:: urbansheep (urbansheep) wrote,
:: urbansheep

Creative Notions by Lance Arthur. Finding your lost inspiration.

У меня связано с Лэнсом Артуром множество приятных ощущений, поэтому я всё хочу, хочу, хочу прочитать, что же он пишет на своём сайте, о чём рассказывает и вообще. Лэнс Артур — это такая жутко творческая (почище самого Зельдмана, думаю) личность, который весьма отличился разными книгами, был одно время активным подписчиком A List Apart, и вообще. Одним словом: glassdog.com.

Creative Notions by Lance Arthur. Finding your lost inspiration.

AS A SELF-PROCLAIMED EXPERT on making Web schtuff - and when you think about it, what expert in this field is not self-proclaimed? - I often get asked, in addition to technical questions like "why the hell does Netscape insist on putting a few extra pixels in frame margins even if you specify that the margin should be zero?" (Answer: Because they're stupid.) and "How can you make IE3 behave in a decent manner until all those AOL users who still haven't upgraded finally get their collective ass in gear?" (Answer: You have a better chance of appearing in the next Star Wars film, bunky.), how does one rediscover the creative spirit when it seems like the ol' brain has dried up into a hard, dark gray, dusty chunk?

And, yes, that was all one sentence with two inserted parenthetical asides and one hyphenated one. So you know this will not be a treatise on Writing for the Web.

You and I both know that there comes a time when we fall deeply into that dead funk of lost inspiration. We start remaking the same interfaces we already made, we get too involved in script and DHTML bug-fighting to go back and decide that some decisions we made early on were just plain wrong.
        And then there's the nightmare of days spent staring at a blank Photoshop/Image Ready/Fireworks canvas and nothing, nothing, nothing is coming at all.

So, where do you go from nowhere? How do you kick-start the mental motor? Where do you replenish your creative juices and rekindle the inspirational spark?

Well, I don't know! But here's a few suggestions that work for me.

Number One: Misteaks Mistakes Are Good!

ONE HALLMARK OF GOOD DESIGN is something called "clean." That term can be interpreted to mean everything from a wealth of white space in the body of your page to the HTML assemblage of a table that constructs itself without error, so all the images line up.
        It can also refer to a design that has not yet been sliced and diced into a web page. How the colors mix, how the text interacts with the graphics, how the pristine design has not been screwed up by the unique frustrations of browser incompatibilities.

On those occasions that you do make a mistake, your first instinct is to sigh or grit your teeth and dig right back into the code to fix the mess. In so doing, however, you are robbing yourself of a source of inspiration.

Before you flick that visualization from browser to code, stop and look at what's happening and wonder to yourself if that mistake is not a gift in disguise.
        Artists have the freedom to play which we sometimes do not. But architects, whose product it may be argued is much more important than anything that will ever appear on a Web page since we have to literally live under their roofs, also have a sense of play.
        Have you seen The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain? Don't you think that maybe Frank Gehry came up with that floating silver wave because he couldn't clear a curling strip of wood from his planer?

Number Two: Change the Angle of Observation

IT'S A GOOD THING I live alone, or whoever was unlucky enough to share a living space with me would no doubt think me insane. For it would not be unusual for said house mate to discover me sitting on the couch with the TV blaring while I stare intently at the remote, held three inches from my eyes.

I am often greatly interested in how the shape of something alters the presentation of its purpose. When I am stopped behind cars, I often consider why the designer decided that the license plate needed all that space.
        The new Jeep Grand Cherokee, whose sleeker redesign was accompanied by much brouhaha, has an enormous space set aside on the tail for the rather insignificant size of the license plate, and highlights that space with an arc of chrome ... when all they might have done is stuck the thing in a rectangular dent like they did on the new Beetle. It is clearly unnecessary, but how does that decision effect the overall look of the vehicle?
        The remote control for my Sony Trinitron XBR2 includes a flip-open panel that hides additional buttons to control a VCR or cable box. This, to me, is smart. Why clutter up the remote with dozens of buttons I will only occasionally use? Why not secrete them behind a panel so I can access them when I need them?

Rather than use things without thinking, take those things and turn them around. Find the seam of the battery compartment. Look at the armrest on your chair. Turn the chair over and look at it. Someone designed that part that you're not supposed to look at. What were the decisions involved, and how does that apply to what  you're  trying to design?

Number Three: Advertising Is The Most Effective Design Available

ADVERTISING HAS BUT ONE GOAL. It wants you to buy what it's selling. That's all. Usually it must accomplish this goal under very serious limitations.
        TV commercials have 15 to 30 seconds to get your attention and burn into your memory. Magazine ads get about the size of your average piece of college-ruled binder paper to make you pay attention while you're looking for the next page of the article you're reading. Web banners get 468 by 60 pixels of space. You might see a billboard for 5 seconds as you rush past it at 70 mph.

Advertising is worthy of your admiration even when it's annoying - and arguably especially when it's annoying. Because advertisers know that if it gets your attention, and no matter how it gets your attention, it has succeeded.

So how does that help you?

Look at what you're designing and question everything about it. Is it effective in what you need it to do? Is it conveying the message it needs to convey?
        Take two steps back and look at it through someone else's eyes. Imagine that it's the first time you're looking at it and pay attention to where your eyes go, what your eyes see, what you want to do with it. Every design needs to sell something, even if that's only "please don't leave!" What's compelling about your design and what's not?

Number Four: Drop Out

LOG OFF. Push away from the keyboard. Turn off the music. Get off your ass. Go away.
        Think of your brain like a dryer's lint collector. You have a whole lot of stuff flying past you and you keep a little bit of each. The stuff you hear, the stuff you see, the stuff you type, the stuff you read. After a while, all those bits add up to one big glob of meaningless crap that stops you from performing at your best. You have to clean it all out before you can start collecting again.

Do whatever it takes to clean your personal lint collector, but make sure you escape everything and decompress. Get in the car and drive without directions. Go outside and start walking. Get away from the environments where you live and work and void your creative bowels in the open air.

Sometimes you can't think of anything because you're distracted by everything that you already have clogging your brain. You can't pull out the bits you need because they're clinging to everything else. And all those things are connected to where you are physically. Remove yourself from that space.

Number Five: Talk Show

A GREAT DEAL of the time spent developing something is spent alone. It's just you, wrestling with that code or that graphic or that concept, chewing on it endlessly like some poor Slim Jim residue stuck in your molars. You shift in your chair, you spin in place, you readjust where your feet are placed. You stare at nothing in your line of sight. You stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!

Go talk to somebody. And that means a face-to-face sit-down, with maybe a beverage or two, and maybe the sky overhead and nothing else. Talk out loud about what you're doing, share your frustrations, illustrate what the wall is made of that's got you stopped in your tracks.
        Sometimes your brain starts running in circles and can't escape. It starts paying attention to the sound of the air conditioning or the traffic or the footsteps in the office or apartment overhead or the cat or basically anything it can besides what you're supposed to be concentrating on.
        That's a signal that your brain sends you that tells you to stop spending so much time with it. It's bored with you. It needs some time alone.
        And you know that old saying that if the mouth's engaged the brain's on downtime? (I'm paraphrasing, okay?) Anyway, it's mostly true. The mouth tends to carry on in a linear fashion, going from word to word and trying its damnedest to construct a meaningful collection of sounds. The brain can spin on its axis forever. When you start talking, you can make sense of the jumble upstairs and possibly find that light you were looking for.

On the other hand, your conversation partner might just need you as much as you need them. Talk is good. Remember that listening is important, too.

Number Six: Get Physical

You've been sitting on your ass too long! Turn up the tunes and shake your groove thang! Pull on your Airwalks and wander the neighborhood! Jump on the floor and shove a few pushups through your muscles! Get up! Get on up! Get uppa! Get on up! Get on the scene! Like a sex machine!

Getting the juices flowing should sometimes be taken literally, and that means using your body. Drinking eight glasses of water a day is great, but there's a reason you need all that saturation. And just standing and stretching may be all your ergonomic keyboard thinks you need, but sometimes that ain't enough.

I am sure my neighbor thinks me insane when he happens to glance next door and see this huge guy boogying his butt off and making that White Guy dance face which is so cringingly embarrassing on the dance floor but when done in the privacy of one's own room or cubicle seems to satisfy some deep-seated inner urge that is best left uninvestigated. When a good song comes on and I want to start moving, I usually move. It's refreshing and gets me out of the rut I am sometimes stuck in. Try this at home!

There you go, in no particular order. Spoons to dig you out of creative jams. I hope you find one or more suggestions useful and if you have your own way of wiping the cobwebs from the corners, don't keep it to yourself! Share it with the class! – LANCE ARTHUR

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