In part one we looked at how intuition isn’t something that we are born with, but it is something that we develop. We plant the seeds to our creativity almost constantly—tending to the shoots that grow if we are drawn to what is planted and defining what it is that makes up the weeds of our garden. It is how we determine what is good and what is bad, sometimes without being able to verbally express it, just feeling it. However, a problem may arise in that we sometimes have trouble finding our ways back to the right plants when we need to. We need a map of our gardens. Let’s call it inspiration.

One of the earlier paragraphs in part one stated that if our imagination were a garden, then all the marks we see is the life that grows from the soil that is our memory. What these seeds are, is every manifestation of creativity we see, from posters to magazines, or music and movies. Some of these plants are beautiful and some ugly, but both are important. The ugly helps us know what the beautiful is, while the beautiful lets us know what the ugly doesn’t have.

Intuition is our subconscious roaming this garden

We also established that intuition is our subconscious roaming this garden. When we are working, or see a creative piece, our mind references everything that is in our garden to figure out if we conceive it as being good or bad – if it is worth spending time looking at and absorbing, or just glossing over. While we do this subconsciously more often than not, when we are under stress, be it of a deadline, demanding client or high expectations, we run around our garden like a child on too much sugar and forget what direction north is. So what we need is a compass to guide us home.


I think for a lot of people inspiration is something that is seeked out to give a direct solution to a problem. My issue with this is that the solution is found in the inspiring—the ideas found are copied, rather than the inspiration being used as a trigger for further exploration and a variety of solutions. Nobody likes copy-cat work, nor do they like solutions wrapped in inappropriate clothes – the creative, the artist or designer succumbs to what is fashionable, what is in style.

Inspiration is a guide – a key to unlocking
the places worth visiting on our mental landscape

For me, inspiration is a guide – a key to unlocking the places worth visiting on our mental landscape. All our memories are part of a tangled web, lightly connected to one another. When we have strong memories, a strong understanding of something, the tracks between relevant memories are well trodden. For example, the idea of a home cooked meal evokes memories of my family, my childhood home, all of my favorite meals and a thousand other tangents. These memories are important to me because the nightly, home cooked meal eaten around the table, was and is an important thing for me. It’s a memory of safety, comfort and love. I don’t just remember the name of a meal I liked, but use it as a starting off point to all of that listed. The tracks between all of these are deep. The same is true of all the marks in your garden that are special.

Some of the tracks between our memories are weak, while others are vibrantly strong

Some of the tracks between our memories are weak,
while others are vibrantly strong

The tracks between the marks in our memory—the plants in our garden—work the same way. The pieces which move us have strong tracks (for example; I can’t hear or read the name Herb Lubalin without remembering his truly beautiful and elegant Mother & Child logo), so we refer to them often, whether we mean to or not. And to help define and contrast their beauty and importance, we also have the lighter tracks – the ugly (for example; virtually any romantic comedy movie poster), to help remind us of what beauty is. What inspiration does is give us a map of our garden—it helps us remember and make tracks between our memories. If you use inspiration as a style and answer cheat sheet, rather than a trigger for ideas, then it is the ideas of others you’re using, not your own.

Inspiration should not be an idea that is reappropriated,
but that which guides us through what we already know

The sparks that we search out in all our reference materials (annuals, websites, books, magazines, etc) should be exactly that. Sparks. Something that we fuel with these references, as well as what we already have buried in our minds, to be turned into a flame to illuminate paths between the marks in our gardens. What we look for in our reference is something that coaxes our memories to the surface, which in turn connects to other memories, traversing down a path that the initial spark doesn’t let us see. And don’t stop at that first place you find either. If you have filled your memory with as many marks as you can, which of course you have, then travel deeper and search out connections only you could make. Inspiration shouldn’t be anything more than that which gives us a direction to travel. Once again – inspiration should not be an idea that is reappropriated to fit our current need, but that which guides us through what we already know.

Tools & Medium

One of the reasons why being in a creative industry is so fantastic is because once you are able to think creatively, the world is your oyster. Of course, each sector of the creative industry has it’s own principals, procedures, history and depth, but you could still get by and learn all of those things. If you are a talented web designer, who doesn’t hide behind technical blankets for 99% of your work, you can probably become quite a proficient print designer within two or so years, once you know and understand the boundaries and requirements of the medium. Not a masterful one, but a good and competent one.

The similarities between graphic design and writing—
creative process—are so spectacular and parallel

Of course I’m not saying that you could float from print to web to motion to interactive design like some sort of creative maverick. But it’s not as if you need to start from scratch if you were to change paths. It took a little while, but I found this the case with writing. I’m a graphic designer focusing on print, but I find writing to be like most any other creative problem I’ve tackled in the past. I start off with a question (an idea for an article) and try to find a solution (how to express that idea). It sometimes takes longer than I would like it to, and longer than it would take a full-fledged writer, but eventually I see the statue in the stone. Then it’s a case of chipping away the fragments of rock, until my vision is realised and I have a publishable article. While I am by no means anything but an amateur writer, the similarities between graphic design and writing, that being the creative process, are so spectacular and parallel that I feel quite comfortable. Which is something that I think will hold true when comparing any two creative endevours.

The tools we use are just the tools we use, don't hide behind them when it's your heart that'll make you a good creative

The tools we use are just the tools we use, don’t hide behind them when
it’s your heart that’ll make you a good creative

The tools we use in our creative endeavors are too numerous to mention. But when it comes down to it, they are just tools. If you view the computer as anything more than a tool (albeit, an immensely powerful one) then you are missing out. Pick up a pen and write, draw or squiggle. Anything at all, just break away from the computer, or at least understand that it is nothing more than the best tool currently available for what you are doing. It isn’t essential to the creative process. Use your hands and your heart and soul will be happy, which is the most important thing as it is these that makes you creative, not a box with circuits of muscle and veins of electricity.

Inspiration evokes the memory of the paths in our minds

Feed yourself. Commit the sin of gluttony and grow obese with knowledge. Devour all the marks you see and plant them in your garden. Tend to them often, as that which you plant enjoys a bit of attention and love once in a while. Don’t forget inspiration evokes the memory of the paths in our minds. Don’t get off at the first stop on any path – make an appearance at each one, but look elsewhere, look at all the adjoining paths and travel as deep as you can. You do this by not accepting the first idea you come up with as the best one, at least not early in your career. Once you hit an idea, sketch it out, then keep exploring, continue to look for as many ideas as you can via sketches or art, movies or music, books or magazines, coffee or vodka, or whatever it is that’ll help you walk the vast, beautiful gardens that occupy the mind.