Do you have a method for generating creative thoughts?
I am here with marketing and branding guru Bob Matthews, to find out how he creates his compelling graphics. Bob is the owner of Matthews Design Group and creator of Pixelogixs. He is also the co-publisher of WCWebzine.com and created the cover and multi tool icon for The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals and the graphics for personalpowerroadmap.com.
Q. On your pixelogixs website, you say: “Open the eyes of a blind world. Reality is elastic. Make the point of the story or add bolder, brighter or darker and create an emotional message the world won’t forget.” On your portfolio landing page, you say: “look at an article, service or product from 100 different angles, take it apart top to bottom and create visuals that will surprise, entice or provoke an audience…for their split-second attention.” So your job is to help clients “get noticed in a noisy world,” as Michael Hyatt subtitled his book, Platform. What tools or processes do you use to “open the eyes of a blind world.”
A. Just about everyone has the ability to have creative ideas – meaning to take what we see and experience and come up with new ways to solve a problem either out of necessity, to better our lives and others or to prove we can think of something no one else has thought of. For myself, being creative is an important part of everyday living – almost like breathing. It can even be distracting especially when you have to concentrate on the more mundane tasks – new ideas are always exciting.
The key to following a successful concept through to fruition is exploring all the possibilities time allows for and executing them in a way that creates a lasting impression. It really takes a lot of thinking and sometimes working with other creative minds to make it all happen. You may start a project with a preconceived idea, but through the process of developing other concepts, that first idea doesn’t seem so great after all. Maybe it was too safe, or maybe too confusing or just not hitting the intended market.
The satisfaction comes when the client starts getting responses and their business gains more real value. Plus it helps keep long term business relations going which in these economic times is so important.
Q. How do you generate ideas for graphics?
A. Oh, ideas come from pretty much anywhere. When a project begins, the ideas start to come and the pencil starts moving. These are rough sketches with notations like what is in a scene, what the various headlines might be, the type of photography needed or maybe a stylish illustration. I look at examples of a clients’ competitors to get an idea of how they are addressing their marketing messages and take it in a different direction. Differentiation is important. I come up with 4-5 concepts and then end up with the best three. I take those and do a fairly tight digital rendering and present the best one.
Q. What do you consider when creating branding, icons, and other means to promote a client’s business?
A. When helping to brand a company, the message has to communicate a unified look and feel to everything that company uses. Signage, websites, trade show booths, packaging, ads and more need to be consistent. Careful branding is often the difference in who survives and who doesn’t. Over time, the result is an expanding loyal consumer base.
Q. Do you have a special problem-solving technique for coming up with imaginative ideas?
A. I use word triggers I find in the thesaurus and in current culture like movies, TV, or common shared events. I start with words that relate to the problem I am trying to solve, then I search for synonyms and antonyms. Sometimes an entire concept may be spurred while I’m thinking about something unrelated − while driving, on a walk or most often before drifting off to sleep. Soon pictures form in my mind. I create different graphics using the mental images, let them sit for a while, then refine those and select the best ones to show my client.
Q. Do you use the same technique to generate ideas for dealing with “life’s flat tires,” those problems that we all have as we go through life?
A. I started working at a very young age and was given responsibilities that required my own solutions to get the job done. One of the keys to solving problems is to stay calm, think about the options first before reacting too quickly – which can often be the wrong path. Most of the time, you can handle many of life’s problems, but not always. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help – it can make a huge difference and give you perspective away from your own bubble.
Q. If you had to teach a class of children how to solve problems and make decisions, how would you go about that? What would be the key points you would like to make and how would you illustrate that?
A. For starters, having a few kids myself one of the more important things is don’t try to censor ideas, have fun with exploring and trying something a little crazy – even if it fails completely there is something to be gained. Be fearless when it comes to ideas. The other is perspective. What is a big problem and what is a small one? Kids often get confused about that and get upset over basically nothing. It tends to stop rational thinking and get into an overly emotional state…. Come to think of it, maybe some adults should learn the difference too!
Q. Are you surprised by the images you come up with? Can you give us some examples? Maybe look at one of my favorites and tell me how you got from my text to your visual? I wrote an article on “How to Write Effective Letters: Some Lessons from “The Art of War.” I needed a visual for “What you write first is not the letter. It is the first draft.” You took inkwells, a pen, a samurai warrior, law books and other elements and combined the elements of the article with the graphic. You have a first draft that is really funny, as well. Can you walk us through your creative thinking process?
A. On that one, “The Art of War” was a pretty good example of one of the easier visual concepts we did on the magazine. I knew one of the main elements would be a Samurai warrior, so I could build around that. The article was about not acting hastily and one of the examples was not writing a poison pen letter, hence the pen and the letter. Fortunately, I had a lot of creative license, so I took liberties with the language expressed on the nasty response letter. The background gave it the “legal” environment it needed to pull it all together.
You can reach Bob Matthews at:
Matthews Design Group
If you want to transform problems into changes, you need to take effective action. Nothing changes without change, or as it’s often put, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Put another way, to change something means to make changes. If you see the changes as solutions, you don’t focus on the loss.
Imagine your problem is an egg. Think of the possibilities built into it: Will you make something fancy, like a soufflé? Or meringues? Crepes or a Spanish tortilla? Or just a hard or soft-boiled egg? If you are feeling lazy, break a raw egg into a glass, add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper, and you have a prairie oyster.
The unbroken egg is just an egg, and it can be served hard or soft-boiled. But the broken egg has endless possibilities. It can be made into omelets, crepes, tortillas, sauces, soups, and drinks.
If you are trapped in a dead end job, you could focus on trying to make the job more likable, but it’s still a dead end job (soft or hard boiled eggs). If you focus on making a big career change, you enjoy many more opportunities (omelets, crepes, etc.)
I know when I make small changes, I feel a little bit better. When I make bigger ones, I may feel overwhelmed at first. But then as what I am doing works, I feel a a lot better and inspired to keep working at it. The harder and more difficult it is to do what I decided on doing, the more uncomfortable it makes me at the outset or when in the midst of it, the greater the sense of accomplishment when I get where I wanted to go. It may seem like a small accomplishment to others, but the way I measure it is how hard it was for me to do, how much resistance and “stuckness” I had to overcome.
So what are your eggs? What do you want to make with them? Will you be content with small changes, ones you can do with ease, or do you want bigger results?
I’d love to hear from you about how you fix your eggs. Are you content with quick fixes, or small changes, or do you like to work towards bigger results? Contact me at Marjory@personalpowerroadmap.com. I will hold your information in strict confidence. Or post here and tell all my readers.
I was born in the adopted city of that great American thinker, innovator and Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. One of his many brilliant observations: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail”
So what kind of plan do you need? My own preference is one that accounts for and counteracts the main reasons we fail to achieve what we want. My plan has 7 steps and is recorded on a 7-section chart, the Personal Power Roadmap.
But is a plan enough? If I had a $100 bill with Ben Franklin’s image on it for every plan I made and abandoned, and if I had followed Ben Franklin’s instructions to save money, I’d be rolling in dough today.
Why did I abandon plans I made? The usual suspects are I ran out of motivation, I got bored with the idea, “life happened,” or some other version of “the dog ate my homework.” I tried incentivizing myself through various means: I paid for a year’s membership at a gym, then went only a few times before finding I could never get there when it was open (it wasn’t 24-hour Nautilus, which might have been a better choice given my “I can’t get there in time” excuse). Or I let work get in the way, like the time I cancelled my plans to go to Nepal and lost my $500 deposit. I look back at those abandoned plans like flotsam washing up on the beach of my life. I don’t like making plans I don’t carry out, so sometimes I don’t make them because I know I won’t do them (no more gyms or exercise equipment!). I know I need really good “whys” to get me to do things I don’t like doing. The reasons have to be ones I care about, not ones I “should” care about.
When you think back over your life, did you fail to make plans? Did you make plans but then failed to carry them out?
Some people don’t make plans because they know they won’t follow them. Others don’t make plans because they don’t know how. Others naturally do things and don’t need to write out a plan to get motivated and keep at it.
It’s time to follow another one of Ben Franklin’s adages: “Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” In other words, turn off the notification sounds, check your email no more than three times a day, let phone calls go to voicemail and retrieve them three times a day.
The time you will save can be used to focus on the next step to take to carry out your plans, or to make plans if you haven’t done that yet. An easy way to make and carry out your plans is to follow the 7-step system in The Personal Power Roadmap: The Ultimate 7 Step System to Effectively Solve Problems, Make Decisions, and Reach Your Goals.