Appreciating the Creative Process

Not too long ago, I visited the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) National Design Center, which is just a few blocks from the CreativeWorx office in New York City’s famed Flatiron District. I was reminded of what a treasure the AIGA gallery is when I stepped through its doors to see the exhibition, Estrada: Sailing Through Design. For those who love and appreciate design, this exhibition was an inspiring treat – a rare opportunity to see the trajectory of the creative process for an international design icon, Manuel Estrada.

Manuel EstradaI was inspired by the journey, paging through some of the hundreds of facsimile sketchbooks that lined one wall of the exhibit and then experiencing how the wondrous ideas contained in these were refined and distilled to the powerful designs that appeared on the banners that hung from the ceiling.

What struck me immediately was the volume of ideas that were created and ultimately discarded. It was impressive to see the massive undertaking of the artist determined to impress the client and his fellow team members, while aligning with the brief to achieve agreed-upon business goals and ultimately satisfying his creative voice. An amazing balancing act.

This process is often under-appreciated, because so much of the effort is in the artist’s mind and cannot be seen. Worse, because the creative process often requires breaks to allow time for ideas to incubate, artists are frequently misunderstood when they do not appear to be actively working. They are not goofing off. The reality is this is an essential part of the creative process. That moment of illumination does not come without great effort.

Manuel Estrada’s exhibit accentuates the internal pressure Creatives face after committing to deliver an inspirational idea with exceptional execution by a certain date. Having worked side-by-side with creative professionals for much of my career, I continue to be impressed when a designer delivers extraordinary work despite a tight deadline, shifting needs and often arbitrary (not to mention conflicting) feedback. The process can be truly magical.

Estrada: Sailing Through Design