The power of getting started

I’ve been thinking about the power of process a lot lately. More so because I’ve had a few identity projects and these are where I feel my process really pays off.

I was talking with another designer and they mentioned that they always go to screen and begin design concepts. Each to their own but the thought of that felt alien to me. Added to distractions there’s so much choice and it’s very easy to get caught up in the detail before the concept is fully realised.

It’s easy to pick up a pencil and make a mark, the important part of getting started is over.

I always start by sketching. It doesn’t matter the medium, I always start with a pencil and paper and however rough, map out the layout or logo and see where it goes. Just getting anything out and down on paper feels like a start and for me it’s the perfect way to overcome any block. Even for this post I’ve mapped out what I’m going to write on paper first. For me it’s the quickest way to get a flow of thoughts. It simply feels much more natural to start sketching or doodling. Focus and let it flow and within a few minutes you’ll find that you have a whole stack of ideas and iterations. No doubt faster than you could on screen. You can’t second guess yourself on paper.

three lines on green background

This allows for mistakes too. Now I heard this second hand so I don’t know how much truth is in it but I like it as a story. The tale of a designer who was sketching out ideas, and feeling like they were getting nowhere decided to have a break. Coming back they shuffled pages around on the desk to reveal that they’d gone off the page a few times and inadvertently drawn three lines on the desk – what would become the final version.

I’ve done similar. The breaking up of the Stand by Me logo was from paper that wouldn’t stay still. And the spark concept of Creative Futures was the result of my inability to draw a perfect star.

One of my first Creative Directors was also someone who always went to screen first. In fact I don’t remember ever seeing a piece of paper in their office. They had a method that intrigued and frustrated me until I understood a few years later what they were doing. Then it still frustrated me but slightly less. For every new identity project we had, they would go straight to their Mac, open Illustrator, and type the company name in Myriad. Done. One option out of the way. I mean, it wouldn’t actually be an option that was shown to the client but there was instantly something to be worked on.

Whichever your preferred method, getting started is always the hardest part. So why not make it easy on yourself and just do anything. It doesn’t matter if it won’t make the final cut, if it’s original or even if it’s any good. Take a leaf out of my previous CD’s book and keep a tried and tested approach. Whatever you make of that method there’s one thing you can’t deny.

They made a start.

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