I recently delivered a lecture on creativity to our fall
design intern class. Much to my surprise, preparing that lecture was a great
experience that took me on a winding path of my own creative evolution. Who knew?!

When I started to prep, I immediately pulled out my old
rusty creativity lecture that I give in college design classes every so often.
Well, that seemed ironic and kind of…um, well…uncreative! So, I kept in some
of the boring basics of my old lecture…the 5 stages of creativity, Jacob Getzels’s
research, yada, yada, yada. But then I started to think about my personal
experiences with creativity.

What I concluded is that creativity is inextricably tied to
getting into the right mind state. But what does that really mean? On a cursory
level, this can be achieved through setting up creative rituals… putting on
music, sitting in your favorite chair or coffee house, working at a certain
time of day, walking around, or even going outside. Now this requires a certain
level of self-awareness, but nothing too introspective.

But the next level of getting into the right mind state is a
bit murkier: letting go of your ego. When most people first hear that
expression, “letting go of your ego” they tend to get tripped up by the word
“ego”. It’s certainly a word heavy with connotations and negative associations.
People (myself included at one point), tend to think “ego” equals “cocky” equals
“bad”. So, the take-away from the expression is generally “don’t be arrogant or
defensive about your design”. That’s fine; it’s a good and important lesson, but
that’s not the moral of the story.

Years of working with new, aspiring designers as well as my
own journey practicing yoga has really helped me understand what it means to
let go of one’s ego. Letting go of your ego is really about not judging
yourself. Most designers I meet suffer from insecurity, not arrogance. They are
worried about what their peer or clients will think of their work. Insecurity
and self-censoring kill creativity.

Specifically in the case of design, checking your ego
translates to

  1. being
    gentle with yourself
  2. respecting
    and believing in your own talent
  3. not
    allowing the rejection inherent in the design industry to make you
    question yourself
  4. not
    personalizing feedback or getting too emotionally attached to your design
  5. not
    censoring yourself
  6. trusting
    yourself enough to take risks
  7. standing
    up for your design decisions when you know they are right

I deeply believe that learning to relax and let go of the ego
is far more valuable than any type of brainstorming technique or trick could
ever be. It doesn’t happen over night, but staying aware and trying to let go
over time will allow you to tap into your own truest creative potential.



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