Pressure = Inspiration?

~ 18 January 2007 ~

In direct contrast to my suggestion about unplugging yourself to find inspiration, check out this advice from Erik Spiekermann, world-renowned typographic designer:

I’ve always had my own methods of dealing with [inspiration] and one of them is pressure. I only start work when I really cannot avoid it anymore. And it’s not inspiration, it’s sweat — perspiration…. I don’t get turned on by nothing. I get turned on by problems. For clients. The only reason I know that people go for walks, I find, or people do other stuff, is not for inspiration — it’s to avoid the issue.

These thoughts, as well as those from 39 other designers, can be found in Inspirability: 40 Top Designers Speak Out About What Inspires. My copy arrived yesterday, and “highly recommended” fits the bill. (Anything with a fuzzy green cover ought to be good, right?)



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1   Joshua ~ 18 January 2007

I’ve always had my own methods of dealing with [inspiration] and one of them is pressure. I only start work when I really cannot avoid it anymore. And it’s not inspiration, it’s sweat — perspiration…

Haha, that sounds like the exact environment that I try to avoid. I find an extremely pressured environment causes me to work well, but it kills the creative aspect to it just a bit, because my focus is mainly on the deadline rather than the output. Interesting take on work ethic though.

As a side note, I’d get really worried in that environment too about snags, what happens when everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, and all the sudden your pressured environment turns into a stressful environment, which I just wrote about yesterday, can be the worst thing for creativity.

I don’t know much about this guy, but something tells me that he missed a lot of deadlines but produced incredible work.

2   J. Jeffryes ~ 18 January 2007

Like most things, the truth lies between the extremes.

Too little pressure and you lose focus. Too much and you become trapped, unable to think of anything but the pressure. Somewhere in the middle for each person is the right mix of motivation and relaxation.

3   porcupine ~ 19 January 2007

For me inspiration is a flow of results. Results which spring from work, experience, contemplation, effort etc.

Inspiration comes when our mind is ready to accept it not each time we seek for it. Do you recall occurrences when you woke up having all your design problems solved? It happened because your mind had enough time to work on problems and find a solution.

However controlling your mind is tricky. And finding out time for it is not always possible.

4   L. ~ 19 January 2007

I also perform the best when under extreme pressure. Else I don’t perform much at all, and I hate myself for it. If there’s ever going to be a comic book or movie series about me, it’s going to be called “Procrastinator”.

5   Dean ~ 19 January 2007

I loved the following Q/A from an interview with book cover designer John Gall on the excellent Covers site:

F: How much time, on average, do you have to design a cover? How does that effect your brainstorming process? For that matter, what is your brainstorming process?

JG: We have about 6-8 weeks to get cover designs for around 70 books in place. Like most creatives the brainstorming process usually involves some combination of the following: avoidance, procrastination, mild sedation, cups of coffee, staring out the window, long walks on a spring morning, lack of exercise, talking to myself in a funny voice, feelings of worthlessness, turning on the music, turning off the music, kicking the dog, making lists, surfing the internet…

6   Ara Pehlivanian ~ 19 January 2007

I think the difference between your and his sources of inspiration lies in the definition of the term—at least in as far as it concerns my experience.

I too find that I get “inspired” to work when the deadline is looming. But that’s not really inspiration so much as a solution for procrastination—a direct side effect of which may be the quick finding of solutions to get the job done.

But I also agree with you that unplugging sometimes is the best (true form) of inspiration. Meaning of course that your mind is able to come up with new and wonderful stuff given the chance to think without any pressure. I often come up with my best ideas when daydreaming while not plugged in (public transportation, etc…)

7   Brian Artka ~ 19 January 2007

Pressure actually seems to help me out alot when I am working on a project. I am not so sure about it inspiring me, but that time between the start of a project- to the last work night before it is due seems to brew ideas in my head that sometimes don’t get put down on paper or the screen until the deadline is only a few days away. I guess I was like that growing up with tests too; always studying the night before. Unfortunately, in the real world I wouldnt want to do bad work for a client so if this method of working ever backfires, it could be pretty bad.

Cameron, I bought that book awhile ago and never sat down to read it yet! I do love the fuzzy green cover though.

8   Amanda Kern ~ 19 January 2007

Looks like I need to go check out that green fuzzy covered book. :o) In all that spare time of course!

I won’t lie - I am one that does do very well when I am under pressure as Erik mentions. I have to say that this too is necessary to be successful in the creative industry. Tight deadlines sometimes work wonders on the creative process. It must be that adrenaline rush of getting something finished so fast.

But I don’t totally agree with everything he’s said. All the things you’ve mentioned in your previous inspiring post you noted is equally as essential, in fact I find that to be just as vital of a part of conjuring up those new uniquely creative ideas.

9   Justin ~ 25 January 2007

Im also a grade A procrastinator and have been all my life. I will avoid any sort of work until the last amount of time it allows me to finish it. My ideas only begin flowing in that pressure situation and its always been that way. I would say I wish I didnt work like that, but as long as get the project completed to my professors, clients, and own liking, Im content.

10   Anand ~ 07 February 2007

Heh, I’ve never thought about the whole procrastination/prespiration thing that way, but I totally agree!

I actually just got the book - the cover is totally awesome and I think plenty inspiration on its own! I can imagine building a whole site on that theme (minus the fuzz though :(

11   Cameron Moll ~ 08 February 2007

Blasphemy! The fuzz is divine :)

12   Dan Lindop ~ 13 February 2007

I find that a looming deadline can really help to focus you on producing a finished piece. Occasionally, I get a project where I can’t seem to come up with anything I’m happy with. This leads to ideas being trashed in the early stages rather than developing them.

Sometimes if you give an idea / layout chance to develop you find that it really starts to come together. A deadline sometimes forces you to persevere with an idea that you might well trash if you had more time to come up with something different.

13   Casey Douglass ~ 23 August 2007

I was discussing this subject with my photography teacher. We talked about the fact that many times we may feel a block in coming up with ideas or the right solution only to solve it at the last minute. I think he explained it very well in saying that the reason you are finally able to come up with a solution is because that is the point where you finally stop second guessing yourself.


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