At SmallBox, we're always trying to up our creative game. It's kind of a prerequisite for us. We're often hired on the merits of our creativity, for one thing. It's also one of our main goals when we collaborate with our clients to draw out their creativity. We're often faced with people who say they can't be creative... only to see them blossom and contribute wonderful ideas.
We do believe everyone has creative potential – you just have to grease the wheels.
We've been playing with various methods to feed and channel our creativity. Recently I noticed how two opposites, constraints and freedom, feed our creativity in different ways.
As much as we love digging in and exploring ideas, we don't always have the luxury of time to wonder endlessly. We've often found giving ourselves extreme constraints pushes us in healthy ways. We might try to generate as many ideas on sticky notes as possible in five minutes. Or, we might challenge ourselves to sketch an icon a minute for ten minutes. These creative sprints are often collaborative – after one round of generation, we'll share what we've done with one another, then have another go. This often inspires a next wave of ideas.
Supplies prepped for an icon sketch sprint in the SmallBox Collaboratorium.
As much as constraints can be beautiful, sometimes creativity needs freedom to thrive, especially if you're practicing something totally new. We find ways to make space for personal projects, which can serve as a great outlet for us. For our monthly Make Night, we bought a bunch of starter supplies our team can use – paints, canvases, sketch pads and colored pencils, and blocked out our calendar starting at 4:30 p.m. one Thursday per month. In recent Make Nights, Lydia practiced calligraphy and Colin and Nick collaborated on building an app. We've painted, sketched and even colored in coloring books. Nothing is required – participation is optional, and for those who join in, they can make whatever they want. Along the way we're learning new methods, art forms and skills that will directly translate to our branding, design and marketing work.
Neil recently made the case for having permission to play, and shared how a few 'Boxers used our triad set up to create a brand for one of our cultural quirks, the Musée. Through this pet project, our designers were able to test some new methods and iterate on our design process along the way. Another example – our CEO Jeb is out on sabbatical for the entire month of July, with ambitious writing and music making goals. After nearly ten years in business, the break will give him space for creative exploration and visioning for the business.
Art supplies for our Make Night.
We need both of these two opposite ends of the spectrum – freedom and constraints – to continue upping our creative game. One thing we know for sure, we'll keep playing and trying new things!
Your turn: what do you do to up your creative game?