The Idea Generation

 

"Miss Scott, are you listening?! Or have you got your head in the clouds? 

This was a common question addressed to me by my high school marine biology teacher. What appeared to him to be a case of absent-mindedness was in fact my creative mind at work. Life at the bottom of the ocean had such intrigue. What would it be like for the fish that never saw sunlight? How did the jellyfish exist without a brain? I wondered if it was true that sharks kept on swimming, even when they slept.

I knew back then that I wanted to work in the creative industry, and while many of my compulsory school subjects seemed somewhat irrelevant to my future career path, gaining valuable experience in having my ‘head in the clouds’ was exactly what I needed.

 

It's foggy up here.

To be a creative (or a professional dreamer) is intense, brutal and exciting. Idea generation requires a method: distilling data, identifying insights and understanding human behaviour to solve questions that have not yet been asked. Your ideas are constantly being challenged and your confidence tested. Our product is a public expression of our own thoughts, open for everyone to submit their opinion. 

Shifting your mind to creatively innovate requires a number of ingredients, but for me the most important is uninterrupted time, a constantly evolving musical playlist and a physical space that encourages 'wandering'. The school report card that used to read 'often travels off task' now seems completely justified and even rewarded. 

 

Sleep on it.

Three years ago, I read a book from the early 40s titled ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young. Young identifies a methodology towards idea generation that helped me to encourage my own.

In one particular chapter he explores the importance of time away from a project, once all the options are exhausted and the ideas tank is empty. Young identifies the ‘The Incubating Stage’ and expresses the need to do something else to stimulate your emotions and inspiration, and in effect allow your subconscious mind to work through the problem.

 

What?! The brief is due in two days?!

This process however is built on the luxury of time, a factor that is not always in my favour. When briefs are delivered in the morning and ideas are needed by the end of the day, I often look to find ways to manipulate this method for the 9-5 creative workday.

Lunch breaks, gym sessions and bonding over the latest viral video serve an important role in stimulating my mind to think about something else. Don't talk to me about work during lunch – I’m taking a much-needed time out!

What can appear to be wasting valuable hours is in fact acting as micro incubator sessions. Even though these diversions can seem risky when time is at a minimum and the stress is running high, they are a very important part of the process. 

 

The 9-5 creative.

Squeezing creativity into an 8-hour day is an interesting equation. Some days the concepts can begin to flow the minute my 6:30am alarm sounds while at other times there are more blank sheets of paper than award winners.

It can be an unforgiving profession, especially when the solution rears its head at 11pm at night, and you cannot shut it down.

One thing is for certain: there is no absolute answer for any problem. There is no maths equation to solve or theory to disprove. The landscape is constantly evolving; what may seem right today could be wrong tomorrow. 

Each day will look different from the last, and the future?... Well that's left to those who are brave enough to forge their way through the uncharted waters.

Originally published August 1st 2013 on thewhiteagency.com.au

 

Do magazines have a future?

digitalmagazines

 

Print is {dead} beautiful.

With rapid advancements in technology and an increasing number of platforms to shout from, digital creators are immersed in a world of shifting landscapes and evolving communication methods. With the launch of the iPad, we have seen exciting growth in the tablet market and a continued discussion around the future of publishing and print.

Having a deep love for the printed publication, with the perfectly calculated grids, the unique page layouts, the typography, the print finishes and the paper stocks in mind, I have been particularly interested in the evolution of the magazine into the digital format.

Historically the printed magazine has provided the perfect playground to explore beautiful typographic, image-based compositions. It evokes a willingness to experiment that has led the printed form to be an exciting medium for many designers to express themselves, create engaging design and enhance the reading experience.

While the printed format comes with its own set of restrictions and nuances, it is free from the evolving constraints of the web page. The printed page isn’t restricted by browser compatibility, font usage, the battle for white space vs. real estate or content housed above the fold, which is so often led by the quest for SEO and usability ratings.

 

The reader has become the user.

Currently we are seeing a rapid trend for converting the printed magazine into a digital format. This conversion offers little benefit to the reader for receiving the printed version on a digital display, specifically with regards to magazine apps available via the Apple newsstand.

Many of the current examples have poor usability and fail to harness the potential that the tablet experience can offer. We are seeing publications with poorly considered text sizes and lacking the navigational cues a user requires to move through and consume the content. Confusion between interactive and static items is common and the potential for exploring interactive content is often underwhelming or non-existent.

Varying navigational behaviours and unexposed content structure can also lead the user to feel confused and anxious about the journey through a given article or publication. The beauty of print is that at a glance you can gauge the length of the entire publication and thumb through the pages, landing on an article that catches your eye. The level of investment is minimal and often the end is clearly in sight.

Within the constraints of the tablet we must be mindful of the user experience and ensure the reader can confidently and intuitively navigate to all areas of the publication.

 

The digital magazine has a future.

If we draw inspiration from great examples of print design, and seek valuable learnings in best practice from the online environment, (including the context of the written blog), the digital magazine has the potential to become an innovative method of immersive storytelling.

We need to consider navigation, text and image compositions, single focused spreads vs. scrolling content. We need to consider interaction, animation, motion and static components, bespoke vs. templated solutions. We need to consider the varying orientation options of the tablet and consider dynamic solutions.

We must celebrate the potential of the new technologies and draw on knowledge of the past. We need to accept that the tablet is a unique medium and use this medium to its full advantage.

Originally published July 3rd 2012 on thewhiteagency.com.au