Creativity lessons from Sagmeister and Sasso

Posted by September 3, 2013
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“Practice wider than your discipline,” advises Eva-Lotta Lamm, and enjoy “getting used to learning something new”. She was speaking to a full theatre at Reasons to Be Creative, the 3-day design/coding/creative conference in Brighton.

Eva-Lotta’s point – which she illustrated with anecdotes about going to weekend workshops in everything from sign-writing to street dance – is that by doing things outside your core skillset, you’ll become better at your core skill too.

2 take home points from Lamm

1.  Use sketching to ‘think visually’ and to help others literally see what you mean. Especially useful for interaction designers and UX professionals.

2.  Think you can’t sketch? Nonsense! Break it down into a visual alphabet and then practice. Get a copy of Ed Emberley’s book ‘Make a World’ and check out Eva-Lotta’s site at

Eva-Lotta’s emphasis on the benefits to be reaped from non-core activities and “side projects” cropped up again and again on Day One of the conference, with speakers including Amit Pitaru, Fabio Sasso, Dominic Wilcox and the legendary Stefan Sagmeister also putting across this message in one way or another.

In the latter case, Stefan Sagmeister (who gave last night’s headline session) underlined the role that ‘non-repeatable activities’ play in happiness. His talk was around the frame of his soon-to-be-released documentary ‘The Happy Film’, but managed to encompass so much more, beginning with his naked body and ending with the audience on its feet and singing.

2 take home points from Sagmeister

1.  Increase your happiness by practicing thankfulness: each night think of 3 things that worked well that day

2.  Be better at your job by stepping outside your comfort zone

Funnily enough, it appears that the one piece of happiness advice Sagmeister refused to follow was the practice of humility, saying “I don’t give a shit about that” followed by images from his banana wall installation bearing the unambiguous legend ‘self confidence produces results’.

This message contrasted with the approach of Fabio Sasso, the man behind hugely successful blog Abduzeedo and currently a senior designer at Google. Sasso’s humble nature meshed nicely with his key message, which was that it was only when he set aside his fear of public failure that success and opportunities started to flow.

As a young designer it took a burglary and the loss of all his work, both personal and professional, to give him the impetus to start blogging – motivated by a practical desire to know things were backed-up safely by being placed online.

2 take home points from Sasso

1.  Ignore negative feedback on your blog and/or don’t read the comments at all. It’s worked for Sasso

2.  Want to be hired by Google? Sasso believes its essential that designers can code.  He also places an emphasis on conveying that you think strategically and understand how to design with users in mind.

Dominic Wilcox spoke after Sasso and was perhaps the most inspirational speaker of the day, judging by the chatter in the bar afterwards. The sheer weight of his creative output and the cleverness of his ideas (check out the funny and clever Variations on Normal for starters) could have been intimidating but this was broken down by his humour and emphasis on the ease of making things once you sit down to it.

2 take home points from Wilcox

1.  Any object can have 100 ideas in it – you just need to think hard enough.

2.  Get out of a creativity rut by imposing time constraints on yourself. Check out Wilcox’s Speed Creating to see the idea in action.

Most of all, Wilcox, as with the other of the day’s speakers, left the audience feeling energised, refreshed and excited. A creative kick-up-the-butt, if you will.

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  • Free Range Web: Looks like a great night was had by all. Congratulations to you and your team
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