I'm not creative. Far from it, I'm actually often the nemesis of creative teams. But, at least for the early parts of my career, I was a "creative client." You know the type of client, the one with free-thinking ideas: "Let's brainstorm together?", "I know, we need a blimp" or, "How about you move it up a bit?" The last one usually left me with a ballooned budget and compromise no-one was really happy with. I guess you can only rub lemon juice in to a designer's creative paper cut before they metaphorically punch you in the face. Some lessons are tough to learn.
Quickly realising that I can't design and best leave all that cool stuff to the people who can, I did get good at empathising with both sides of the client/agency void. Helping steer teams through the process, I like to think I vaguely understand the broad term "creative," from an external point of view at least. So how do people find inspiration in the workplace? Here are ten musings based on my experience:
1. From the man on the Clapham omnibus: Just be around people. See what they wear and what they do. Not just the ones who stand out - the mundane can sometimes inspire new ways of thinking just as effectively.
2. Peers: In creative terms, imitation is not the best form of flattery, but there's no point in reinventing the wheel just for the sake of it. There is a theory that everything is plagiarised, so surely having a look at what others are doing never hurts?
3. Events: For me, this is the most powerful. Events are like binging on inspiration. Picking, choosing and being exposed to stuff you wouldn't normally consider or think about provides a store of creative thoughts and ideas whatever your field.
4. Clients: Really? Well, I've seen first-hand how the right client can instil such belief that teams fight to be on the account. They aren't all about moving logos up a bit but helping stimulate thinking in productive and innovative ways.
5. Old contacts: Similar, but not quite the same as, clients. If you're like me, your contacts are a mixed bag. Some might lack interest or understanding, but some might pop into your head at just the right time and the answer to, "What would so-and-so think about this?" might just be the answer you're looking for.
6. The Internet: An obvious pick, surely? Perhaps, but it's always worth remembering to take the time to just have a look around the web and see what's going on.
7. Diversion tactics: My personal preference, whether it's looking out of the window, exercising, or dreaming. In fact, I can look out of the window all day and have the school reports to prove it. But just thinking and allowing your synapses to consider, play with and develop ideas can be underrated in today's performance-focused world. Don't fret, just problem solve.
8. Deadlines: I get the feeling that this is a kind of default position for the majority. There's nothing like an impending deadline to pump the adrenaline around the brain. No surprise, then, that people often hand out ridiculously short ones, or take two weeks off the final delivery date to ensure delivery. Is needing a deadline to get motivated the right approach? I'm not sure - but it is a truth.
9. Ask the advice of a dog: The trouble with asking for advice from humans is that they tend to give it, which can add to the neurosis of creative insecurity. Really, all humans need is the confidence to be in the right direction and dogs are very good at giving unbiased feedback.
10. Shredding it: The disaster scenario - where all the hard work of the previous two weeks has suddenly been lost - can actually help create even better work and ideas than the original process. A real shame, then, that Mac computers, backup software and the cloud mean this is a rapidly eroding option.
Rob Chandler is the "commerical chap" at Reasons To Be Creative, an annual Brighton-based web design festival that brings together the best coders, designers, and artists in the creative community. He is also the founder of Colour Nine.