how to be a creative sponge

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How To Be A Creative Sponge by Jon Hicks - Oct 2009 - see where the pdf is also avail for d/l


  • HELLO!



    Good morning everyone! My name is Jon Hicks, one half of the imaginatively named Hicksdesign, a creative partnership based in Witney.We work on everything from print to web, but probably most well known for the Firefox and Thunderbird Logos.

  • Text

    Although these days I work as Lead Designer for Opera Software, working on Opera Mini and desktop



  • How do you do it? How do you get the ideas to actually design something??"

    Mr F from London


    Well of course, there are many different ways that a design actually gets done, but today Im here to look at just one.

  • Designers need to be visual leeches, constantly cataloguing and recording information like a camera thats always snapping photos"

    Jason Santa Maria


    As designers, were constantly looking for ideas. We can never switch off.

  • It seems to me that if you're a designer, then design runs through your veins. You can't stop looking at things through your designer eyes. "

    Ben Terrett, The Design Disease



  • Visual Leeches ?

    Creative Magpies

    Visual Vampires

    Creative Sponges



  • The 3 stages of the Creative Sponge


  • COLLECTWhat do we collect and where from?

    Collecting is the core activity of a Creative Sponge

    What, how and where?

    - What do we collect ?

  • What are we collecting?

    Its not just InspirationIts not just IdeasIts FUEL

    All this visual collateral is nothing without a catalyst to kickstart the creative process.

  • Things Ive collected always have relevance at some point later on"

    Georgie Bean, Interior Stylist


    The temptation is to only collect the things that interest you, but this is will hold you back.

    Collect even the things you dont like.

  • Sources to collect from...

  • observing lifeKhoi Vinh

  • Doodles from your headDoodles and sketches

  • Book Covers

  • Magazine layouts

  • Found Typography

  • Images taken directly from the internet

  • Related: comic | cute | decorative | funny

    Related: comic | cute | inline | outline | sassy | shadow

    Let the creative juices come to you - for free. Sign up on Type Foundries mailing lists, and they will send you regular doses without you having to lift a finger

  • T-shirt companies like Threadless

  • Packaging

  • clothing labels and tagsHow about more obscure items like clothing labels?

  • Leaflet racks are an all-you-can-eat buffet

  • Experiment with your camera

  • ExperimentationTry taking pictures through glass

  • ...OK, you get the idea...

  • ...except websites!

    That is, everything except the thing youre working on. Avoid sub-conscious duplication

  • CATALOGWhat is your trusted system?

    Just like GTD, the creative sponge needs their own trusted system.

    You can actually have more than one system!

  • Designers are magpie-like creatures. If we see a style or approach that we enjoy well absorb some of it, sometimes consciously, sometimes not"

    Michael Johnson, Johnson Banks


  • YOURHEAD!Your head is the first place you store stuff

  • Analog Spongery

  • SketchbookSimon Collison keeps beautiful sketchbooks

  • The blog Print & Pattern keeps meticulous ring binders full of the resources she finds.

  • or a boxI just bung things in a box

  • Digital Spongery

    Your maybe more likely to use digital spongery

  • I used to use iPhoto a lot.

  • But now there are special apps like Littlesnapper

  • Personally, Im using Evernote the most at the moment

  • Sources


    Cameraphones are one of the best collectors! Material is collected by, and synced between, desktop and mobile client.

  • I can often remember text in an image, which is quicker to find than tagging images

  • Social Spongery

    Designers collections need not be shut away in sketchbooks and boxes, but can be collected, tagged and sorted, ready for everyones use. I love this kind of open source design collecting.

  • FFFFound!

  • IMG Spark

  • Ember

  • Flickr is still king

  • No interpretative dancing with explosives please

  • CREATEHow do we use these collections to create stuff?

  • Modern Art is rife with collections turned into new work.

  • Eduardo Paolazzi and Peter Blake are just 2 examples of artists who collect things and apply them directly to create new art.

  • The Fear !

    How do get past the blank sheet of paper?

  • Collecting things stimulates

    the brain. It helps you think of

    something fresher. "Wieden + Kennedy


    Collection itself is a stimulant for ideas

  • The Fear !

    But sometimes not enough

  • It needs a further catalyst


    Deadlines! Change of environment Go to Bed Peace & Quiet (go for a wee) Take a shower

  • Mind-mapping

  • Cheese is an excellent catalyst of course

  • Critique it!

    But lets look at examples of catalysts that directly use our collections.

  • Original 2012 bid logo

  • Final 2012 logo

  • But are these really any better? Why?

  • Moodboards

    But lets look at examples of catalysts that directly use our collections.

  • I can has moodboard?


    Moodboards have a bad rep, mainly because of this man

  • A MoodboardThis is where your collections of design collateral really pays off. Once assembled, common colours, styles and type emerge, such as the reds and royal blues here

  • Another MoodboardHowever, ask someone else, and you could get a completely different feel / outlook - green and blue

  • Why Moodboards?

    1. Concentrates on the concept/mood

    2. Stimulates conversation with stakeholders

    3. Quick to make4.Clients can make their own!

  • Spot Design Patterns

  • Reuse, recycle, but dont

    reinvent the wheel unless

    necessaryBrian Christiansen, UI Engineering

    Design is not always about originality

  • Anyone that subscribes to Chris Messinas Flickr Stream will know that he likes posting screenshots. A LOT of screenshots. Its hard to know why, until you take a step back and see the bigger picture.

  • Its a collection of design patterns

  • Pattern Tap is an excellent resource for patterns

  • Sampling colours

  • =

  • =

  • Finally, a couple of my own examples...

  • Hicksdesign logo


    From a painting seen in an art gallery, and a button configuration on a camera, to logo

  • open doors student site


    From Threadless T Shirt to Website.

  • Soak up everything, you

    never know when you're

    going to need it"Jon Hicks




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