stephen creates

To state simply how you do things, and why you do them to a curious inquirer is one thing. It allows us as creatives to share a little of the behind the scenes stuff. It's a way of trading tricks between one another.

What becomes dangerous to me, is when that conversation shifts into, "I think the way we should do things is…" or "I think the way the industry should do things is…". See, that starts putting down rules, boundaries, and limits. And while those are good they are also bad.

It's the same thing that's happened with the life hacking porn blogs rampant across the internet, something Merlin Mann has been shining a light on for some time.

When we become so caught up in writing the rules, or learning the rules of the best way to do something, we forget to actually do the 'something'. That's the slippery slope that concerns me.

A show and tell is great for the community, but a meeting of the masses that slowly converges into the "right" way to do something can become dangerous or at the very least unproductive.

Sometimes we all forget that what matters is the output. And that that output is contextual. If the context in which the output lives shows the work to be amazing, then did it really matter how it was done? Or put a better way. Do we all now need to do it that way so that our work will be awesome as well? No, because it doesn't work that way. We all, as creatives, need to find our own rhythm.

Some designers will scour the world collecting real-life textures and scan or photograph them in hi-res to import and use in projects. Others will simply create them manually, from scratch, in Photoshop. If both individuals come up with an amazing piece of work, is one way really better than the other?

There's an interesting experiment I'd like to see done. Let's take the designer who's been hand-scanning and photographing all his textures, and force him to create them by hand in Photoshop. How good do you think his work is going to be after that? Probably not very good right off the bat. Is that an indicator that the process is bad? No. Let's give them a bit more time to get comfortable with the process. Will they be as good as they were before? Possibly. Let's have a year pass, what about now? Maybe just as good as before?

Let's shift gears in that thought process. Does it really matter? Why did they need to change process? They've been making amazing work for 25 years doing it the way they were doing it before? All the time spent learning a new way, was time that could have been spent making great work.

It's a different tune, if the learning curve paid off in better work, but even that is a slippery slope.

I think that sharing the ways we do things is a better way to approach it. It lets us grab snippets of things from our peers, and store them in our subconscious for later. Then, one fateful day when we hit a roadblock in our process, pondering how to proceed, how your peers do things different than you will come to you and there'll be some nugget there that you can incorporate into your process to help you get over the slump, improve your work, or solve that problem. That's the way to change your process, the serendipitous, incremental way.

What you don't need to do is, to stop the train, and rebuild the whole process from the ground up with all the best processes, and then one day when it's perfect start up making work again. The danger here is that you may never start again. It's a vicious circle. There's always a better, faster, more efficient way to do anything. What matters is how good your work is, and how good it is in the context it needs to operate within.

Concentrate on making work, not on process.


Dear Reader,

This site you see before you began as most things I've created, a small black seed planted firmly in the fields of my head. I've watered it, let it have just enough sun, but it's not quite there yet. It's still got a bit of growing to go, so be forgiving of my little mind sapling while it figures itself out.

It's inside of a strange new world and doing its best.