Lizzie Everard Design Blog

Friday, 13 February 2015

_navigating a 'creative process'



Day 9 & 10 of #100Days project – Carol Ann Dufy & D.H.Lawrence


Anyone setting foot on the path of creating—making, inventing, imagining, developing—is saying 'yes' to the so-called creative process*. Inevitably, there will be mess, confusion, both silence and noise, and probably fear too.

You are a brave and adventurous soul, agreeing to this slightly frightening mystery, so how best to hang in when the above recipe seems too sticky to stir and you just need to get something done because you're up against budget and deadline?

I don't think it's complicated.

I do think it's about courage, and faith, and accepting the mystery for a while, and just getting better at recognising what's going on when you hit those sticky points.

Simply:

Courage
In having the initial idea, there is something happening inside telling you that this thing could work. The sub-concious knows it, and is trying to get a message through to your cognitive, rational mind.


Have courage that there is sense in your hunch, and put that first step on the road. 

Faith
You have tools at your disposal to throw at this conundrum. You have gathered those through hours—years—of practice, so have a little faith that the practical tools in your kit are there because they work. Pick them up. Have a play. (What are those tools for you, by the way?)

Have faith that your tools serve a really useful purpose, and just pick them up! 

Mystery
Making ourselves accountable to journeys in which we have no idea what the outcome will be, it is all of the above (fear, mess etc) but it is also—in and of itself—a fantastic fact of life, and the better we can become at life, well, who's not up for that?

I've been really inspired by a recent interview with artist Ella Luna on The Great Discontent. "What could you do with 100 days of making?" she asks. It's a project she's running for MoMA, inviting anyone to pick up a habit over 100 days, tweeting or posting on Instagram with the hashtag #100Days.

I have lots of ideas and couldn't wait for the start date so just got on with my own version, without knowing what I expected out of it except a hunch that something new wanted to emerge. Absolutely miles out of my comfort zone here! My plan simply revolves around writing something positive everyday, and picturing that somehow. I post on twitter, Instagram and my Tumblr page, and to friends on Facebook, labelling the day number and some brief thoughts.

Now, ten days in, I realise what I've committed to – it's a big, fat, juicy mystery. That's it! But because I have faith and courage on my side, I reckon it's worth putting one foot in front of the other on this mysterious path, knowing that all those steps along the way are going to take me somewhere.

Sharing each step so publicly can throw up raw and vulnerable feelings, no doubt. But it's a kind of accountability, to myself, to my friends, communities. It is frightening; revealing.

But the mystery of a project unfolding is also exciting, surprising, and delightful, and that's what to keep pursuing in tiny, incremental little steps.  

So how about you? What's your project, or dream, or adventure, or risky business plan? Perhaps you can take some encouragement from these words along your journey, and share with us how you get on.



*
If any of this struck a chord, here are some more thoughts on the topic:

Another post on the creative process theme, looking at what resources we have in times of the mess.

And for when you're just knackered and need a break, have a read of this post!

Friday, 6 February 2015

_how to DO things



There is progress to be had in discipline, and I've been catching some of that lately. 

While elbowing a space each day to work on old school lino print projects at my desk, just for the beautiful sake of it, I've also been feeding on the wise, often vulnerable words of experience shared by speakers at the DO Lectures, and decided to share some of what I learned here.

All this is in a fight against, perhaps, inertia, or getting stuck in ruts. It's also an attempt to create a working environment that nurtures those faint inklings that could get lost too easily while cruising on autopilot, and without some careful TLC. Those of us who set out to shape our business around things we care about really need to be watchful, and stay plugged in.

So who did I listen to? For me, a focus on creativity, but these talks all appeal broadly. In no order:


  • Marion Deuchars, who told me how to make a genuine connection with my world, my ideas, my imagination, by making art the way a child does – in play, freely, uninhibited by right or wrong. That's exciting, she says, because who knows where that will take us in business or otherwise?
  • Mark Boulton, who—with the opener that 'Making things is messy'—shared five practical principles that have helped him grow successfully through years of design and publishing. One of my favourites is this: "Stay with the mess and talk to clients about that too." Honesty, humility, and courage.
  • Tim Smit, who slightly scared me but no one can argue against this tour de force. He is on a fierce rebel mission for beauty as our only way forward, and I for one love that. Soak it up! (And then go and recover at the Eden Project.)
  • And finally, Stef Lewandowski, a lovely, life-bringing hacker who has a wonderful story behind his 15-year-long maxim to 'Create Something Everyday'. A humble, gentle man who's clear focus on life is infectious, and who will leave you in no doubt whatsoever that however tiny the step you make, the moment is now. "Lean in!"


I think there's something really precious about taking time to search for shared gems like these. It means those valuable thoughts of ours that sit quietly in the background may actually have a chance of finding their way out. Thanks DO-ers!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bristol Media Brand You Awards 2014





What a night! Last night was the 2014 Bristol Media Brand You Awards, and I went along with nearest, dearest people having been nominated. Here's how the night evolved:

Fluttering around a busy and beautiful room full of stylish people, there we were cramming our faces with the fancy canapés, slightly wary of what a free booze-bar can do to an empty stomach. While no one was looking my partner wiped a smear of salsa off my cheek while I thought, "Well, if nothing else happens these snacks are truly amazing."

The Brand You Awards were set up last year to recognise the significant input of freelance experts in Bristol and the South West's media industry. I was delighted to have been nominated in three of fourteen categories – and slightly confused. We are not short of very clever, creative people in these parts, so the room was packed with a lot of very brilliant, and some quite heavyweight competition. Some of Bristol's largest agencies were out in force, and to those of us who work alone, ploughing our own furrow, this feels very intimidating.

I was fully expecting the Brey Leinos and Mason Zimblers of the world to bag all the gongs, so when Fraser Bradshaw read my name out for a second year running as winner in the marketing category, I swiftly scoffed down my chicken goujon, did some massive(ly inappropriate) power grabs and sashayed up to the stage while my lovely friends cheered like animals!

Award winners feeling the joy

It was an absolutely wonderful moment, and a total triumph for the 'small is beautiful', 'power of one' devotion that so many of us commit to, believing we can make a difference in the world with our skills and insights.

Thanks to Bristol Media for hosting such a special night, and congratulations to fellow winners and nominees, especially Melissa Kidd who was there with Pam Lloyd PRMick snapped this lovely pic of us both:

Me and Melissa in the afterglow
Beaming with my award

Monday, 15 September 2014

_how to survive mondays




Wow. Really. If I have another day like that I may just give in and go to work in a sandwich shop. It's not even that anything dreadful happened. It's just that, sometimes, showing up to run your own business (or in fact, anything!) on a Monday morning is bloody hard work.

Let's be clear, there are some brilliant reasons why—if you're a creative soul and want to make a difference—that doing your own thing is a great plan. Come to the party with some energy and conviction, free from too many restrictions, and the best conversations have a chance of actually happening.


Ideas, lots of them.

New horizons every turn.

The day beats to your own drum:

More of this, less of that.

Focus and graft, making it count; 
you alone reap the reward.

Another drum beats with yours.

Me, you, them, us,
and the things we make together.

Join me. Bunk off early and go see a film?

Make the planet spin a little smoother, no?


Well no, not today. Some days, these joys come in such fractured pieces that putting them together into a meaningful picture seems impossible, doesn't it?

It happens a lot on Mondays for me – by 6pm, left with an exhausting mosaic-feeling in both head and heart, a little of everything crammed in there, and no coherent picture or plan to show for it. It's a dreadful way to start the week, and I have really come to hate this feeling.

It is agony. So what can be done to make tricky Mondays better?
How can we be gently productive and emerge positive from the week's first day? I have a couple of ideas.


First.
Just show up, and pay attention. So long as you do this, something begins. Things often take longer than you originally hoped for, especially if a thousand things ask for that attention. But pay attention and things do begin, I promise.

Make some coffee, write down a few key things to pay attention to, get set with some nice tunes and work through it. Don't feel bad about shutting the world out if you need to. Just show up, and pay attention.


Second.
Keep the faith. I reckon the agonised feeling comes from not knowing how things will be resolved, and having to leave them in mid-air. A thousand things to figure out and who thought it would be a good idea to set them off like a professional party popper?

Hang in there. The very fact of having paid attention means your infinitely capable head and caring heart are working away on them even when you're not looking.


Show up, pay attention, keep the faith, and don't believe the lie that nothing's working. That's just the agony of a blue Monday talking.



{Today's Soundtrack: New Order – Blue Monday}

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Thresholds

From 'Making Change Happen' by Jane Northcote
Illustration ©Lizzie Everard 

Some people love change, thriving on realising new visions. Others really don't like it. Some of us become quite good at it out of excitement or necessity, or both. Too much unexpected change can drive a person beyond nuts.

I think the paralysing fear within times of big change—and the thing that stops many of us even going there—is that saying 'yes' to this change means a previous vision that guided you will be lost forever, and a future vision as yet unknown will never materialise.

A threshold; cast adrift from what was, not yet anchored in the next harbour, and land not quite in clear view in any direction. Terrified of making a wrong decision, of just drifting... quite frightened.

If this resonates at all, you are not alone! You are really not alone.

So, from right in the middle of my own fiercely unsettling changes at the moment, me and my wringing-wet hanky are forming an idea and want to share it with you here. Seeing something take shape in visual form, tracked, charted, recorded, for all to see, can be such a help. In this vein, for six years on and off, I kept my Lightbox habit, posting on all kinds of soul-searching and adventures and planting and uprooting and people, driven by everyday photography and a love of words. I reckon picking up this habit again could really help navigate unknown waters, but what form this new habit takes, not sure yet.

Some questions for you, and I'd love your thoughts on this if you'd like to share:


  • What are the helpful things you pin up around you at work or home, which you look at to keep you on track each day? Or is there an object?
  • What reminds you of where you've come from, to see just how far you've travelled? 
  • Have you ever had a 'visual ritual' that you held consistently to help you keep moving (eg. morning pages or a daily sketchbook)? What worked about this? 
  • What—if anything—is stuck onto your fridge (or other nearest magnetic surface? We have a tartan sheep in our office!) Does it help?!
  • What pair of shoes could sum up the miles you've walked / run / danced? (These are my running shoes – the hundreds of miles they've come with me and I'm still curvy round the edges!) 




Do share your thoughts and projects. It's not just me is it?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

_what to do with what you've done








So, welcome to the new year. How are you doing? Fancy taking a moment to draw breath and gather good strength for the year ahead?

Standing at a turning new year, I can't help but get a little reflective – come on, you know me well enough by now! Walking around on sunny (yes, really) English beaches over the winter break and enjoying the big views, I felt really grateful for a year of hard work and great achievements. I also felt strongly that I didn't want to waste those accomplishments, but build on them as we push ahead into the coming months with new ideas.

I think lots of us forget, when setting new plans in motion, to really appreciate the foundations we've worked hard to build. I think that's one reason why lots of resolutions don't stick, because we throw baby out with bathwater and assume new plans are all about starting from scratch.

Instead, let's ask, "What's really helpful about what's already happened?"

Translating big dreams into tangible goals can feel unwieldy, so, I thought I'd share a useful help with you by way of this simple exercise. Based on David Kolb's experiential learning theory, I came across this 'reflective cycle' in my post-grad studies and have often found it helpful since. Even if not writing things out explicitly, doing this exercise a number of times can form a habit of mind, and now I naturally find better motivation to get on and act, reflect, imagine, plot, see great things happen, and keep moving – act, reflect on that action, imagine how it could be improved, and practically plan your next move.

The picture above is postcard-quality size – feel free to print it off and stick it somewhere helpful so you can easily refer to the stages:

Write down:

1: WHAT? What act did you do? What experience was it? Just describe facts.
2: SO WHAT? Reflect on what you learnt, or discovered. 
3: WHAT NOW? What could you do to build on this, and improve that action next time?
4: & HOW? Given this revelation, make some practical plans for your next 'WHAT' experience.

If this is your year to explore new ways of communicating and using good design to get your message across, this reflective cycle could prove really helpful in keeping track as you try things out and refine your visual language. If someone else is helping you with that, I think this could be a good way to practically reflect on stuff that often seems difficult to get a handle on.

I hope you have a really great year with some brave moves, rich experiences, and cracking results – a really happy new year folks!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

_why we want you to be yourself


Have you ever had that nagging worry that you are not coming across as you want to? (I mean visually speaking, obviously, although we can talk about the rest of life too if you like!)

Sometimes I have such doubts about being able to get my words out properly that it stops me saying anything at all (yes, believe it). Wouldn't it be great to feel more confident about telling my side of things well, about my story being heard, and in a way that truly engaged people so they were totally up for the chat?

Connection? Space to be real? Permission to give a sh*t? 
Yes please!

If you could grow more confident and honest in your story-telling and communicating, it would probably help you figure out better who you want to talk to and work with day-to-day. It would also help us all get on and have those meaningful conversations in a better way – a much more authentic and real way.

It takes immense courage to put true personality into your visual communication, but if you do, your working life will be richer for it.

There's a lot of talk at the moment about business becoming more 'authentic', involving real personality and truth, people being open and vulnerable with each other in order to get things done. We want humanity, not slick gloss that pretends everything's fine.

For those of us running our own businesses and trying to sort our visual communication out, this can feel terrifying, but it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be terrifying, if you know that the sort of people you will then connect with each day will connect because they know it too, and appreciate your courage. In time it just becomes The Way We Do It.

Who's in?



***

A friend tipped me off about this Brené Brown TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. It's not about design, but it is about being 'wholehearted'. I found it hugely encouraging: