Erika Hall, the author of “Just Enough Research,” and the co-founder of Mule Design Studio, a San Francisco-based interactive design consultancy, makes a persuasive case for not following all the current cool design kids down the path of failing early and often. Her point is that ignoring the importance of research – which she defines as “a set of activities (ideally somewhat organized) that help businesses gather the additional information they need to achieve a goal” – actually takes even more time (in terms of chasing ideas down blind alleys or solving problems that no one encounters in reality) than studying a creative design issue the old fashioned way. A great contrarian take on one of the big creative memes of our age.
A very good look by Jocelyn K. Glei on the 99U site at how many famous creative people have almost squelched their own masterpieces. Glei discusses several other projects that almost didn’t launch in addition to the ones alluded to in the headline, and concludes:
So what’s the lesson in all this? On a practical level, it may be that we all need a third party — a friend or a producer who’s truly in our corner — to keep us accountable, and make us publish, when we’ve persisted so long that we don’t have any energy left to cheerlead ourselves across the finish line. On an existential level, it may be that the difference, and the distance, between the idea and the execution is always just a little bit greater than we expect. As author Michael Cunningham has written, “The art we produce lives in queasy balance with the art we can imagine.”
In the wrong hands, this slideshow/story combo could be another gee-whiz, “isn’t working at Pinterest (or another innovative company) cool” sort of monstrosity. But contributing writer David Zax uses details from the cool things going on at Pinterest (which include leaving a lot of the office spare and minimal so employees could decorate and embellish after moving in; encouraging displays of intriguing employee collections; and commissioning a piece of functional art from artist Thomas Wold) to document how these actions undergird the company’s entrepreneurial DNA:
The handmade feel to Pinterest’s offices is actually the expression of something deeper, says (brand designer Victor) Ng–a core value that is likely key to the company’s success.
“There’s a value in the company called ‘knitting,’ which essentially means collaboration,” says Ng …. “Knitting” applies not just to work projects, he explains, but to the crafting of Pinterest’s own physical space. And indeed, beyond that, the spirit of “knitting” applies to any of the various aspects of Pinterest’s culture that are about individuals creating and sharing with the group: the baked goods the recruiting team brings in every Friday [and] the weekly “Studio Nights” on Thursdays when anyone in the company can share a skill with the others (recent topics have included sushi-making and beeswax craftsmanship).
“It’s all part of the culture of making that we try to encourage,” says Ng.
Painter Christine Martell has produced a really fine essay that discusses her choice to take on an artistic challenge that previously had her feeling intimidated: participating in a plein-air painting day in her community. She went so far as to get on the committee organizing the event, and she was planning to participate as well (this essay was written in September 2013).
She mentions some great strategies for taking on challenges that stretch a person creatively – including not trying to challenge oneself on too many levels at once (i.e., since she’s really stepping out with painting outdoors in public, she’s going to use media familiar to her), bringing friends along to play, and not making it competitive – but my favorite part of her post is her explanation for why she decided to do it.
Why am I doing it anyway? This is how I grow artistically. I push myself to continually try new things. Whether it be new subject matter, new technique, new media, or new approach, I seek ways to challenge myself to do things I’m not good at. I don’t make the same kind of leaps when I stay safe and execute the same things over and over. This is definitely a feel the fear and do it anyway concept.
This article is a great one to pull out any time you need inspiration to reach beyond what you’re comfortable with to grow and develop creatively.