Breathe Design (Part 1)
I’ve been working with i.e.* since before its launch, and I’m excited to be a part of supporting the creative community in my city. Excited enough that, despite fearing public speaking more than my own death, I volunteered to develop a talk about my philosophy on design and present it to a room of total strangers.
SHOP CLASS is a unique series of interactive seminars celebrating the talent of Richmond’s diverse creative community, an “intentional mashup of innovative thinkers, innovative doers and curious bystanders. SHOP CLASS is designed to take the ambitions of i.e.* one step further, blurring the lines between creator and creative minded.”
I believe yoga is a perfect metaphor for design, so I gave my talk alongside the very talented Kelly Trask. As a yoga instructor and wife of a well-known local artist, Kelly knows a great deal about both yoga and creativity. I spoke about 8 similarities between design and yoga, and Kelly illustrated each point before leading the audience through a full yoga practice and meditation exploring the principles we presented.
I’ll share my portion of the presentation over a series of posts in the weeks to come, discussing design as the vehicle by which I manifest my own creative process.
I think I’ve been creative my whole life – or at least as long as I can remember – but I discovered my love of design in college. Unfortunately, in college I also discovered that I have panic attacks. But learning about and living with panic attacks led me to discover yoga, and yoga’s effects on me were immediate and transformative. Yoga changed my life.
Through yoga, I learned an entirely new way to frame my experiences. By learning to control my breathing and focus my attention, I not only learned to control panic attacks, but I also improved the quality of my work and deepened my commitment to my craft, which in turn shaped the path of the next ten years of my professional life.
Over the decade I’ve worked in design, I’ve come to see that the way I approach yoga and the way I approach design are similar.
In some large or small way, yoga and design are both a part of every day for me. In many ways when I attend to each, I’m trying to accomplish the same thing: At the end of the process, I want to feel like I’m coming home. I don’t succeed every day, but on the best days, when I succeed at both, I feel like I carry both creativity and my yoga practice around with me like a turtle carries its shell.
Design is at once visual and tangible but also figurative and representational. You are looking to make something pretty, but also to be strategic. You have to be in a particular, focused yet playful mindset to do this work consistently and effectively. It is a similar mindset to the one you seek in a consistent yoga practice.
When you begin a new creative project, it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or today or this morning or tomorrow. Every project is a fresh start.
I’m here to tell you, that if you make your living being creative, a blank page is scary. Nearly every time I sit down at a blank page to begin to create something, I have this tiny moment of doubt, like, ‘Will I be able to make the magic happen this time?”
The fastest way I’ve discovered to get past that moment of doubt is to get REALLY QUIET for a few minutes, and begin to focus. You must empty your mind, start at zero. Then, when you begin to fill it with your project, the ideas will flow like water.
You also have to dispell that naysayer in your head that is too critical of your ideas before they can develop into something great.
It’s similar to the zen concept of the beginner’s mind: “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, and open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
When I’m designing, I do this with lists.
I open a sketchbook and list all the crazy stuff that’s bouncing around in my head, like errands I need to run, song lyrics that are stuck In there, groceries I need to buy, people I should probably call back. Once it’s on the paper I know it’s not going anywhere, so I can move past it.
Then I take a minute to breathe and clear my mind. And I turn to a blank page in my sketchbook.
Sounds like a good time for a break, right? Continued next week!