When I first started the Headless Greg blog, I fully intended for it to be as much a place for me to showcasing my own creations as it was my for sharing design inspiration . I've always wanted a space to discuss my opinions on creative topics, share my experiences as a designer and log all my creative endeavours but (for a few reasons, some of which I will cover in this post), this blog has never been that space. Don't get me wrong, I love writing about other creatives' work but all of my favourite blogs manage to strike a much better balance between championing other creatives and sharing their experiences. So today I am kicking off a new "Design Journal" section of the blog and talking about a design topic that has been on my mind for a while now.
Early this year, I spent 2 months living in Barcelona followed by a couple of weeks travelling around France. I've shared snapshots and highlights from my trip before but today I want to discuss one of the big goals I set out to achieve whilst I was away - giving my inner creative a kick up the arse.
First off, I should probably explain why my inner creative need a bit of a kick. The reason, in short, is that two years ago after I left college I stopped creating. I had been studying an HND in Visual Comminication majoring in Graphic Design and as soon as I stopped studying I free-fell into a creative rut for a number of different reasons. I imagine that creative slumps are actually quite common when you leave education as it’s a bigger change than you expect. When you are studying design it is easy to start associating creativity with deadlines and crits and all those other necessary but not always creativity-stimulating parts of a course and so very clear why when you leave and you no longer have to create on a regular basis, you stop altogether. Top this with the fact that I had been applying to quite a few art schools to further my education and didn't manage to get a place on any (not exactly much of a confidence boost) and you can see why I wasn't in the best mind set for making.
Shortly after leaving college, I spent 7 of the dullest and least creative months of my life working in a supermarket and having the “what am I doing with my life?” talk with myself on an daily basis. Unsurprisingly, spending 5 mornings a week putting out bread and cleaning up split milk and broken eggs was not the creative antedote I needed and I sank further and further into my creative slump.
During this time I was still writing for graphic arts blog Inkygoodness which was actually a great help as it made me feel like a part of the online creative community even if it wasn't because of anything I was actually designing. In January 2016, my contract with Inkygoodness ended I knew needed a new creatively-fulfilling project and so decided to set up this very site. Even though I was setting up the site in part to motivate my own creativity, my confidence in myself as a designer was so low at this point that I seriously considered asking someone else to create the visuals for it. After realising that this was ridiculous, I designed and launched headlessgreg.com in February of last year. I made everything from the header logo to Instagram profile icons and patterns for the about and contact pages, all of which reminded me of something I had somehow forgotten along the way - I bloody love designing!
After this, I slowly started getting back into the swing of things. I left my gross supermarket job for still completely non-design-related job but one that I hated way less and which inspired lots of stories and drawings. Over the rest of 2016, I reached out to people for collaborate with (none of which have actually been published yet but I swear one day they will be!), designed other blogger-related bits and began drawing just for shits and giggles again. When I did create it was amazing but for some reason it just didn't happen that often as I had fallen out of all my creative habits.
This is why, when I decided to go travelling with a few old school friends, I knew this was the opportunity to give myself that final push. I tried the easy-going approach with my inner creative and it hadn't responded well enough. It didn't need a gentle nudge, it needed an aggressive kick.
So off we went to Barcelona and, I'm pleased to say, the it really did help! Obviously, I didn't turn into the most prolific creator overnight and it took lots more than good intentions to get back into good habits but luckily being away and having everything around us new and inspiring made implementing any change a lot easier. I started carrying around art supplies everywhere we went and stopped spending so much time watching endless nonsense on YouTube and slowly but surely I started to creating regularly again. I’m not the type of person who can just sit and draw for hours on end so I didn't just sketch, I took photos and I collaged and I painted and I made colour palettes and messed around with things on photoshop and, yes, once again I bloody loved it. I think the key was starting to create freely and without an end goal insight, creating as I found this almost childlike way of making the best way to remind myself that creating is something I have always loved.
All the images included in this post are things I creative when I was away. None are breath-taking and some are just silly doodles I will probably never do anything with but I'm pleased with them all as a collection simply because they will always remind me of that time I remembered the ridiculously-obvious fact that I like designing.
As well as this small sampling of creations, when I returned, I also had sketchbooks, notebooks, a new Instagram and a brain filled with photos, stories, drawings and ideas. Taking some of these further is the new goal and that will be much easier now that sitting down or going out and creating something is actually back as a part of my routine. Plus, just the practise of creating has vastly improved my confidence. Having the guts to share your own work online is something I have always struggled with but (clearly) I am getting over that and ready to turn this blog into the part design journal it was always intended to be.
As much as I am keen to share my own experiences and opinions, I really don’t want this space to become narcissistic so whilst this story was admittedly all about me, like all good stories it has a more universal moral. The moral is that whilst my creative kick up the arse has so far been successful it was completely unnecessary. If I had never stopped in the first place, if I had just kept making things no matter how aesthetically unpleasing, then I never would have entered a slump and I never would have had to kickstart the whole system again. Had I been still creating regularly before I went away then I still would have gone travelling and the difference would have been I would have created more, better quality stuff. If I had pushed through any difficult beginning, everything after that would have been a lot smoother.
Also, I'd like to make it clear that I realise not everyone can afford to go and fanny around Europe for a few months as a creative retreat and that I don't see this as an essential part of the process. Barcelona was lovely and super-inspiring but I think it was more about taking the time to actually implement a few small but necessary changes rather than the sea and sun that really helped (although they were very nice too).
So to finish, a humble piece of advice. Whether you are leaving school or college and haven’t been accepted to the course that you wanted to go to or are graduating and feeling done with making - do not stop creating. You don’t need to jump right back in to a big project, a simple doodle a day or weekly design group will do, just make sure you keep it as part of your routine. Because if you don’t then days will turn into weeks which will turns into months and before long it'll be a year later and you will be on the shop floor of a supermarket before it even opens cleaning up broken eggs both off both the floor and your own face and wondering when the last time you picked up a pencil was. Being well acquainted with said pencil might not sound like it would make all that much different but believe me it does.