Influence: A Semi-Interactive Article
It is important for a designer to think outside the box and explore new ways to solve problems. Designers follow established rules influenced by trends and functionality to determine a solution. Although these rules typically carry a visual standard, no two designers are the same. Each one possesses a unique aesthetic and process specific to themselves. The creative process is a skill and a talent that can be quite subjective, resulting from many different things. Creativity is fueled by inspiration, but methods of execution come from personal sources of influence.
This article explores what sort of things might influence a person’s creativity, their process and how they carry out their work.
What are some things that influence you? Where do these influences come from? How do they have an effect on you and the work you produce? Just a heads up, this is not your typical article. You will be asked to participate in a few activities, but these activities are meant to guide you to answer these questions for yourself.
ENVIRONMENT, EXPERIENCE, AND CULTURE
Many times our actions are influenced by past events and experiences. Think of a moment where you encountered a situation that resembled an experience you had before. Did it push you to make a choice that was similar or familiar to the choice you made before? Or perhaps, it compelled you to make the opposite decision. Sometimes its culture that influences how we carry ourselves; rules and normality generated from the approval of others.
Now think back to the two mazes. Did you complete both mazes? Were they difficult? Did you get stuck at some point? More importantly, where did you start the maze?
The starting point and finish line was intentionally left out of the instructions. The point of this activity wasn’t to find your way out, but to think about where you started and why you chose to start there. Did you begin the first maze from the LEFT or the RIGHT side? For the second, did you go from TOP to BOTTOM or BOTTOM to TOP? Most likely you started from the LEFT and started from the TOP, and perhaps this is a result of our western culture and reading patterns. People outside of this culture might have approached the mazes differently. Some cultures read from right to left and even vertically. Isn’t it interesting how these cultural patterns translate into mediums other than words. In what other way might these patterns have an effect on you (and your work)?
Designers are visual communicators. Whether through logos, mockups, or even layouts, we bring thoughts to life; communicating ideas that cannot be expressed verbally. Media is defined as the means of communication brought to the masses. Now think about how you digest media. Where does our information come from? Things we see online, hear on the news, from a friend, leave an impression on us. Even the songs you listen to or weird articles with strange activities can have an affect on you, whether that information is accurate or not.
What happened when you colored in the shapes? Did the picture reveal itself? It’s a picture of a mountain and the sun behind a cloud, right? Or could it have possibly been something else?
Is the image the same? This time it’s in an image of the ocean with the moon up against the night sky. Upon seeing the outline of the drawing, did you just assume it was a picture of a mountain. Did you question the colors that were chosen for each number? Who am I to tell you what color you should fill in each shape with? How could you be sure the information provided was correct?
There are a few theories out there that conceptualize the influence of media. The “limited-effects” theory states that people generally choose what to watch and read based on what they already believe. Maybe you initially saw the shape and assumed it was a mountain; so you colored it green without question because that’s how you chose to see it. The opposing theory is the “class-dominant theory,” which suggests the viewer is at the mercy of whatever corporation has control of the media; or in the case of the coloring page - whoever wrote this article.
There is some truth to both theories. Whether television, music, movies, or even fashion; the entertainment culture is meant to draw in as many consumers as possible. As a designer, it is important to be aware of different trends and popular styles. Media and design are industries that are kept alive through consumerism. Keeping up with different aesthetics seen throughout pop culture is a helpful way to keep up with what is fashionable and modern, but never stop asking questions. Media is used to present an opinion and it is important for the you, the receiver, to practice discretion and good judgment before allowing it to influence you and your work. The way a person decides to present even just simple information can be the difference between a mountain and an ocean.
COMPETITION & COLLABORATION
What were the results of the first game? Compare them to the results of the second. How did they differ? Did going first give you any significant advantage? Did the first round expose any strategies that may have affected decisions made in the second round? Unlike the the previous activities a second person was needed to participate. Not only was another person involved, but the activity added a competitive element. Did the desire to win affect how you played?
Whether competitive or collaborative, our actions and decisions can change when other people are included. Competition makes personal decisions a reaction or predictive response to what other have done or might do. The challenge is figuring out their choice first so that you can formulate an option that works even better for you. The influence of collaboration is when efforts are made towards a common goal. Decisions and choices are made based of what is best for the team. Perhaps your team is competing against another company or agency to win over a client. You have to think smarter, be quicker, and work harder to make it on top. You have to work as a team, showing the client that you are what they need.
In conclusion, our many sources of influence have the capacity to affect the things we do. Influence is an idea, a thought or feeling that brings other ideas, thoughts, or feelings into action. The intent of this article was to help us learn a little more about ourselves and the think about why we function the way we do. It is important for designers to regularly ask this of themselves. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. Influence affects our process and it's what makes us unique amongst each other. As we grow and work to improve our craft, we should continue to reflect on what we allow to be our sources of inspiration and influence.