Rick Fraterrigo Rick Fraterrigo

I'm a graphic designer and illustrator who strives to provide unique and effective solutions to a broad range of creative projects

Improve your creativity: embrace chaos

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Working in a field that consistently requires the creation of tightly resolved visuals means being a designer comes with a certain level of OCD. Making sure the coffee mug on my desk is exactly in line with my pencil case has never seemed as important to me as it has since becoming a creative designer. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences a cold shiver every time I see slightly misaligned WordArt on a bar or restaurant’s home-made poster.

For the most part, this obsession with fine detail is what makes us talented designers. Even when creating looser, more playful material, chances are I’m putting a lot of consideration into exactly how off-centre a brushstroke should be. There is, however, a time when our ataxaphobia (that’s the posh word for being a control freak) can hold us back… sketching.

Ugly sketches don’t exist!

When it comes to developing ideas at the initial phase of any creative brief, the pencil and paper have long been my weapons of choice. The pencil’s ability to quickly record a visual idea is second to none, and when coming up with concepts for a design or illustration, I find quantity often provides quality. I sketch out every good, bad and ugly idea that enters my brain just about as quickly as my synapses can handle. The result – chaos. But a good type of chaos, a sort of language that can provide the foundations for seriously original ideas that is perhaps responsible for some of my best work.

Before I became accustomed to working like this, I’d often get frustrated that what I was constructing in my head wasn’t always being accurately portrayed by my pencil. I’d find myself blinkered, spending time trying to make one solution look good on paper, while a dozen alternatives passed me by. My effectiveness at solving design problems was being hindered by my desire to avoid sketching anything even slightly unattractive or unclear.

One of my early sketchbooks contains reasonably resolved drawings but there is definitely a distinct lack of variety


Get it down on paper

I decided to experiment with quicker mark-making and challenged myself to come up with at least 10 times as many ideas as usual, even if I knew they would never make it to the finish line. I’d sit down with a brief or a group of people and immediately start scribbling. The action of transferring thoughts to paper in such a loose manner seemed to encourage a far broader way of thinking, and while not all ideas were what you might call effective design solutions, the floodgates had opened.

My sketchbooks began to brim with ideas ranging from ordinary to borderline insane. While the ordinary ideas were nothing new, I found that the insane ones contained hidden elements of sanity. With a bit of work, they would become less ridiculous and begin to form unique, exciting design solutions. Nothing was off limits. I had officially stepped outside of the metaphoric box.

Not quite as attractive as my earlier sketchbooks but packed with ideas to revisit and explore more fully
I’ve realised I can produce many more ideas in the same timeframe if I adopt a messy approach to my drawing


It’s OK to draw like a toddler

Producing sketches that struggle to hold their own against a four-year-old’s finger painting is a hard pill to swallow for any designer. There’s always an overwhelming urge to quickly resolve this bit or maybe go over that bit to make it look better. But if you start your creative process in this way, you’re likely to only be holding yourself back. If you can silence your inner Da Vinci for just a bit, you might find yourself free to be truly exploratory with your thinking.

So, crack out the pencils or ballpoints or Crayola and get messy. I’m not saying you’ll want to run home and put these sketches on your fridge, but if you let loose just the right amount, you might find yourself in the realm of new and slightly more original ideas. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll move my coffee mug across my desk next week and see what happens…

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