Celebrate your creativity

World Creativity and Innovation Week is the perfect opportunity to dedicate yourself to exploring new ideas with other creatives from around the world. From April 15-21, more than 46 countries will celebrate creativity and innovation through a variety of events. Here are some ideas for celebrating this week:

  • Attend a creative workshop or event.
  • Visit a museum or art exhibit.
  • Watch a movie or TED talk about creativity.
  • Create something new and put it out in the world, like a blog theme or a poem.
  • Grab your camera and go on a photowalk.
  • “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” Check out this 1991 lecture by John Cleese on making your life more creative.

Things I wish I’d understood when I was in design school

School is a bubble, a safe haven from the real world. Cultivate curiosity. Stay up all night X-actoing. Try to understand that right now you don’t really have to worry about dental bills, insurance, rush deadlines, press checks, expense reports, and pitches. Retirement benefits are important (unless you want to work until the age of 80), and compound interest is worth learning about. One day you’ll be responsible for all that, and you won’t ever be able to find the time for anything.

Write down your goals, draw a map of things you’d like to do. Once the seasonal structure of school is gone, life can start to feel like a never-ending free fall or a stagnant pool of sameness if you don’t draft your own direction. You will learn more at your first real job than you did in school.

A job is a job, so don’t take it too personally. Work can sometimes bog you down and make you forget that you’re alive. You can make your life anything you want it to be, but you’ll have to be the one to take the actions to get you there. This may seem obvious and sound easy; it is not.

If you’ve never had a crappy job, get one, at least for a little while. Later in your career, when you’re a manager, you need to remember what it felt like to make minimum wage and do menial work.

Learn how to almost always say yes, even when your initial reaction may be no. Use social media strategically. Create on a regular basis, not just for your job, but for yourself. Then put your work out there for everyone to see. Be flexible. Details matter. Use grids most of the time and kern thoughtfully. Read. Look. See. Remove the price sticker from your portfolio case before going to your first job interview.

Seek and foster relationships with mentors you respect. Jump into chaos, fix the problems later. Sit beneath a very old tree and look up. Know design history. Designing non-functional typography á la David Carson won’t work for most paying clients. Hoefler & Frere-Jones is not a fancy French winery. Know your type foundries and understand that at some point you will have to pay money for a font.

Have strong opinions. Share them, but don’t push them. There are no absolutes.

Travel, near and far. Embrace empathy; it is the key to all successful relationships. Purposely leave your comfort zone; familiarity and habit can make you stagnant. Accumulate stories. Understand that as a problem solver, you’re obligated to explore and be open to all experiences. This is how you will make new connections and arrive at surprising solutions. This is also how you’ll come to feel super alive.

We’re all in this crazy world together, and don’t ever become so selfish that you forget it. The government isn’t always right, and corporations are not people, no matter what legislation says. Some misguided people will try to pay you a lot of money to design something that is unethical. Go to a quiet place and really think about if it’s worth it. Use your problem solving and visual communication skills for good; give back to the world that helped you get to where you are today. As a designer especially, you have an obligation to a greater good; don’t leave a legacy that ruins the future of others.

There is so much more you don’t know. Realize it, and let that knowledge humble you and inspire you to keep seeking. Don’t waste your time always searching for advice from other people. If you take time to listen to the quiet of your heart, you will come to understand that you already know the answer.


A lot of other people have advice to give. Here are some of my favorites:

David Foster Wallace – Kenyan commencement speech

Stefan Sagmeister – Things I have learned in my life so far

Frank Chimero – The Particle

Ira Glass – on being an artist

First Things First Manifesto 2000 – on ethics and the responsibility of being a designer


About the Author

Jessica Yurasek is a Creative Strategist at Innovation Protocol, a strategic brand consulting firm. She also works with socially conscious non-profits such as The Tiziano Project and Counterspill.org to promote truth through storytelling using design along with new media platforms. Find her on Twitter @missjessrose.

Everything is a Remix: System Failure

“System Failure”, the final installment of the Everything is a Remix video series, is now available.

Our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. Instead, ideas are regarded as property, as unique and original lots with distinct boundaries. But ideas aren’t so tidy. They’re layered, they’re interwoven, they’re tangled. And when the system conflicts with the reality… the system starts to fail.

Created by Kirby Ferguson, the four-part series is a fantastic overview of the history of remix and what that means for creativity and innovation now. If you missed any of the first three parts, catch up here.

Internet blacklist legislation

If you haven’t heard about SOPA and PIPA, chances are you are living under a rock…with no wi-fi. For 24 hours on January 18, sites around the world are going black to protest this legislation, which threatens innovation, freedom of expression, and online security.

Protect your digital rights by educating yourself on SOPA and PIPA and speaking out against these proposed bills. Here are a handful of links to get you started:

Do your part to make sure this day never comes.

World Usability Day 2011

Whether designing a website, a document, or an application, professional writers have to think about who will use the final product and how they will use it. Is the website easy to navigate? Is an instruction manual readable? Is the interface intuitive? Usability is a key part of the design process, and it is honored each year during World Usability Day.

World Usability Day (WUD) was started in 2005 to ensure that services and products important to life are easy to access and simple to use. This year’s event takes place on November 10 and the theme is Education: Designing for Social Change. Events will focus on how Design Education will help develop products and services that will impact social change.

Programs will examine all products and services used for teaching how usable design impacts the world, whether it’s close at hand (organizations), surrounding us (particular cultures/communities) or from a global view. . . how does something designed in China, Scotland, India or the United States, for example, have impact on other nations around the world? WUD will explore and celebrate Design Education – designing with an intentional outcome of sparking change in how people behave, communicate, and do things in the world; and examining the concept of cultures and how culture impacts usability.

Last year, more than 40,000 people in 44 countries participated in World Usability Day. Here are some ways you can get involved this year:

How do you make things easier through usability and user-centered design?

30 days of writing — NaNoWriMo 2011

Have you ever thought about writing a novel but been scared away by the time and effort involved? Now’s the time to put aside your doubts and silence your inner editor because National Novel Writing Month kicks off on Tuesday.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is a novel-writing program where the goal is to write 50,000 words (about a 175-page novel) from November 1 to November 30. With the time limitation, writers are forced to simply write. No procrastinating, no editing, just writing.

If writing a novel doesn’t appeal to you, there are still benefits to using the event to fuel your own writing projects. Use the month of energy and excitement about writing to find the motivation to finish (or start) your dissertation, write that short story you have in mind, or polish those pieces you want to submit. Challenge yourself to blog every single day or create your own 30-day writing event. Use the month to try a style of writing that you may not have a chance to do in your professional job.

You can join NaNoWriMo at any time during November, and while it’s nice to ‘win’ by writing 50,000 words, it’s more about participating in a frenzied celebration of writing. Get ready for 30 days and nights of literary abandon!

Why do you write?

Tomorrow, October 20, is National Day on Writing. Now in its third year, the National Day on Writing was established by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) to draw attention to the variety of writing we do every day and to help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft.

This year’s theme is ‘Why I Write’. When someone asks you, “Why professional writing?” or “Why do you want to be a writer?”, how do you answer? When you explain what you love about writing, or why you are a writer, what do you say?

By reflecting on why you write and sharing it with others, you show the importance of writing. Tweet your answer with the hashtags #whyiwrite or #dayonwriting. Update your Facebook status with your answer. Use your blog, Tumblr, YouTube. Tell the world why you write and join in the celebration.

Remembering Steve Jobs

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

— Steve Jobs, 2005

Steve Jobs’ vision and creative thinking changed the world and the way we think about technology and communication. Share your thoughts, memories, and condolences at rememberingsteve@apple.com.