Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Ten stories from 10 creators about how they create
People of action are always forward-looking> they create new things that move the world forward and inspire others to do it—manifesting their inner feelings about the world by promoting their innate point of view and using their talent to grace the world with art in their respective domain.
1. Malcolm Garrett, Graphic Design.
Malcolm Garrett is a graphic designer who has created landmark designs for musicians and bands, including Buzzcocks, Duran Duran, Simple Minds, Boy George, Peter Gabriel, Oasis, and Pulp and done numerous innovative digital projects for clients such as Apple, Virgin, Warner Brothers, Transport for London, Christian Aid, and Design Manchester. He has also worked with publishing, film, and TV companies to reimagine their businesses through new media platforms and immersive technologies.
"There are two stages to my approach. Firstly, think about the problem in detail but think about it while doing something else, such as going to a gallery or museum, watching a film, or reading a book. These strange connections start to form, and by coming out of the problem, the solution becomes clearer. Secondly, sit down and start drawing. Because once you start drawing, all of those things you've thought about beginning to influence the directions your drawings take."
Core to Malcolm's approach is the manifestation of how he feels inside and the things that he observes in everyday life, making connections from past to present, and across multiple disciplines and domains, regardless of how abstract they may appear at first, where he crystallizes the solution to a problem.
2. Jill Furmanovsky, Photography.
Photographer Jill Furmanovsky has taken pictures of some of the greatest musicians of all time, including Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Madness, Debbie Harry, Pink Floyd, Oasis, Bob Dylan, Joy Division, Queen, Tom Waits, Chrissie Hynde, The Clash, Björk, and Amy Winehouse.
"The creative process is not easy. It doesn't always flow. You have to be very persistent, make wrong turns, and often fail before you get to something precious," says Jill. "It is magical, mysterious, and difficult to define. It's largely instinctive where it feels like you are magnetically drawn toward specific things and repelled by others. There is communication between yourself, the camera, and the object. You have to clear your head to see with clarity."
3. Clive Grinyer, Service Design.
Design pioneer Clive Grinyer is an acknowledged expert in service design, design thinking, digital and technology innovation, and customer experience. He has led award-winning design teams for companies worldwide, including IDEO, and founded the consultancy Tangerine with Apple design chief Sir Jony Ive.
He is a trustee of the Royal Society of Arts, a visiting professor at the Glasgow School of Art, and head of the pioneering service design program at the Royal College of Art in London.
The phenomenon of observational research is part of Clive's arsenal. He believes in building transdisciplinary teams to explore an audience's product and service experience, empathizing with them, and understanding their lives' patterns and flow. Through observation and direct experience, he fully explores an individual's journey to unlock unique insights to solve the problem.
"One of my favorite discovery stories was during the development process of Terminal 5 in Heathrow, London's major airport," says Clive. "As part of the future forecasting trend analysis work, the team identified that one particular trend was that people were aging quickly, yet were wealthy and healthy. Therefore, it was likely that older people would travel more. As part of the design research, they conducted extensive research of people around the airport to identify whether they could get some insight into the design process and make it human-centric to an older user. They immediately noticed that older people often went to the toilets, so an assumption was made that they obviously had weak bladders. They would have to increase the number of toilets in the terminal. However, one reluctant researcher was not convinced. They followed older people into the toilet and discovered they were standing around, listening to the announcements. That was the only place they could hear when their flight was called in a noisy airport that concentrated more on the retail environment than getting people to their gates."
As a result, Terminal 5 now has multiple seating areas with robust sound systems and flight viewing signage, which has created a more relaxed experience.
4. Anita Kunz, Art and Illustration.
Anita Kunz has created iconic art that has been internationally shown and published for four decades. She is famous for her covers for the New Yorker, Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, and many others. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and museums, and she has won many awards for it.
"It always starts with an idea," she says. "There is always a kernel of an idea that is provided to me in the form of an advertisement, a manuscript, a story, or a book. For commercial illustration, it always begins with something that I interpret with an illustration as clearly as I can because I want to make an image that works in conjunction with the text, whether it agrees with the text or not. My personal work is in fine art and books, where the ideas come much more from my world experience and what I want to express, whether that has to do with honoring certain people or being politically critical. When I do client work, they typically require sketches of the work upfront, so I try to make the sketches as detailed as possible so that I don't surprise them and I try and be as professional as possible about sending sketches. Then they can choose their preferred options or provide input for me to make modifications. Then I take the idea to completion by making actual physical paintings in acrylic and watercolor. Obviously, it varies depending on what the project is. Idea generation is always first, then sketching, then the final painting. If it needs to be submitted to a client, I scan, color correct, and transmit it digitally."
5. Doviak, Music-Making.
Musician and producer Doviak has had many experiences, from working on high profile commercials and films to being Johnny Marr's co-producer and Melanie Isaac, Priya Panda, and Benjamin Schoos’ co-writer and producer, to mixing music for multiple up-and-coming bands to being an acclaimed independent artist.
His process typically starts with a basic idea, which can sometimes take shape very quickly. Occasionally, the entire song might be sketched out very quickly. But very often, that’s not the case, and it can be a slow and arduous process.
"One of the problems some people have with creativity is not knowing where to start. It's like having an entire world and spectrum of possibilities. Creativity can come from chaos, so there is a need to instill some structure into that chaos. Otherwise, it becomes hard to manage and can destroy your momentum."
6. Cathy Murphy, Acting.
Actor Cathy Murphy, who has gone from being a student at the Sylvia Young Theatre School to Allan Clarke's Made in Britain, Stars of the Roller Skate Disco, Doctor Who, EastEnders, Holby City, Family Affairs, The Phantom of the Opera, Shameless, Extras, About A Boy, Misery, Two Woman, Once A Catholic and many more, says about the creative process,
"You have to find your own way as an actor by crafting and formulating the right techniques and methods that work for you. Know your craft, always come prepared, and bring your own unique perspective to the character, whether that's through voice, style, look, hair, dress, walk, or the way you hold yourself, which can add to a character. For example, when I played the antagonist Annie Wilkes in the West End-stage adaptation of Misery, I tried to depict her complex persona, representing her paranoid bipolar character by oscillating interchangeably between her cheery deceptive façade and her malicious intent and sinister behavior."
7. Jon S Baird, Filmmaking.
From BBC Television to Hollywood movie director, Golden Globe nominee and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award winner, to collaborator with Martin Scorsese, Danny Boyle, Jim Carrey, Mick Jagger and a host of award-winning actors, filmmaker Jon S. Baird is not one for improvising.
He always has a plan. He treats the script as his Bible and never puts anything into production until it is solid, taking the time to get everything right with the script before moving into the pre-production process. Organizing the right crew for the right job is crucial.
"The most experienced people are not necessarily the best for this job. People who are most passionate about the script understand the story and bring their particular skills to the genre film, which is important. That's a big part of the planning process," he says.
For example, storyboarding involves having a script and being lucky enough to work with a budget that allows the involvement of a visual concept artist, someone to bring it to life, to give the entire crew an idea of what is in their head. Moving forward, choosing the actors, choosing locations, and planning a film is years in the making; the film's shooting is the shortest part of the process.
In Jon's own words, "Shooting a movie may take seven to ten weeks—that's the short part. The pre-production, however, is years in the making. Sometimes, the post-production and editing can be a huge beast; it's another year as well. So, in a nutshell, the more planning, the more creativity there is on set. Falling back on a plan doesn't mean that everything needs to be according to plan. There is room for improvisation. My advice to people would be to put the time in at the beginning. Everything's in the plan."
8. Mat Bancroft, Art Direction and Curation.
Mat Bancroft is an Art Director and Curator with a popular culture focus. Mat has been Johnny Marr’s Art Director since 2012, was part of the curatorial team that organized and realized True Faith—an exhibition exploring the artistic legacy and influence of Joy Division and New Order at Manchester Art Gallery as part of Manchester International Festival in 2017. He’s organized various pop culture archives, including the archives of Factory Records directors Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton, and his current work formalizing Derek Jarman’s archive at Prospect Cottage for Art Fund UK.
Mat’s approach to the creative process is to fight for the artistic vision against the tensions that counter it by curating and detailing the movements he is inspired by and involved with by assembling, cataloging, managing, and presenting their artistic and cultural importance.
"It starts with the purpose and why we are doing this. How are we going to document that period? How far are we going to go into the catalog to define where we start and stop? What do we want the narrative and experience to be?" says Mat.
"This involves going through a thorough process of being able to see around the corners by knowing where to search for and find the right information, understanding and identifying new and unexpected themes and sources, and discovering gems that separate the signal from the noise, then bringing order to the chaos by presenting the final curated output in a unified, consumable, insightful, and logical frame."
9. Craig Whittet, Product Design Engineering.
Craig Whittet is the Head of the Department for Product Design Engineering (PDE), a collaborative program taught at the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow. He educates, coaches, and mentors the next generation of product design engineers by blending creativity, design, and engineering science to create elegant, engaging experiences and products.
"At a young age, I became fascinated by automotive design, the mechanics and how things were made and branded, their logo aesthetic and identity and how it can be replicated many times at scale, and how it all touched people through multiple touchpoints in different ways," says Craig.
"Sketching is the point of origin in my creative process. I will sketch an idea from my imagination that may come from a feeling, vision, conversation, observation, and expression through drawing. Externalizing something that doesn't exist is still my key process of discovery and inventiveness. So, the appreciation of the mechanics of how things work and then having an opportunity to create ideas, concepts, and scenarios that don't actually exist still fascinates me to this day".
This approach makes the invisible visible, seeing the unseen by lighting the way to the future by separating what is from what is not and transforming your imagination, dreams, and nascent ideas into reality, turning your daydreams into design!
10. Jonathan Burns, Fashion Entrepreneurship.
While studying for his degree at the Academy of Contemporary Music, Jonathan Burns envisioned and brought to life this innovative venture by reimagining the fashion industry's sustainability and reusability challenges ethically and respectfully. Jonathan is a fashion entrepreneur and the CEO of Stylecrate, which provides eco-friendly clothes delivered to your door every month.
He takes a holistic approach to his creative process by considering that his business and actions as an entrepreneur affect everyone in the industry. He also tries to be responsible for the impact that his business has on the world. He develops ideas by looking at all the areas and people they would touch from a moral standpoint, the perspective of what's going to happen, and the impact.
He asks, "How can I reduce any negative impacts in so far as all the activities combined? By fostering a spontaneous idea, where an idea will kind of pop into your head, and you'll take it from there, and you will instinctively know what to do with it along the way." He continues, "You derive an idea after putting a lot of time and effort and thought into something, and it emerges from your work and becomes clearer and clearer."
Create Without Frontiers
Though the creative process may seem magical, proven techniques, tools, methods, frameworks, and approaches to the art and science of applied creativity make it happen. The creative process is about making new connections between past and present ideas and infusing sociocultural, economic, political, and technological perspectives in parallel to produce contemporary art, designs, films, stories, experiences, business models, products, or services. The steps in the process involve discovering and developing insights, applying divergent thinking to analyze a problem, generating and evaluating ideas that can become concepts, experimenting, prototyping, constructing, and making a plan of action.
Save the world from unoriginality by unleashing the power of creativity
Learn more about how to create without frontiers by unleashing the power of creativity through three steps—Dream, Make, and Do, supported by true stories and know-how from creators across many domains and knowledge bases about their creative processes, keys to success, and pitfalls to avoid.
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Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins, a creative studio on a mission to save the world from unoriginality by unleashing the power of creativity. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."
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