Ordinary

Everything we experience in this modern world is usually designed and concepted by someone’s imagination. From our buildings and transportation we conduct our lives in to the pencils and pens we always take for granted that give permanence to our thoughts. We live in a world of everyone’s imagination.

What’s amazing to think about is how incredibly ordinary the majority of our world is. The next time you flip through a newspaper or drive through a neighborhood, take a visual inventory of what you think is ordinary. You’ll find that ordinary exists and is multiplying. We start to blend in with everyone and everything—a slow death for any creative.

I wonder sometimes if there are mental and physical issues involved with the world of the ordinary. Creatives know how much they need to pull away from the ordinary. They’ve discovered how much they need to risk in order to be seen and heard. But the risks give way to an extraordinary life with beautiful insights—ask any fine artist, the ones who risk the most.

I often ask and plead with my students to show me things I’ve never seen before—an easy challenge but hard in its execution. This means they have to push themselves into their own storm of thoughts and have their own hero’s journey, which is very uncomfortable. The best are the ones that make it through their own mental storm—the ones that make it through the ordinary.

If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

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Work it Out

All too often in my observations of the working habits of design students, I see too much of a reliance on technology. They will give up because the software can’t do what they envisioned. They give up on a concept and relinquish their vision to a software algorithm. This is what makes the difference between pedestrian designers and incredible designers. Incredible designers push their own limits and knowledge with their tools. Pedestrian designers give up and let their tools dictate their design. Designers have to find their own breakthroughs—they have to work it out.

In cases like this, I often remember a quote from the great John Wooden (legendary UCLA basketball coach), “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.”

By making the best of how things work out doesn’t mean you let things just happen. You must put in the work. You have to work it out. By putting in the work, you have more of a chance of creating something incredible. Draw the extra sketches. Explore more colors combos and type combos. Create more concepts. Only then will you be rewarded with incredible design solutions.

Elegant solutions only come from working out the problem.

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Lightning Storms

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Driving to the desert this evening, we encountered a beautiful display of lightning. It was one after another of beautiful and deadly light, we knew it was dangerous but we had to stand outside of our car and enjoy nature’s fury.

Whenever I find a path of thought that seems conducive to a design solution. It’s akin to a lightning storm. It’s one idea after another and my thoughts are so fast, my note taking and sketching abilities just can’t keep up. It’s dangerous and enlightening.

In the process of this lightning storm of ideas, the thoughts inevitably go to dark thoughts and absurd possibilities. But, ultimately, a beautiful concept emerges.

As designers, we have to be willing to stand in the lightning storms of our thoughts and allow ourselves to go to those dangerous places — the dark and absurd.

Possibilities always exist in those deep recesses of our thoughts. You just have to go there.

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