossing over everything. Because you have to, because I believe when you do take that big step back and get that creative perspective of OH MY DAYS MY JOB IS TO MAKE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING, it makes everything ok.
Let’s be honest, we could be doing real work. We could be out labouring in the elements for 10 hours a day. We could be doing dangerous work for minimum pay. We could be having the pressure of having peoples lives in our hands day in, day out.
But, we don’t.
Again, I see this as a positive. Let’s use this to our advantage. The word ‘risk’ is bandied about a lot but really, when it comes to us, it’s not really that risky, right!? If you’re a pioneering surgeon and you feel like whimsically trying to use your scalpel with your left hand instead of your right – that’s risky! Sure, our risks still have consequences, I’m not saying they don’t – financial, emotional – but they, generally, sweeping statement-ly, only hurt us, not others. (Unless you’re a real risk taker / lunatic and like to physically endanger members of the public for that next creative hit).
Go for that job you know is a drop in pay but is the start of a career you really want. Take matters into your own hands.
So again, with a dash of perspective, suddenly our risks aren’t so scary and aren’t so ‘risky’, so why not dip your toe and be a rebel? Go for that job you know is a drop in pay but is the start of a career you really want. Or take that GSCE, even though everyone is advising you against it. Take matters into your own hands.
I’ve spent the last few paragraphs talking about what we don’t do, to help us with perspective but let’s look at what we can do. We can communicate with people, we can create beauty, we can create art, we can effect people, we can make them feel things. We can deliver a message, we can make people feel equal, we can highlight injustices, we can bring even about change. Creativity is a bedrock of culture, and culture is an essential ingredient in humanity. Dammmmmnnnnnnnnnnn.
Like most things, when you look at them through a different lens – a super mega wide-angle fisheye lens – it puts everything into perspective, it can make you feel like what you do is insignificant. If you do get that niggling feeling of doubt, then turn it on it’s head. You get to do something that makes you happy and has the power to make others happy. You can make something, from nothing, and that thing can communicate with another human, purely by it existing. Man, I don’t know about you guys, but I think that’s a very special and ‘lucky’ place to be.
I’d like to end on an idealistic note, but with something I think is realistic at the same time. Life, unfortunately, is too short to not chase after the career that makes you happy, the thing that makes you excited to call ‘work’. I think the world would be a kinder place if we all could spend our careers on the things that makes our hearts sing.
Thank you for reading and good luck, I’ll let the Baby Sloth of motivation take it from here…