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Design like Snowflakes

May 30, 2013 | filed in Business, Design, Ethics | Test

Is it possible that no two snowflakes are alike? If it is true, as it is beyond all human ability to measure, it is a marvel of nature.

Imagine the ability to create ceaseless variation in the small space of .1cm – 7.62cm  (the speculative range of a snowflake’s size in diameter). It is both wonderful and incalculable. It also points to the human potential for creativity and originality.  After all, most of us are designing in much larger spaces, albeit shrinking viewports with expanding pixel densities for interactive designers.

The construction of a snowflake. (Infographic by LOV)

On the subject of originality, Ravi Zacharias, a renown Christian apologist observed that, in complete ignorance, one might gaze at the night moon and believe it to be a source of light, when in actuality the moon simply reflects the original light of the sun.

Ravi used this illustration to contrast the concept of original truth to competing claims that borrow, or reflect, the “light” of original truth — making them easily mistaken for sources of truth.  I will use this analogy to broach a difficult subject in the creative profession.

We walk a fine line as designers. We are receptive beings by nature, drawing inspiration from innumerable sources. With so many publications and interactive forums dedicated to showcasing, instructing and inspiring designers, the line between the illuminated and the “impostor” work becomes, at best, a bleeding one.

Most designers are not perched in high, windowed towers looking down on a serene valley while creating master-works in a zen-like state. The brutal reality is, many creatives work in the trenches under extreme pressure to perform creative miracles with severe budget and/or time constraints. Let’s not forget the occasional client turned self-appointed creative director.  The reality is enough to make the staunchest design purist want to cut corners and compromise.

So why write this post? Initially, because I saw this ad

and I remembered the original campaign:

Secondly, and more importantly, I believe we can all do better. If you doubt my sincerity, know I am writing this post having been both on the giving and receiving end of this issue more than once.

As creative professionals, we owe it to our clients and ourselves not to cross the line that divides inspiration from imitation. Not in the interest of preventing the potential humiliation of being caught with our “smocks down,” but because we are cheating ourselves, our clients, and denying our audiences the chance to experience something unique — the mark of something genuine that only you could offer: your snowflake-like fingerprint.

After all, your genetic code is speculated to be as unique as, and infinitely more complex than, a snowflake. Add to this your frame of reference: the structure of concepts, values, customs, views, etc., by which you evaluate data, communicate ideas, and regulate your behavior. More simply put, your frame of reference equals the sum of your life’s experiences and emotions, resulting in a genuinely unique perspective.

The possibilities for originality are endless.

Every day and every project is a new opportunity for creativity and originality. Under design duress, will you choose to have the courage to create, or will you cheat opportunity and cross the line by copying the works of others?

Take the time and have the faith to create.  If your design must be similar, let it be unique —  like a snowflake.

Infographic Credit: LOV