It’s a new day for the creative professional and a new wave of boredom is looming – this detrimental mode of being is creative fatigue. One myself, it didn’t take me more than a few months to realize that I was in fact creatively fatigued and I needed to do something about it.
You know that feeling at the beginning of the next design season where you are so stressed thinking / working on the current season, only for your boss to ask you to come to the table with the next big idea that will revolutionize your product category — but only as soon as you are done with all of your updates? Or maybe the feeling of sitting at your desk behind your computer hunting for inspiration within small windows of time throughout the day, only to come across a product, idea, or beautiful example of what you were going to present tomorrow? I do – and I practically threw my computer out the window – literally.
For me, burn out was my creative issue yesterday. I solved that by striking a life / design balance and found alternative means of active rest. But recently, an advanced form of boredom has hit me. Like you, I’m very good at whipping up ideas out of thin air and staying involved with culture, but fuck, for some reason I can’t shake being underwhelmed by everything. In almost a blink of an eye – my palette of senses felt uninspired, all the time. In addition, I started catching myself becoming hypercritical, offering no constructive feedback and worse, coming to the same exact conclusion about the same things. Once I realized it, I had to act fast. No time to lose sight of my goals and why I got into design in the first place.
On February 29, 2016, I stepped down from my Senior Active Editor role at Trend Forecasting Agency, Fashion Snoops and began a content fast. I quit to prove a point to myself, point being – it was me, not leadership, not content, not community. This solution was realistic and a solid action to fire upon, without hindering my momentum or professional growth. The opportunity to do months of work in weeks and learn years of wisdom in months, became the name of the game. This is what I realized in the process.
I could have traveled yes, and probably would have went back to Norway to connect with several talented creatives – but it didn’t seem realistic. On a separate thought, retail trips are for merchants, not designers. So on behalf of all true designers trying to create something new and not copy what already exists – stop sending us to do retail or expect us to find market leading answers by stopping into a flagship store of the competition of already created product. Again, retail trips are for merchants not design. But I digress.
As a professional creative, I don’t have the time nor do I have the want to be on the sidelines during this exciting time in the world of design, so my remedy was stepping away from content, the internet, new ideas and research in a snapshot of time. All the while, still living in New York, working on several projects for brands and pursuing my own interests for thirty days. At the end of those thirty days, I can honestly say that I had begun to finally reach the end of my imagination and the edge of my thinking.
Just as it is in the world of professional sports – within the world of product design there is the harsh reality of “what have you done for us lately?” With the speed of innovation, the constant flow of new content and the cycle of new and emerging talents – your follow up idea is measured now, more than ever. Feeling like you aren’t delivering because of time, resources, and quality of inspiration, sucks.
During the fast I realized that design teams have huge appetites for newness that need to be served. But that appetite isn’t a disposable one, it’s an appetite that needs to be taken seriously, maintained, and encouraged in order to have product breakthrough or innovation. This goes beyond access to another website or giving more time to explore the depths of the Internet. What they need is new interactions with new creatives, experts, and experiences. Just as much as we seek out the answers about our categories, customers, and brand vision – it’s imperative to seek out what makes each team tick. In today’s world, there are new ways of professional learning that exist and aren’t some bullshit course or curriculum. They are remote experiences and intentional interactions that mix up the design process to keep things fresh.
I went to visit six friends who all work at very cool brands and had a harsh reality check – these “creative spaces” allocated by the company to “foster” new ideas, truly felt like I walked into a creativity killing zone that sucks all of the life out of imagination. What the fuck is that? I’m not saying that a brand needs to build a new building in order to be creative, just maybe take the design team more serious. Again, on behalf of all the creatives out there, we know what the competition’s resources offer and what we need to do in order to become a high valued target for future employment. The impact of designs space is real.
Call it a creative epiphany, call it what ever you want, but I now feel liberated in full context of the word towards my imagination and my professional career. I want to encourage you to take calculated risks with your next step – you’re qualified. The knowing is in the doing, you got this.