There was an electric beat in his steps as we walked down a path that felt a thousand years old.

It was the first time in ten years since we had visited Lebanon, my father’s birthplace. He grew up here and as he was showing a teenage me around, he was excited. He showed me where to eat, saying he knew this guy or that guy, how they played basketball together as kids, or how an old friend’s father was a tailor who worked in a shop that now sold what was more or less Lebanese street food.

It was an infectious energy, something I didn’t quite understand, having never had a similar experience, but I found myself excited to be walking around a small fishing town, delighting in the smells and sounds and movement. Music and spice and colour I’d never experienced before. All familiar names but somehow different to what I knew. Why was it all so much brighter? More vibrant? It was all… just, some how, raw. Felt more natural. Instinctual almost. Like muscle memory for the brain.

Natural Reminders

When we first encounter the creative works that excite us, the ones that make us wish to become designers, it’s similar to walking through a market on the otherside of the world.

The fabrics are the same, the textures and colours, are ones you could find back home, back in the non-creative world, back in the memory and experience you have, but they’re some how more alive. They’re excited with energy and it bounces straight into your chest and head.

We start looking at a line of work that seems to have the most energy in it, hoping to find the same high again and again, but before we know it the spice loses its potency and is just a part of life. It’s less exciting, less raw an experience, that it helps us travel the universe, and is instead something we’re mixing in with our tea each morning.

That’s not to say that we love our craft any less, or that it’s somehow less “special” to us. But as our love for what we do matures, we aren’t able to tap into that almost annoying puppy love feeling that got us to where we are.

We look at work to break it apart, to see where the stitching is, to try to understand the piece of cloth from which it was cut.

This is great – it makes us better creatives and I think we should do it more than we probably do. (Yes, that last point is one just to me, from me).

It allows us to grab small pieces, small ideas, slot them into our big plastic container, and pull them out as we need them.

But there’s another child like excitement. I know you remember it, it’s the only thing that can keep you going, quietly in the background, through bad solutions, bad work, bad clients, bad days. There’s a little spark that was started by a piece of work you probably haven’t looked at for years. A piece of work that, no matter what, you probably couldn’t pull apart the same way you would any other.

It’s your home town. It’s your fishing village on the other side of your creative world.

It might be a folio from one designer, for me that’s Thomas Schostok, a guy whose grunge work made David Carson look like your grandmother. His work still makes me excited in a way I can’t quite explain, making my head and heart and soul swoon. No matter how removed I might become from such a style, it’s my home.

For others it might be a website. A portal, maybe? Remember those? They still exist in a way, but they haven’t got the same feeling as they did in the days of DesignIsKinky and K10k and other such sites. Fffound is close, but not quite there.

Or a book. John Maeda jumped from a computer science career path into design because he picked up a book by Paul Rand. Jan Tschichold stumbled upon a Bauhaus exhibition and within a few years was writing texts on modernist typography that, could very possibly, have changed the creative world.

Even the bad is good.

So I implore you, go look back. Look at the first work you remember eliciting an unparalleled excitement. Look at the work that made you wonder how it was made, that caused you to try and figure out how to get a warez copy of Photoshop, or how the hell anyone could understand HTML and how a table could look so damn good.

Don’t analyse. Allow yourself the opportunity to look at it with an empty heart and let it fill it up again. Don’t break apart, fight the urge to see the bad kerning, to see the bad colour. OR even worse, if your first inspiring works were perfect, were made by a Rand or Muller-Brockman, a Scher or a Frost, please, please, please just enjoy them for what they are. Just for a moment.

It’ll ignite a fire in you that you’ve long forgotten. It’ll spark the myelin in your brain and strengthen it. It’ll become the shield from which you find defence and comfort when the wars start and arrows are flown.

But most of all? It’ll probably make you very happy.

I’d love to see what it is that reminds you of those first moments – please share it in the comments.