Rules. Argh. Don’t you just hate them?
Well, actually, as anyone who has ever faced the daunting prospect of a blank page will know: absolute freedom can be the enemy of creativity. We kind of love rules and restrictions round here.
When one of our scribes squares up to a blank wall, they take a set of rules with them. Whether it’s a set colour palette or an overarching theme (like, Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise as a setting for ideas on efficient team management processes – because, why not?), we find that a set of self-imposed rules is as important as a set of fully-loaded pens.
It’s not just about the coherence of the message – although, undoubtedly, it’s helpful to use a strong and consistent visual language if you want to avoid confusion – it’s also about creating conditions in which creative thought can thrive.
Infinite possibility might sound like an attractive idea, but it’s a bit like being weightless. Before you know it, you’re adrift, directionless, lost. In order to flex your creative muscle, you need to be anchored by something. You need something to rail against, something to bounce off, a focus, a problem to solve or an obstacle to overcome. So, if a client asks us to let loose on their brief, it’s our job to create the parameters that will help us to work a little harder, and produce our best work.
Bizarrely, we were reminded of the value of creative constraint earlier this week, when we were browsing through Elisa Roche’s @funwithfruit Instagram account. Elisa, a sometime showbiz journalist, found Instagram acclaim last year when she started posting pictures of intricately-decorated bananas. In the last week or so, her following has gone... you guessed it... bananas! (Sorry... Nope, not sorry.)
Bored at her desk, she found a creative challenge in transforming bananas into sausage dogs, great white sharks, Chinese dragons and much more besides - each design more elaborate than the last.
We’ve yet to base an entire scribe on the theme of bananas – we never say never round here – but the point is, her work is a clear example of how reducing your options forces you to think creatively.
‘The shape of the banana dictates but also inspires the art that suits it,’ she says. ‘I love looking at a banana in my fruit bowl and wondering what creature or character I can turn it into today. It is a challenge for sure, but it forces me to use my imagination.’
Her account, which now has an international following of almost 23,000, also highlights the fact that images can cross linguistic and cultural barriers, if you pick something that everyone, everywhere understands – like, say, bananas.