It begins with the laying of an egg. Exceptional visual expressions always enter the world as vulnerable fledglings. And like the hatching of an egg, great concepts require nurturing and loving care. They take time, passion and cultivation. The creative process for birthing great visual ideas can be expressed in two forms, Concept and Style. We will start our exploration with the concept.
HATCH A CONCEPT
A concept is the thought or reasoning for how you develop a project. In other words, it means you have a reason for what you are doing. It is the framework for all of your style and design decisions. It brings unity and focus to your ideas and helps motivate visual choices. The concept can be thought of as a skeleton. It has shape and structure to support the flesh.
Ask the question, “What do I want to accomplish with this project? Do I want to help people with addictions? Communicate an announcement? Introduce an idea like grace?” The concept and it’s elements should accurately communicate the established objectives.
The cover art for this article was created for a project called Evolution. The objective was to advertise a church series on the topic of spiritual development—helping people to “evolve” or grow in the areas of prayer, meditation and Bible study. A creative team came up with the following verbal description: “Embedded in our spiritual DNA is God’s supernatural code for personal evolution. A design for transforming the human heart into the likeness of God.” The objective motivated the design choices. The image of a neuron was selected as the primary visual idea. It represents uniqueness and the power to facilitate change in someone’s life. The neurons are intermingling to promote the idea of intimacy and connection. The reflective surface further supports the notion of inner revelation.
A secondary expression for this project was human DNA. A metaphor was created, comparing DNA to the spiritual potential that God places in every person. This made a nice juxtaposition of science and spirituality.
Your audience may not observe the subtleties of a concept but that does not diminish its power. Many great concepts are not obvious, but faint and delicate. A strong yet subtle concept can create a feeling or stir an emotion without the observer being aware of the effect. All great films and works of art possess this virtue.
GO WITH YOUR PASSION
When approaching a new project, look to yourself for inspiration. Valuable ideas come from deep within the soul. This is the great determining factor between a mediocre expression and an exceptional expression. Throughout history, the great artists and designers have understood how to reveal the innermost reservoirs of their soul. They were able to link their heart to their craft. Picasso once said, “For me, creation first starts by contemplation, and I need long, idle hours of meditation, it is then that I work most.” This is the secret to creative success—solitude.
The practice of solitude is transformational. It carries you off to a place of quiet reflection, away from the noise and distractions of this modern world. Unplug from this busy life and spend some time thinking about your project. “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch”, E.B. White.
Commit to regularly isolating yourself for a prolonged period of time. Find a place that is quiet and comfortable. Use a journal or a computer to write and draw your thoughts. Make mind maps. Express feelings and experiences. Meditate on concepts, think metaphorically, make connections, use analogy and symbols. Explore how these ideas relate to your past and present relationships.
Humanity is hungry for intimacy and vulnerability. There is an eagerness to connect with others in meaningful ways. Develop your own methods for expressing emotions and feelings in tangible form. It takes a great deal of courage to reveal the deepest parts of your soul but when you do the world will take notice. Remember to measure creative success by how people are moved and motivated.
VENTURE BEYOND THE EXPECTED
Transferring new value from one idea to another is the secret to cultivating great visual ideas. Everything in life can be connected to something else to create new meaning, convey a feeling or express an idea in a new creation. These connections can be made by using metaphor, analogy, symbol, story or hypothesis. Often, new ideas can emerge by looking at old ideas and searching for a new connection.
Help stimulate your imagination by becoming an art collector. Gathering information is a tremendous source for nourishing creative inspiration! Begin your collection with photographs, magazines images, fabrics, textures and other visuals. Collect objects that relate to your concept. Use the internet to research music, film, lyrics, typography and design.
DEVELOP A CREATIVE ATTITUDE
Live life with a creative attitude by establishing a routine of observation. Deliberately stop during the day to notice all that surrounds you. Pay attention to the broad strokes and the smallest of details. Marcel Proust describes observation thusly, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Investigate shapes, patterns, color, texture, sounds, scents, the way that objects fill space, the effect of lighting, shadow and reflection. Let all of your senses become your gathering tools.
When an actor executes a pose he is described as striking the right “attitude”. A curious attitude is all about position. Intentionally position yourself to view the world from a new perspective. Imagine that you are looking through a periscope, 3D glasses, a gun scope or through night vision goggles. What does it look like under a microscope? What if you were the wind, an insect or a mushroom? Look through the eyes of your father or a child.
Asking questions is a great tool for developing a creative attitude. Inquiring minds have the ability to go beyond the obvious. Why is glass clear? Why does light refract when it goes through glass? Ask “what if” questions that prick your imagination. What if snow were pink? What if donkeys could fly? What if rocks were edible? Did you know that the human ear can hear sound frequencies ranging from 20 vibrations to 20,000 vibrations per second. What if our ears could hear 1 to 100,000 vibrations per second? Could we hear the movement of our fingers and the snow falling to the ground? When the Bible describes the meadows as “shouting for joy” and the stars as “singing” is it a metaphor or a reality? If we could hear a broader range of sound then could we hear stars? Will we have these abilities in Heaven? How could you express these possibilities in visual form?
Questions have the ability to take us on a journey. They stimulate creative movement and open up alternate ways of thinking. Question reasoning, history, culture, style, perception, feelings and relationships. Ask questions using your senses. Ask questions that are absurd. Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?
Another way to nurture your curious spirit is by learning a new skill. Learning is healthy for the brain. Consider developing a new craft every year. Create a life-map depicting the skills that you would like to learn over the course of your life. Learn a new language, a musical instrument, a field in science or a new art form. Subscribe to trade magazines that are outside of your field. Read text books. Look for ways to broaden your understanding of life.
VISUALS FOR MINISTRY
The application of video in ministry is endless. Here are a few possibilities for your consideration.
Produce documentaries that portray true stories of faith and salvation from within your ministry. Touch the heart of your people on topics like drug abuse, acceptance, family and reconciliation. Do the research. Discover the stories.
Introduce the message with a quick introduction or teaser. Use video as a delivery device for portions of a message or an illustration. Consider various locations and scenarios for a message metaphor.
Enhance live performances by creating original music videos. Create a click track that is fed to the drummer or the entire band. Develop a team to conceptualize and storyboard before shooting and editing.
Create series previews to promote upcoming services. Study movie trailers for ideas and for style. Add a buzz to your communications with short animations promoting events and ministries.
Consider the power of scripture and the simplicity of the projected word. Use imagery for the purpose of prayer and meditation. Solicit original art to visually support a chorus or a contemplation.