Fostering a Creative Environment For Your Print Shop
If a design staff is new to your print shop, you will need to create an environment within your company that supports good, creative work. That might look different than what you're used to, but fostering a creative environment can benefit a company in ways that reach far beyond the walls of the design studio.
Before you make any significant changes, it's important to understand the different phases of creative work.
Inspiration can take many forms and is different for everyone. Rarely is it a light bulb going off out of nowhere that leads to the finished product.
Ideation takes inspiration and turns it into a usable idea. This part of the process involves a lot of trial and error on the way from a bad idea to a good one.
Design takes the idea and makes a plan to turn it into the best solution for the project.
With the design in place, executing the plan is the detail-oriented part of the process.
So, what do designers need to be their most creative?
I put out a call on social media to hear what designers want at work to be their most creative. What were the qualities of their most innovative work environments and supportive bosses? Almost all of the answers I got were related to time. Good creative work takes time, and people need the time and space to think and experiment.
Our culture has become one that rewards being busy or simply just looking busy. Yet there is a big difference between being busy and producing high-quality work. A recent article in the New York Times spoke about how counterproductive constant busyness is and the need for people to take more breaks. "For creative thinking, we need to give our thoughts room to roam — ideally by taking a break." There's a reason many people say they have their best ideas in the shower or on a walk. Their brains are taking a break. New ideas have the space to form without the deluge of thoughts related to doing tasks.
To create an environment where people have the time and respect to do their best work. Consider these six tips.
6 Tips to Foster a Creative Environment
Good design is as critical to the success of your business as good salespeople, accountants, and printers. Without original, high-quality design, there is nothing to sell. Ensure your company culture respects the design team as much as every other team. When upper management sets this tone, it will become an expectation of everyone at your company.
Provide Good Physical Space
If your design space is brand new, ask your designers what they need. It may seem at first glance that a designer just needs a computer, but designers need a space conducive to creative work. For example, natural light helps to see color and feel connected to the natural world. Many design studios also have large areas to pin up projects they're working on and sources of inspiration, such as magazine clippings, color chips, or fabric swatches.
Have a Project Management Plan in Place
With deadlines and expectations clear at the beginning of a project, all teams involved know what is expected of them and each other. Everyone can then work effectively within those boundaries. Writer and entrepreneur Erin Ollila explains, "When deadlines and expectations are clear and everyone is aware of tasks that are dependent on others, you can avoid micromanaging, over-assigning work, and also enforce deadlines." She continues, "As a creative, it's so easy to allow my ideating to spiral out of control. Knowing I have containers of time helps me maximize creativity while enforcing time management."
Keep Meetings to a Minimum
Let's be honest; no one likes meetings. Designers' work, in particular, requires large chunks of uninterrupted time. Constant interruptions or full calendars can make it difficult to focus on taking that spark of inspiration and turning it into a good idea. And if you have a sound project management system in place, meetings aren't as necessary.
Despite the mythology of the genius artist working alone in a room on a masterpiece, no one creates in a vacuum. Design is not fine art, and its goal isn't self-satisfaction. It needs to function and serve the purpose for which it's being created. Encourage your designers to work with each other to get and give feedback and discourage competition.
Designer and teacher Paula Stebbins Becker shared, "As a boss and teacher, I have always embraced a collaborative spirit. Each individual brings different strengths and experiences to the team and should be acknowledged and celebrated. I love to see people embrace opportunities to grow, learn new skills, and step out of their comfort zone. This builds confidence. Sometimes, it's best to step back and listen and give space for the team members to work together or with clients. This builds stronger relationships."
Embrace the Inspiration Day
Give designers the opportunity in between projects or when in a creative rut to take an inspiration day. Encourage your design staff to spend time out of the office doing whatever they find fun and inspiring. Maybe that's visiting a museum, going shopping to see what is trending in the market, or taking a one-day creative workshop. Inspiration days are also valuable for team building if staff can do this together.
Fostering a creative environment in the workplace is valuable for everyone, not just designers. The more supported your staff feels, the better the work will be that they produce.
Kristen Dettoni is the founder and CEO of Design Pool LLC, the only pattern library created exclusively for interior designers. Since 1996, Kristen has worked for mills throughout North America, designing fabrics for automobiles, furniture, and home furnishings. She developed the first sustainable upholstery fabric for office interiors, the first sustainable upholstery fabric for automotive interiors, and was awarded a patent for automotive suspension seating. Kristen believes strongly in the power of good design to transform our environments and experiences.