A List Apart


Topic: Creativity

  • Getting to Flow

    by Breandán Knowlton · Issue 380 ·

    When design and client cultures truly come together, magical and memorable projects emerge. These magic projects aren’t random, though—they happen when you reach a state of flow. The beautiful part is, you can get both yourself and your client into a flow state more often by doing three things: enabling immediate feedback, balancing capability and challenge, and setting clear goals with visible progress. Breandán Knowlton shows you how.

  • It Is What It Is

    by Nishant Kothary ·

    One of my first managers — we shall call him Bob — had a saying that used to drive me nuts. To most of my complaints about workplace dysfunctions in our manager-employee one-on-ones, Bob would respond, “It is what it is.”

  • Hellish Other People

    by Cennydd Bowles ·

    Childish, inaccurate, bizarre, and condescending? Perhaps—but you can’t just ignore articles like that. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s Seven Rules for Managing Creative People sets lofty standards for missing the point. At its nadir—“Creatives enjoy making simple things complex, rather than vice versa”—it ranks among the most baffling things ever written about creativity.

  • Give a crap. Don’t give a fuck.

    by Karen McGrane ·

    How do you know if you're doing a good job? There's always an external way to measure quality—being prepared, attending to the details, listening to the collective wisdom about what it means to do good work. Give a crap about the little things, and you're good. What about doing a great job? There's no checklist, no guidelines that will get you there. Being great means being vulnerable; not giving a fuck about what other people think. It's harder than it sounds.

  • See What I Mean

    by Kevin Cheng · Issue 370 ·

    We’re pleased to share an excerpt from Kevin Cheng’s new book, See What I Mean: How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas, available now from Rosenfeld Media.

  • Becoming Better Communicators

    by Inayaili de Leon · Issue 365 ·

    As designers, we already know how to communicate with users in a language they understand. Yet, we often don't do this when communicating with those whom our work requires us to talk to every day: our own colleagues. Inayaili de León shows us why—and how we can build the human relationships and shared vocabularies we need to get better at it.

  • Facilitating Great Design

    by Kevin M. Hoffman · Issue 354 ·

    Imagine the most fulfilling, collaborative design meeting you've ever had. Hours seemed to fly by, and those hours were productive. Political and mental barriers melted away and in their place were innovative ideas, or realistic solutions for complex problems. For several shining moments the team worked as one; the conversation or the activity was equally fun and productive, and you left the room feeling smart and empowered. It's highly likely that someone in that meeting was a facilitator, either by design or by accident. Kevin M. Hoffman leads us through what it takes to facilitate great design.

  • Artistic Distance

    by Paul Burton · Issue 347 ·

    Pimpin’ ain’t easy; neither is self-critique. If you are passionate about what you create, it is impossible to completely disassociate yourself from your work in order to objectively evaluate and then improve it. But the ability to achieve "artistic distance" that is, to attain a place that allows you to contemplate your design on its own merits, will enable you to improve your own work immeasurably and, ultimately, to cast off the immature shackles of ego. Learn to let your work shine by letting go of it. Acquire the knack of achieving artistic distance.

  • An Important Time for Design

    by Cameron Koczon · Issue 342 ·

    Design is on a roll. Client services are experiencing a major uptick in demand, seasoned design professionals are abandoning client work in favor of entrepreneurship, and designer-co-founded startups such as Kickstarter and Airbnb are taking center stage. It's becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that design has a massive role to play in the evolution of the web and the next generation of web products. The result, says Cameron Koczon, is that designers have now been given a blank check, one that lets web designers band together as a community to change the way design is perceived; change the way products are built; and quite possibly change the world.

  • Reigniting Your Creative Spark

    by Denise Jacobs · Issue 336 ·

    Creative is as creative does, except when your creative spark fizzles out. Looming deadlines, over-fussy clients, dull projects, or feelings of fatigue that may signal the beginnings of burnout, any of these everyday afflictions can tamp down your creative fire, making it tough to come up with creative ideas just when you need them most. But fear not! Denise Jacobs shares sure-fire strategies to reignite your creative spark.

  • Banishing Your Inner Critic

    by Denise Jacobs · Issue 335 ·

    Everybody has one: the inner critic that tells you you’re just faking it, that others have more talent, that you’ll never achieve the success you seek. The inner critic is an unconscious deterrent that stands between the seeds of great ideas and the fruits of achievement, making you hate your designs, giving you “writer’s block” as your deadline looms, keeping you stuck in a project’s initial thinking stage because something isn’t quite right. Denise Jacobs anatomizes and shows how to quash your inner critic, giving you the mental space and energy to let your true talents emerge.

  • Sketching: the Visual Thinking Power Tool

    by Mike Rohde · Issue 322 ·

    You don’t have to be a great singer to write a great song, just ask Bob Dylan. Likewise, you needn’t be a Leonardo to draw your way to more and better ideas. Sketching helps you generate concepts quickly, exploring alternatives rapidly and at no cost of resources. The looseness of a sketch removes inhibitions, granting clients and colleagues permission to consider and challenge the ideas it represents. Mike Rohde outlines the practice, surveys the tools, and shares ways to become confident with this method of brainstorming, regardless of your level of artistic ability.

  • The Miseducation of the Doodle

    by Sunni Brown · Issue 322 ·

    The teacher who chastised you for “mindless doodling” was wrong on both counts. Far from shutting down the mind, the act of doodling engages the brain in the kind of visual sense-making people have practiced for over 30,000 years. Doodling sharpens concentration, increases retention, and enhances access to the problem solving unconscious. It activates the portions of the visual cortex that allow us to see mental imagery and manipulate concepts, and unifies three major learning modalities, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Doodle Revolution leader Sunni Brown introduces strategic doodling and presents the ABCs of our shared visual alphabet.

  • Design Criticism and the Creative Process

    by Cassie McDaniel · Issue 321 ·

    In every design project, at some point we quit what we're doing and share our unfinished work with colleagues or clients. This begs the question: Just what does the critique do for the design and the rest of the project? Do critiques really help and are they necessary? If so, how do we use their inconsistencies to improve our creative output? Cassie McDaniel explores how critiques can help us navigate complex processes and projects and collaborate effectively to create original and engaging work.

  • Habit Fields

    by Jack Cheng · Issue 305 ·

    We have the power to bestow our abilities onto the things around us. By being conscious of our tools, habits, and spaces, and actively conditioning them to help us behave the way we want to behave, maybe we can more efficiently tap into the thousands of hours of creative genius embedded in our everyday objects. Maybe we’ll be able to maximize the capabilities that new technologies afford us without being overwhelmed by the distractions. And, just maybe, we’ll remember what it feels like to be utterly engrossed in our daily work.

  • Redesigning Your Own Site

    by Lea Alcantara · Issue 289 ·

    Redesigning your freelance website is an exercise in masochism. There are no colleagues to share the pain: It’s just you. As the designer who wrote The Art of Self-Branding, freelancer Lea Alcantara knew her site had to be just right. People were bound to scrutinize any update to the design, and she couldn’t afford to damage her credibility. Follow her process as she experiments to find the perfect balance of change and consistency.

  • Taking the Guesswork Out of Design

    by Daniel Ritzenthaler · Issue 283 ·

    Clients, like other humans, often fear what they don't understand. Daniel Ritzenthaler explains how sound goal-setting, documentation, and communication strategies can bridge the gap between a designer's intuition and a client's need for proof.

  • Look at it Another Way

    by Indi Young · Issue 267 ·

    Before you can solve a user's problems, you must see them as that user sees them. Once you understand what drives people’s behavior, not only do new ideas flow freely, but the ideas that flow are appropriate and useful. Indi Young tells how to get out of your own way and hear what your users are telling you.

  • Saving the Spark: Developing Creative Ideas

    by Mark Boulton · Issue 260 ·

    Ideas are at the heart of every creative process. However, coming up with them can be hard work. Mark Boulton arms us with tools to meet this challenge.

  • On Creativity

    by Andy Rutledge · Issue 254 ·

    As designers, we're wrongly perceived as custodians and exponents of creativity. This matters because business currently overvalues creativity. To avoid the inevitable backlash, we must lead our clients' perceptions.