“We all love things that other people think are garbage. You have to have the courage to keep loving your garbage, because what makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences, the unique ways in which we mi up the parts of culture others have deemed ‘high’ and the ‘low.'”
— Austin Kleon, Show Your Work.
No One Wants to Be Uncool
Skinny jeans and Chucks as far as the eye can see. Cool tshirts, cooler jackets, giant sun glasses. Everyone looks so damn good.
This is what goes through my head when I go to a design conference. Everyone is oozing cool and hip without the ster.
It happens online, too. Going through Goodreads or keeping an eye on Twitter, I’m amazed by how wonderfully unique and refined and cool everyone’s taste is in terms of books and music and film.
It’s not hard to see how easy it can be to be embarrassed by something a little less cool, a little more weird.
It’s not hard to see why some of us will deny a curiosity we have because it might seem less cool and utterly useless, if it won’t contribute to us making good work, whatever that looks like at the time.
What a shame.
Makes You, You.
It’s important that you embrace whatever creative curiosity you have.
Let’s start with the most important part – it will make you happy.
Creative work comes most easily when one is happy, or sad, or angry, and doesn’t stop themselves from feeling that way.
It’s easier to get onto the daily grind when you love what you’re doing and feel free to explore and enjoy any interest you have.
No matter how unique or weird or in bad taste something you love is, it goes into your makeup, it makes you who you are, and if you allow it to, it’ll help make your work unique.
Any piece of creative work is the child of a thousand parents. Little pieces that catch your curiosity, mingled and sloshed around in your head, until some sort of new product, one whole from all those parts, is made.
As the genetic lineage of potential ideas becomes increasingly unique, the more interesting the child is bound to be.
Embracing your curiosities with increasing passion, to love your weird and unique and uncool sources unabashedly, gives you an inspirational source unlike anyone else.
To concern ourselves with nothing but whatever is hip and cool and fashionable at the time means our work will flippantly throw itself in the winds as they change at a moment’s notice.
Too short will the threads we explore be. As the winds change, so will our focus, not allowing us the time to understand what style or source our inspiration really was. Our body of work won’t become a reflection of who we are, but of what we do, and what we do is whatever is fashionable at the time.
Love your curiosities unabashedly and watch with enjoyment as your work changes and becomes doused in an originality you ordinarily wouldn’t have access to.
Practicing Something You Don’t Want to Get Good At.
To limit exploration of creative curiosity is not something any designer, or anyone, really, should practice.
Any kind of limitation is not something you want to get better at – it could sneak up in your work as the mental-muscle memory kicks in and tells you stop looking left and right, but to just keep your head down.
When was the last time you did something brilliant by keeping your head down?
What Are You Obsessed With?
What are the things you’ve been embarrassed by in the past but now embrace? Or what are you still a little embarrassed by?
Creative work happens because we pull bits from a thousand, or a million, an infinite number of pieces. Everything ever made has been derivative of the Lascaux paintings, and to deny such a thing is to act the fool. It’s just not how we work.
So what is it that you love that’s unique, different, or odd?
For me it’s been comics, specifically Batman, self-help books, rap, an insane obsession with coffee, sitcoms, stand-up comedy, philosophy, science, history, (printed) editorial design, reality cooking shows (well, just one or two), and probably a thousand others.
At one point or another I’ve felt like to pull at any of these threads would be done at the expense of exploring something more worthwhile. At times I’m sure this has been the case. But they all make me happy, they all make me want to work harder.
The crazy thing is that whenever I’ve let any of those out of the bag, there’s always been others who raise their hands and say “uh, yeah, me too! hey, have you seen …”
Whatever you like, you like. It’s as easy at that. Don’t deny this curiosity, and when you can, try to pour it back into your work.
What about you? What do you like? What are you curious about?