Having collaborated with Moritz on some web projects, I have seen some perspectives on creativity that I didn’t realize would be a part of web development.
“You can be creative and logical at the same time”
I wish I could give credit where it is due, but when I found this quote, I just knew it said it all. I feel like this says so much and this is a huge part of web development. To quote Mike Monteiro of Mule Design Studio from an inspiring blog post, “Design is the solution to a problem with a set of constraints, and a designer is somebody who solves problems, given a set of constraints. That sounds so boring, but that’s the job!”
I knew there would be challenges as to how to exactly make the perfect idea turn into a reality. But what surprised me was the part about making it practical and beautiful must fit together well or the whole thing is a mess.
Web Developers Are Problem Solvers
The typical way of seeing an artist is almost like a magician – they pull up something beautiful out of thin air. But from a design standpoint, the ability to take design and handle it in a way that gets the job done is equally important as the designs themselves. Again, quoting Monteiro, here is how he goes about to look over a designer’s portfolio:
I want to know what you were trying to solve, I want to know what constraints you were up against … budget, timeline, the number of client stakeholders in the room. I need to know all of that stuff and whether you went back in six months and checked if the initial project goals were met. Until I see all of this stuff, all I know is you can make pretty pictures.
Selling oneself is a complex task in itself. It can be daunting and if it does not do all of these things, the design not only looks flawed, but empty:
As a designer you’re expected to create beauty, order, harmony, and direction. You’re expected to make purpose visual. If you don’t have what you need that becomes difficult. Because you can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t have anything there’s nothing to give. If you don’t have enough, it shows in your work. – webdesignerdepot.com
Similar to writer’s block, designer’s block happens too. As pointed out in the article, Be a better designer by designing less: “everything is a remix” and when one is starving for ideas, the solution is to feed on other ideas. To find as much stuff as possible to work off is a good thing. This applies to not just looking at things on the web, but also books, magazines, publications. Keeping one’s eyes open to looking at, holding onto, and thinking about everything and anything else that can be added to the imagination is critical.
Going back to thinking about the same Webdesignerdepot.com article, some common-sense questions to pose to oneself when “feeding” on ideas are made. I recognize these questions may not be obvious while in a design slump, so be sure to continue refreshing the mind back to these thoughts at all times when considering them:
- What stands out to you?
- What do you like?
- Can you explain why you like it? Think about your answer.
Some Intuition is Required
If you love art, beauty, people, fashion, and thinking about how someone lives, day-in-day-out, with one of your creations, then you will excel at web design. – Skillcrush.com
Thinking about how someone lives? Fashion? Is this starting to sound like it has little to do with creating a stylesheet or making the php work on the backend? It does, but clients recognize they hire designers for their talent and enthusiasm also plays a huge role in web design because it results in a mindset that will get the job done. Designers themselves need to sell their interest as part of the package or else they will come across as lacking skills and merely just another pixel pusher. Monteiro even goes as far to say this thinking about how someone else operates – as “like putting the client on the psychiatrist’s chair” and the process of discovery is part of their job. Similar to the saying how “the customer is always right”, the user always comes first.
Akin to designer’s block, creating a website takes a lot of work and sometimes the motivation is just not there, but on the flip side, flow is actually when the focus is right and the concentration seems limitless. The best things made come to fruition when flow happens. Flow exists in all forms of work, but creative flow is one of the best feelings a designer can have!
Sometimes flow can be disrupted and lost as easily as it came strong. This chart summarizes it well:
Image Source: Energizing Tips for Helping You Finding Flow
Challenges can include technical difficulties and anxiety can come from time deadlines. Boredom can play a factor as well. Making a work environment more flow friendly can be as simple as shutting out distractions or setting up the work station in a way where the comfort levels are better are some good approaches. This can also include getting enough food, drink, and rest.
But other more fun ways to immerse fully into flow can also involve a caffeinated drink or listening to music. I think both of these can be a little distracting, but sometimes in a good way. It can make the process more fun and possibly more effective in the long run. Some of the best creative things were made by letting them happen. Just look at what Bernard Sumner (New Order) had to say during one interview:
I get writer’s block all the time. The only way I can write what I consider to be good lyrics is to put myself through the mill. This is staying up late, having a bottle of wine and wait for inspired words rather than premeditated words.
And thus the recent hit by New Order, Tutti Frutti, came to be.