Creative Director, AOO Events, lead designdawg
The Process of Design
By Marley Majcher
To me, good design and the process of creativity and generating amazing ideas often feels like catching butterflies: Elusive. Worth the time in the end for the splendor and satisfaction of what ends up in the net, but try and force the issue or move too swiftly and you end up, well, with nothing. This only seems to encourage "trying harder" which does only one thing - drives the cagey beauty away. Often when we stop chasing and even walk away from whatever we're trying to obtain, we manifest exactly what we want. Such is my process of design.
Event design, like any other form of artistic expression, is in the eye of the beholder, no question, but there are certain things visual artists can do to nurture their aesthetic sense. After so many years of trying to get "better" at designing and laying out the events that The Party Goddess! team is a part of, I finally realized that there are many components that come into play. Mastering anything whether it's design, tennis or even business involves similar repetitive processes.
In my opinion, good art is about exposure - traveling to far away places, taking photos of things that are seemingly unrelated to design: Patterns of sunlight through a gate on a sidewalk in Paris that become the inspiration for an invitation (or bar backdrop or gobo), propaganda crudely pasted to gritty construction plywood off the Westside Highway in New York or jam-packed store windows of Henri Bendel at Christmastime.
It's also the constant awareness of shapes, colors, filtered light, color schemes that aren't supposed to work together (but do), that ultimately allow great design ideas to flow on demand. Because that actually is the point: On demand is not really "on demand" at all; the ultimate "design" is the result of lots and lots of pre-work. Over the years I've developed a few strategies that work for me every time:
An environment that nurtures my creative spirit. Seems obvious, but I still overlook it sometimes. To do great work, my brain space must be nurtured and protected and encouraged to produce. For me that means an organized environment free of lots of clutter and distractions (things unrelated to what I'm working on) and annoyances (a Post-It about a customer who wants to challenge a line item on an invoice.) Incense makes a big difference. So does comfortable, luxurious clothing and rich hand lotion. Music to inspire (crazy upbeat to crank out something edgy and out of the box) or soothing to create a cozy atmosphere to lull my guests into a relaxed state of mind also helps. No clue why the Lollia hand cream does it, but then again I can't figure out why most of my problems are best solved over reapplying numerous coats of lip gloss either.
A strong foundation. A lifetime (or recent focus) on going to museums to see TRULY great artists, galleries, photo exhibits and classes about "the right way" to do things. Do I think you need to visit the Guggenheim weekly and stick solely to matches on the color wheel? Of course not. However, the confidence of knowing that I've left no stone unturned when it comes to improving my work gives me an extra boost.
Shifts. Shifts of any kind are super important to the creative process, especially when one gets stuck. When I need to come up with something particularly spectacular, I mix up everything from the way I drive to work, what I eat for lunch, how I wear my hair, where (and when) I do my exercise. Depending on how stuck and how pressed I am determines how many adaptations to the routine are necessary. Shifting precludes my brain from going on auto-pilot and by default forces me to see new things I had never noticed before.
Caffeine. This is intrinsically tied to my environment and shifts. I often do my best work in coffee shops with a strong cappuccino made with whole milk. Why? No idea. The compact environment seems to force me to focus on the task at hand, stay off the phone and the whole milk feels like such a departure from my nonfat, dressing-on-the-side-lifestyle that I guess I'm just giddy enough to produce.
Inspiration. You've got to have a fall-back. If the caffeine doesn't work and your Masters in Fine Art is still failing you, you've got to have a pre-determined go to list to get that jumpstart your drained batteries need. I have certain blogs (Design Dawgs of course!), books, sections of the bookstore and special lists of international magazines to get me going. Love British Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Dwell, Wallpaper, WedLuxe and whatever catches my eye at the newsstand when it's time to create.
A team who "gets" you. You must, in advance, way before you ever need it, have people around you with whom you can bounce ideas off, who get your vision and can shake you from your "default." The default for me is that space I always go back to when I get lazy, tired and uninspired. It's the flower arrangement I tend to revert to when I've just got nothing. It's the buffet layout I go with when the thought of something new is exhausting. Your go to inspiration gurus should be the ones who can help you get out of the inevitable rut, give you new ideas, know what you already gravitate towards and are great at provoking a twist, a turn or something to take your ordinary to extraordinary.
Space. Room to breathe. Peace. I don't know about any of you, but when I'm pushed, I just can't perform. I'm not suggesting that deadlines and coming in under the wire don't create a certain sense of motivation, I'm just saying that if I don't have a couple of pieces mentioned above already in place, my creativity is pretty much, well, toast. Sure, I can come up with ideas on a dime, that's what live TV teaches you if you want to do it more than once, but I'm talking about setting yourself up to succeed long term without a trip to rehab in the process.
Accept the fact that you and every one of us gets tired, burned out and uninspired at some point (many points.) If you know that going in, you'll be much better prepared to jumpstart your creativity at exactly the right time. And whatever you do, make sure to come up with a list of creative saps and avoid them like the plague (think lack of sleep, hunger, distraction and agitation). Inspired design (and catching elusive creatures) involves a certain set of go to strategies, patience and an awful lot of practice.
Marley Majcher is the owner of celebrity-based event planning company, The Party Goddess! and is the author of But Are You Making Any Money? She has appeared on every major TV network including Bravo, E!, HGTV, ABC, NBC, CBS, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Us Weekly, People and Entrepreneur.
Find out more about Marley by clicking HERE!