Dani Ward

Designer | Teacher | Consultant

8 things I do for creative inspiration.

A while ago, a friend asked me about my creative process for my artwork. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, mostly since I feel like I don’t really have a process. I was able to identify 8 things I typically do to stay in shape creatively, and I’m sharing them here with you now, in case you want to be like me! (Or, you know, something.) Some of these overlap with my design work as well, but this is pretty specific to my lettering and illustration.

  1. Sketch sketch sketch sketch sketch. I carry a notebook and a variety of pens & markers with me at all times for whenever I find a moment to draw. Sketching gets ideas on paper, even “bad” ideas. Sometimes bad ideas are springboards for good ideas.
  2. Develop a loose visual language. I sort of intuit what lettering or medium lends itself to my subject. Do I want traditional or surprising? Clarity or cleverness? Bold or delicate?
  3. Start loose and tighten up. Start really loosely with pencil, then go over it again to firm up your lines, then go over it again with ink, then go over it again digitally. It’s important to me to physically know my piece before I digitally alter it. Speaking of which…
  4. Iterate iterate iterate. Do some ink-only sketches & practices — I may come across a layout I hadn’t considered while sketching, something that naturally poured forth from my chosen medium. No better way to get my hands on a piece than to do so repeatedly.
  5. Grid it out. Whether using a baseline grid for a type-based layout, or a typical odd column grid, or something more loose, a grid serves to hold a design together.
  6. Lists and clip files and pinboards (oh my!). I save what catches my eye or ear. Illustrations that elicit emotions I want to elicit, quotes that I can see in my head lettered out, words or phrases that have meaning to me.
  7. Put it away. If I stare at something too long, one of two things happens: I finish a half-assed piece that I think is great in the moment, or I ruin a piece that was done until I messed with it. Space and time gives new eyes and fresh perspective.
  8. Let yourself do whatever you need to do. Say when. Endlessly tweak. Give up. Start over (and over and over). Create the same thing in a thousand different ways until you’re sick of it or in love with it.

There you have it: finding and making your own creative inspiration. Go forth and create!

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