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Stay creative by doing something completely different

Posted by: Neil Roebuck on 17 May 2017

As a designer, it’s fairly easy to stay creative, it’s built into us; it makes us do the job we love. But sometimes things can get a little stale or we feel like we’re doing the same things over. There are ways to re-invigorate the creative mind, keep things fresh and add skills to the bow – it’s never too late to learn some new life skills.

Recently, I’ve been on a steep learning curve building some in-built wardrobes for my house. A far cry from the comfort of graphic design. But, with the help of a super-skilled friend who knows his biscuits from his biscuits, we came out with a pair of amazing wardrobes that will last through the worst of what North Korea could chuck at us.

I started the process with trepidation – mainly because I’d have to invest loads of time after work and at weekends to see it through. After every session, dividing up what I needed to do at home on my part and what my friend Brian was going to do in his amazing home built workshop. Most the time spent in the workshop was measuring (twice – cut once) and making sure everything was as square as we could get it. These two things are something that I hadn’t really bothered with in past DIY projects – if it looks right, it probably is yeah? Wrong – seeing the importance of accurate measuring and properly squared up joints makes everything else after so much easier.

The other thing that was a major learning curve was process – we had to do things in order as there were things that couldn’t be done until something had been done before it. Wood glue, it seems does not like to be rushed into drying. So, batch cutting of drawer fronts, sides, backs and bases one day, assembly the next day, sanding the day after, then on to the doors — where the same process applies until the frame was ready to be made — but you can’t make the frame until you know exactly how big the doors and drawers are, again, all process. Getting all the elements together for final assembly at my house was mega exciting as this is where we can see all the arduous work come together and become an actual tangible entity. Take a look:

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking where I’m going with this, but the thing with making something ultra-practical with your own hands is massively rewarding – rewarding in a very different way to winning that pitch or cranking out another campaign. It’s great to stand back and say, “I made that.” Those wardrobes will outlast any bragging rights I have on any design projects I’ve done in the past; and more shelf life too (forgive the pun).

After all this, what I’m trying to say is the things I learned from making these wardrobes should be transferable to my everyday job – patience, accuracy, process and pride. Some of these I already had but it’s great to build on them, whilst still be creative but away from my usual ‘creative fix’ and being out of my comfort zone.

There are loads of creative workshops and evening classes for creative and non-creative types, you just have to find them. Get out there learn some new skills and see if they give your day job a boost.

Here’s a suggestion of some things that might get the creative brain back on the boil.

  1. Upcycle some old furniture and give it a new lease of
  2. Go to an evening class and learn a totally different trade (I’d like to have a go at welding) – remember it’s not so much about the end product but the process and the journey to the end
  3. Sign up to a 10k, a marathon or something like Tough Mudder.
  4. Go back to the creative roots and do some lino-printing.
  5. Buy the biggest Lego Technic set you can afford and then make it!

Categories: Design, Fox musings

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