How Full is Your Creative Funnel?

Funnel (PSF)

by Rebecca Cochran

As a designer and creative thinker, I’ve learned the importance of what I call “filling my creative funnel.” It’s not always an easy thing to do.

I’ve realized that I function best, in my work and in my personal life, when I allow myself to regularly experience bursts of art, music and other thought-provoking events. When my body and mind become depleted, I can usually attribute that lackluster feeling to a near-empty creative funnel.

It’s not always easy to spot this depletion as it’s happening. The process is gradual. Amidst the workday routine and the rigors of running a business, the emptying funnel often sneaks up on me. With experience, however, I’m learning to seize meaningful opportunities to recharge that funnel.

Being a musician as well as a designer, I’ve learned to troll the key online portals to keep abreast of music and performers of interest to me. I also use Twitter to stay current on who is performing where. And, I follow my favorite museums to learn about special exhibitions and other events. I also allow for serendipity to play a part.

The late summer cultural desert is usually tough for me to get through. After the excitement of early to mid-summer music festivals, by late summer my funnel is running on empty. Once the fall performance season finally gets fully underway, I’m typically deluged with opportunities for a cultural and creative recharge.

Take, for example, the last ten days. It began with a Hindemith Lives! celebration at UNC School of the Arts to commemorate 50 years since composer Paul Hindemith’s passing. The UNCSA faculty presented an entire evening of seldom heard chamber works by Hindemith, the majority of which I was unfamiliar. It provided a welcome burst of creative insight.

A few days later, I was at UNC-Chapel Hill enjoying pianist András Schiff’s performance of the Bach Goldberg Variations (along with Beethoven as an encore). The next evening, I was on the edge of my seat taking in Opera Carolina’s performance of Verdi’s Aida.

Wedged in between these music performances, I attended two events sponsored by my local AIGA chapter, as part of Triad Design Week. The first was a screening of the Design & Thinking documentary. (In fact, I was invited to deliver the opening remarks.) The second was a keynote by Doug Powell, designer and studio lead of the new IBMDesign group out of Austin. He delivered an excellent talk on Enhancing Brands with Design.

As Monday morning has rolled around, my creative funnel is full again. I can’t predict when these creative bursts will happen for me, but I have learned to seize them when they present themselves. I’m much more centered, creative and focused when my creative funnel is stoked. I also have fresh stories to share, more opportunities to connect more dots and, best of all, a big smile on my face.

What are your experiences? How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

Design & Thinking Documentary Redux


Design & Thinking at the Rialto, Raleigh

by Rebecca Cochran

Last evening, I had the pleasure of a second viewing of the documentary, Design & Thinking. My initial viewing of the film was nearly a year ago at the North Carolina screening premiere in Greensboro. Last night’s screening was arranged through the Raleigh chapter of AIGA. The excellent opening remarks were given by David Burney, CEO of New Kind and former VP at Red Hat.

The film is very well done with an energizing soundtrack and inspiring interviews with designers from a variety of disciplines. I particularly enjoyed the spots featuring writer and former Dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin, IDEO’s David Kelley and Udaya Patnaik of Jump Associates. Each is a clear communicator and truly passionate about design thinking. I included excerpts from them and many others in my 2012 post on the film.

Despite some recent nay-sayers who’ve suggested that design thinking may already be a thing of the past, my take is this. It doesn’t matter what term we use (if we use one at all). What does matter is that each and every one of us, no matter what our role in business, can and should learn to be designers. In fact, we should become design do-ers. Whether we’re designing things or designing services, rapid prototyping and failing early and cheaply are the best ways to discover the customer’s true needs. Or, as Innosight’s Clayton Christensen has been reminding us for decades, how to determine the customer’s job to be done.