Each year the congress of Alliance Graphique Internationale, challenges its members with a visual essay. This year, it did so by asking for an interpretation of the “creative process”.
The simple answer is easy: Mostly, we all go from research, to concept, to design, and finally to implementation. But that is caricatural and more false than not. In truth it took me a while to understand why I couldn’t immediately conceive a more accurate answer, and that is because I do not own a creative process. If any, it is an ever shifting jumble of expressed and implied concerns from client, audience and so many stake holders. Therefore, each project is a unique venture, always exposed to contingencies that may lead into graceful love affairs as easily as into conflicts of interest. In my design, I symbolized with 20 icons these interest points that range from networking and economy to aesthetics and sustainability.
However it happens, the creative process remains a complex dynamic between demands on the world side and the yearnings of creative innovation on the design side. A potential to invent is what each designer possesses and thrives to cultivate, and we all have our own clever ways to ensure that it is expressed as seductively as possible, somewhere in the solution.
At a meta level, all things happen in the context of influences that are often beyond our control. There is no design without influence. And since there is no good design without good influence, I actively seek and explore influences, even if I eventually try to filter it as much as possible. Influence comes from within and around the client’s existence but also beyond its perimeter, and it also comes from within and beyond the designer’s existence. And it comes from the “atmosphere” we live in and breath, read, watch and hear. We always forget how pervasive the air can be. The air carries influence in the same way it carries fragrances and viruses. And the more ethereal it is the better it transmit. In that way it is a medium, an information medium as well as a social one.
For this AGI commission, I explored a small aspect of this web of influences, one that is at the center of our practice, precisely where and when we give form to our thoughts. In this instance, my influence came from three years spent on the board of Adobe Design Achievement Awards. In that capacity I had plenty of time to think about the role of digital tools in the creative process. With Funnel Of Influence, I attempted to convey how this role has been a major factor in the redefining of 21st century creation, specifically in communication design.
The creation process—at least mine, is at one moment or another, filtered by a digital interface that may be a search results page, a design application, a video editor, a spread sheet or a chat window. Sometimes, it is all aspects of vocabulary, syntax, aesthetics, functions, economics and ethical concerns that are run through digital filters.
My interpretation of this process is that it helps identify the right conceptual thread by progressively feeding off and erasing all “weaker” threads. A significant chunk of this exercise passes through explicit decision points—typically the ones dictated by research. But another part, the “tangle of creation” runs through decision points that are implicit to the tools with which we are working. That are the countless specific options with which we explore, design and style by numbers, and where I see a sometime seditious but always tempting “funnel of influence”. Many designers simply refer to this “funnel” as just another tool, but I see it more as a creation ecosystem in which mastery can quickly shift out of the creator’s hands and toward the software’s process.
To be a designer is to be the process while also constantly trying to master it—a bit of a chicken and egg story, except the egg is not always completely from the chicken.