Dig into some excellent advice from some of our favourite creatives
In need of some creative inspiration? Look no further than The Midweek Mentor, a weekly newsletter we launched to share motivational advice and creative tips.
Wednesdays can be hard. It’s not just called Hump Day because of its mountainous capital W. So a couple of months back, we launched something special for our audience in an attempt to lift our spirits in the middle of the week. It comes in the form of a newsletter, landing straight into your inbox every Wednesday, with a different member of the creative community taking up the role of your mentor. And so far, this trusty newsletter we call The Midweek Mentor has hosted some of the best-known names in the industry.
We kicked things off back in March with the one and only Nadia Lee Cohen, and the following week we welcomed renowned graphic designer Patrick Thomas. Since then, and seven newsletters later, we’ve seen Hattie Stewart, DVTK, Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, Stephanie Specht, Nicolas Ménard, Yehwan Song and Gab Bois offer up some invaluable advice to our readers. We’ve sifted back through these despatches and picked out the best nuggets of guidance and wisdom for you below.
Oh and I almost forgot to mention, if you’d like to sign up to the weekly newsletter, please sign up below just in time for some wise words you definitely won’t want to miss. This Wednesday (13 May 2020) Pentagram’s very own Natasha Jen shares some very sound advice on when you shouldn’t become a graphic designer, and also tells us why she doesn’t “believe in seeking inspiration for the sake of being inspired.” Sign up today and you’ll find that in your inbox at midday on Wednesday.
It’s Nice That:What top tips do you have to help people get creatively inspired today?
NLC: Try to avoid looking to the internet for inspiration – try books, old magazines, films, etc. The imagery from the internet is so recycled it’s sometimes hard to find anything fresh.
INT:What’s the first thing you do when you start a project?
NLC:Panic that it might not be as good as the last one.
Protest Stencil Toolkit
INT: What's the best advice you've ever received?
PT:Avoid (trying to develop a) style. I completely understand why clients – be they art directors or gallerists – want you to have one (it makes their lives easier) but style completely stifles creativity. Wake up every day and reinvent yourself. When things start to run smoothly, shake them up.
INT: How do you go about a new project?
PT: I confess that I am a serial procrastinator. Seemingly irrationally, I usually come up with a new and completely unrelated project to run in parallel with whatever I am working on. For example, I have several exhibitions looming and have decided that the most important thing I should be doing right now is making some furniture for my bedroom. Seriously now… I find that usually when I throw something unrelated into the mix, interesting things happen. Just for the record: I always meet my deadlines.
INT:What are you working on at the moment and what do you have coming up?
HS:I had a couple of dream projects get postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, so I’m waiting patiently to see if they’ll pick up – pretty much all of my other work has either been cancelled or postponed, so it’s a very uncertain time at the moment, as it is for everyone! After the initial stress and anxiety of the past few weeks, I’m slowly starting to feel a little calmer. There is nothing I can do at the moment other than take care of myself and those around me (over the phone or on the Houseparty app of course hehe).
I haven’t been able to draw as I’ve been so mentally overwhelmed by everything, as I think everyone has, so I’m hoping in the next week or two I’ll feel a little more settled and I’ll be able to get drawing again. I get a bit stressed by the “make the most of it” attitude, however much I appreciate the sentiment. There is just so much information and advice being put out right now that I need a minute to process everything and slow down. A bit of time to transition into this new way of living is welcome first and then maybe I can focus on the present and stop worrying about the future. I have so many ideas and things I want to do, so as soon as I’m ready, I’ll jump right in!
I managed to renovate my studio just before the pandemic kicked into gear so I can’t wait to get back in – it’ll be a nice environment to get back to, definitely going to appreciate the little things more. In the meantime I hope everyone is doing ok. Stay safe out there!
INT: You're based between Paris and London, but where would you say the most creative city in the world is?
Kim + David: If we’re looking at creativity within the fields of advertising and marketing, one could say that London is the one. That city attracts talents from all over Europe and beyond, which provides an international culture ground that makes anyone feel welcome very quickly – as long as you can afford to pay the bill, ha.
Otherwise, and this might sound indistinct, but since each city has its own specificity and as creativity is such a vague concept, the most important thing is to find the city that’s right for you, the one that feels like your scene. Lastly, maybe as we live between two cities which both have their own pros and cons, we’ve been supporters of the idea that creativity is something that comes from inside. What your location can provide is opportunities.
INT: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
DGDK: A long time ago, my dad drove me to my very first job interview. He could see how nervous I was and gave me some good advice. He told me I should imagine my future boss at the interview wearing pajamas. Because we are all just people and are all the same.
INT: How do you start a project?
DGDK: Mostly I need to sleep over a new idea for at least one night since I tend to be very euphoric with new ideas. Also I tell it to several friends and family and check their reactions. If I’m still passionate and in love with the idea for the project, I put all my energy into it to make it happen. Most of the time I really go crazy with this and nothing can stop me. I love that feeling – it’s like being in a trance and full of love and energy.
INT:What top tips do you have to help people get creatively inspired today?
SS: I try to not look at other graphic design. I tend to get blocked by doing that often. It becomes overwhelming. I mean, I want to be updated about my design world but I try not to look at it during the inspiration phase. I get my inspiration from architecture books and music in general. It’s fun to train the eye in discovering layout options in architectural floor plans for example.
There is this book called The Art of Japanese Joinery by Kiyoshi Seike (first published in 1977) that I always enjoy flipping through. There’s great photographs of the different joineries that are interesting to translate into graphic designs. Or at least, a start! But as mentioned before: I need music as well. It can enhance an atmosphere I want to be in while designing. I love to watch the Nowness mini series In Residence and Great Gardens as well. The combination of looking at architecture and art books while listening to music is the magic key to me!
INT:Tell us, what’s the first thing you do when you start a project?
NM:Everything starts on paper, in a sketchbook. Initial thoughts are written down in list form, accompanied with small thumbnails and drawings, where I try to boil down the problem to its essence. This eventually leads to a research phase, topical and visual. My creative methods are rather similar whether I make a drawing, a film, or plan for some DIY.
INT: What did you want to do when you were a kid?
NM: I wanted to be an architect or an astronomer. I was obsessed with planets and had this beautiful book on the solar system. I kept trying to copy the illustration of Jupiter with coloured pencils but had no clue how to deal with gradients.
INT: What's the best advice you've ever received?
YS: “You don’t need to define yourself.” I heard it from a senior designer I’m close to. For a while, I was confused about my direction and tried to choose between design and development. When I asked him for advice, I remember he responded, “Why do you want to limit yourself by choosing one direction?” He told me that there might be certain paths to follow based on what others have done so far, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow them. It might be better to have a clear identity, but it doesn’t have to be.
It was obviously good advice, as clearly I still haven't chosen a set path. The fact that I’m in the middle has slowly and naturally come to define my work.
INT: Take us through how you begin a project?
YS: Create one character and imagine their story. I think the process when I work and create an identity is very similar to when scriptwriters write their story. If I need to create one micro-website for a small popup store, I start to imagine the website as a character, and decide whether it is more like an active, chattering young girl, or a scary man. And after I discover the right characteristic for a project, I create rules from that characteristic. For example, the colour might change rapidly when users perform a certain action since it’s a curious, young, active, boyish website. I love how this rule naturally creates graphic results, but at the same time, I love that I start from its own personality before I actually make the rules. The rules do not define the object, but let it express its own personality.
INT: Is there anything in particular you’d like to share with our readers?
GB: To those of us who have the luxury of being quarantined, I’d like to share some of my stay-at-home motivation tips.
Get up early: You don’t have to do it every day of the week, but I find it helps my mood to get an early start sometimes.
Brainstorm: It takes time for good ideas to start coming. I try to allow myself an hour and a half a day for a brainstorm. It takes a while to get into it, so the last 30 minutes usually ends up being when most of the good ideas come out.
Don’t be too hard on yourself: Just because we have the time to be productive doesn’t mean we have to achieve all of our life goals in a month. Don’t feel like working today? Fine. Self-care time is just as important as work and is often neglected.
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.