Would having less, make you more creative?

Recently I was looking at a UK designed brochure that had been recently translated and reproduced in Chinese. It was really interesting to see something that on the surface seemed so familiar, suddenly appear so unfamiliar.

As I was casually flicking through the pages, I was suddenly aware of something that, to my shame, should have probably been blindingly obvious, but the typeface used had no visual differential between uppercase or lowercase, all the characters were of the same height. I had just never really noticed or been aware of this previously when looking at translated material, or when looking at design that used Chinese type.

Despite my linguistic ignorance, I have had a long-standing curious fascination with Chinese and Japanese pictographic styled text. To me, it has an instantly appealing graphic and emotive nature to it that is hard not to be fascinated by!

The Passion 4 logo in Traditional Chinese type

The Passion 4 logo in Traditional Chinese type

OK, so my mini Chinese typographic epiphany set my mind thinking. How would my approach to typographic design change, if the whole western concept of upper and lower case type was removed?!

The use of upper/lower case type can often be a key (western design) element in creating an interesting distinctions in type design or in creating logotypes, but would not having it as an option at my disposal, force me into thinking in new and different ways? Would having less, actually make me more creative?

This is why I liked to be creatively and in this case, culturally challenged, it helps to develop the way you think or approach problems from a whole new perspective.

It brings it home that design is often not such a universal cultural language. What resonates in one culture, could easily be seen as being odd, irrelevant, ignorant or even offensive in another. Greater cultural understanding and awareness can bring a richness and diversity to our design.

Some interesting Chinese typeface facts/differences…

  • The English alphabet only has 26 letters.
  • The Chinese language has over 8,000 individual characters, of which about 3,500 are most commonly used.
  • Chinese typographers, would not only need to design 26 alpha characters, but would also need to create at least 3,500 Chinese characters and their traditional/simplified equivalent.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as ever, it is much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

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PS; With the Passion 4 t-shirt design shown above, I have to give a big thanks to my Taiwanese friend Asha for helping my understand a little more about Chinese type!

This could be something of pinterest to you…

Here at Passion 4, we have a fairly wide ranging and eclectic mixture of interests and things that inspire us, so what better way of collecting them than having a digital scrapbook, to not only store them all in, but to find even more sources of inspiration! Lets be honest, you can never have too many sources of inspiration in your life now can you!

We often collaborate and share ideas or research in Evernote, (there is a good review about Evernote on Giikr.com) but for a more public sharing digital scrapbook, we use Pinterest to bookmark some of our interests.

So far on our various Pinterest boards we are covering our passions and interests in…
Architecture, Technology, Inspiration, Design, Furniture, Illustration, Automotive, Photography, Words, Products, Prints and posters, the environment and ones to watch.

Pinterest – Passion 4 pins

Pinterest – Passion 4 pins

Have a look at our various boards and let us know what are your favourites? We are always adding more, so make sure to follow us on Passion4pins

Stop and get out now if you want inspiration…

What are you waiting for? Staring at screen won’t help. Bing or Google in this case are not actually your friends.

What you actually need is new perspective, new ways of thinking and this rarely happens when you stay (stagnate) in the same place, doing the same old things whilst you remain safe and cozy within in your self-defined comfort zone.

We have the privilege of living within a rapidly changing technological landscape, with an ever-increasing array of mind-boggling opportunities and possibilities, yet still some of the greatest creative tools that have ever been invented, are also the cheapest and most readily available.

The humble pen, pencil, sketch/note-book are one of the most important and valuable creative assets you can possibly have. Use them, don’t leave home without them, they rock! Treasure them, treat them with careless abandonment, dare to doodle, scribble down ideas, join the dots and see what direction it takes you in…

the humble pencil is one of the most fundamental and essential creative tools that exist

the humble pencil is one of the most fundamental and essential creative tools that exist

Worry not about the quality of line, the visual imperfections of your ability to draw, this is simply all about exploring ideas, giving birth to thoughts or concepts, and then bringing them into a visual reality.

A classic demonstration of this was from a simple sketch that Ben Pon (a former Olympian and motor racing driver from the Netherlands) made in April 1947 when he came across a very strange vehicle that a group of German car manufacturer employees had built themselves to make their work easier when transporting heavy parts from production hall to production hall…

Ben Pon took his notebook and sketched a type of vehicle that did not exist in the world at that time – a forward control vehicle with rear engine and a box shaped body. This sketch marked the starting point of a million selling vehicle: the Volkswagen Transporter.

Ben Pon took his notebook and sketched a type of vehicle that did not exist in the world at that time – a forward control vehicle with rear engine and a box-shaped body. This sketch marked the starting point of a million selling vehicle: the Volkswagen Transporter.

At first sight it really is not that impressive as a piece of ‘art’, but it was the concept that was captured on paper. A little later, on 23rd April, this impression crystallised into an idea. Ben Pon took his notebook and sketched a type of vehicle that did not exist in the world at that time – a forward control vehicle with rear engine and a box-shaped body. This simple sketch marked the starting point of a million selling vehicle: the Volkswagen Transporter the vehicle that has become an iconic design for many generations to this very day!

The iconic Volkswagen Split screen 23 window deluxe microbus

The iconic Volkswagen Split screen 23 window deluxe microbus

As one (of the many) great lines from Fight Club proclaims, ‘How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?’

In this instance of looking for inspiration, the ‘fight’ is not an underground fight cub, it is more often a fight against the self-imposed boundaries that tend to limit the creative process. You need to shake things up, break some routines and push the boundaries of our experiences if we are see things in a new way.

If you have not already had an opportunity to read the excellent book ‘Sticky Wisdom: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work’, I can highly recommend it as a way of helping you find easy and very practical ways of incorporating new creative principles into your everyday lifestyle.

Carpe diem – do it now before the rut becomes too deep to escape from!

ask not what your economy can do for you…

With the ongoing news about failing economies, weakening currencies and economic uncertainty, it is good to know that there is still a currency that can be invested in that will give a great return on investment.

Not heard about it? Simple. Investing in creative ideas and design is always a good option.

A creative idea that is developed, nurtured and brought to life is a very special ‘currency’, one that can deliver both short and long-term benefits.

ask not – changing the world, one t-shirt slogan at a time!

ask not – changing the world, one t-shirt slogan at a time!

OK, so I’m no Robert Peston or Stephanie Flanders, or a learned journalist from the Financial Times or The Economist, so like most financial transactions, there is always small print, and as Tom Waits once said…

‘The large print giveth and the small print taketh away’

Strangely however, in such times of uncertainty, the natural instinct can often be to revert back to old ways of thinking, to cut back on creativity, to withdraw back to the known, to stay safe. So rather than investing in a ‘creative currency’; in new ways of thinking, new ways of approaching problems, things just stagnate and stay the same. As a counter to this approach,  Henry Ford (1863-1947), American founder of the Ford Motor Company once famously said…

‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’

Apple once boldly proclaimed, now more than ever, we need to ‘think different‘ just like the Crazy ones…

At the time, Apple were floundering badly, yet they heavily invested in design and the creative process, with the outcome being the revolutionary launch of the first iMac, arguably the computer that helped change both their future as a company, as well as the computer landscape from that point onwards.

Rather than a creative austerity mentality, surely now is the best time to be crazy and invest more in creativity! So what are you going to invest your creative bank balance in?