#PROGRESS

My Top 5 Methods for Finding Inspiration

If you are lucky enough, and your mind is always open, creative ideas will often come to you like a strike of lightning. But if they don’t, then having some go-to methods for finding inspiration in the world around you can be really helpful.

Whenever I feel uninspired or experience any form of writer’s block, I have to actively seek and chase inspiration and creative ideas. Here I’ve put together a handy little list of my top 5 methods that you can implement right now to boost your creativity:

Take in a good piece of art

Looking at a painting like a Picasso can help me spark a creative idea. A great painting can be full of contrast. It can have strong colors or rough shapes. It can be complex with a clear meaning, or simple with an indistinct and not-so-easy-to-grasp meaning.

By just looking at a beautiful art piece, I can often hear melodies, chord progressions, or come up with new and interesting design ideas. Usually they’re very out-of-the-box, and the better the work of art, the better the idea.

Just think about it, humans have created and stared at images drawn onto walls for thousands of years, longer than we’ve had the written word. It clearly has an effect on us.

Provide limitations

Less tools often means more creativity.

Not having a lot of resources at your disposal, and being limited to only a few tools, forces and challenges the brain to think of new and creative ways of working.

So instead of thinking: “I have to buy this” or get this new equipment that everyone is using, try “I can just be creative with what I have here and now”. Or “I can even remove some tools that I have and try to accomplish the task”.

By using this method, you’ll come up with magical and innovative ideas that you perhaps wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and the ideas will be more unique. More you, and more real!

Daymond John, the entrepreneur and founder of Fubu, has a book called: “The Power Of Broke” which is kind of about this principle of dealing without.

Limitations

Steal from the greats

Yes, it’s allowed to copy the greats, and you should!

Steve Jobs stated that when he and his team developed the Macintosh, he kept in mind a quote from Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

It comes down to exposing yourself to the best things ever created, and bringing those things into what you’re doing. Think about it – when we are learning the piano, we play compositions of other composers, not our own. When we play sports, we follow the game others invented, not our own creations. When we dress ourselves, we choose fashions created by others before we design our own. Copying builds expertise.

I’m not suggesting straight duplicating or being a lazy thief, but adding a twist, a great idea here and there, and turning it into something greater. This method can spark new and interesting ideas that you most likely wouldn’t have thought of from only using your own mind’s imagination.

We’ve seen it again and again where great masters have found inspiration in their predecessors, and taken what was good about them, and by doing this, they themselves became great.

Search out new surroundings

Stepping out of the normal way of doing things and into new surroundings can often inspire the brain to think of new thoughts.

Maybe you’ll see things you haven’t seen before which can lead the brain into new creative wanderings. Ever tried walking through your supermarket backwards to the way you normally do? You’ll see products you’ve never seen before. Try a different route home from work, or a TV channel you’ve never looked at.

You can journey to new places, maybe to other countries, cultures, or just spend time outdoors and immerse yourself in nature. New scents, people, sceneries and things that are uncommon to you can expand your vision. It can boost your inventiveness and get you thinking creatively.

New perspective

Taking a shower

Many great ideas happened in the shower.

The combination of having a relaxed state of mind, alpha waves rippling through the brain, and the water distracting you from other thoughts, is perfect for coming up with the best and most creative ideas. Pharrell Williams has even stated in an interview that one of his favorite places to work is in the shower!

Our subconscious mind is often working hard throughout the day to develop an idea, or solve a problem, to work on a project, but we’re not able to hear these insights or voices when our analytical brain is operating at full speed.

It’s not until we relax, get in the shower and remove ourselves from email and social media that we’re able to hear these voices in the back of our head.

Similar to the shower are: exercising, driving home and cooking  …if you’re good at that.

Now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Which of these 5 methods will you take into practice or use more often? Do you have other methods you want to share?

Now let’s move forward…

– Casper Stang

How To Build A Business Around Your Creative Passion

Just imagine …  the ultimate dream. Waking up, having the most perfect cup of coffee, taking a deep breath of fresh air, and then starting your workday creating or building something that you’re truly passionate about. Even better is being able to do this every single day of the week. Is it possible? Of course it is!

Oh, I love this topic. If you’re a creative person and you’re not living out that passion, because you “need” to have another job to pay the bills, then something inside of you is slowly dying. There is no need for you to put yourself through such frustration, unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment.

Perhaps we tend to complicate matters … when it’s really not that hard. Think differently. You can turn that creative passion into a business and make a great living doing what you love!

But first, let’s get this one thing straight…

We’re all familiar with the concept of the “starving artist”. Creative people tend to not like the business side of pursuing their passion, and just want to be creative. In order for you to turn your creativity into a business you’ll have to get yourself some business skills.

Sure, you can outsource. Maybe you can let your manager, agent or assistant take care of your business, but if you want to thrive long-term, you will need to have a good foundational understanding of business yourself.

This might sound harsh to some at first, but we live in a world based on trade and commerce. It’s all a business in every society. Stop playing this “game” thinking it’s not important, or not for you. The sooner you realize this fact, the sooner you’ll be able to thrive. Become interested in business and then you’ll be on your way to turning your creative passion into a career.

Get used to wearing two different hats. Put the business hat on when you negotiate your fees, contracts and deadlines. You will need to act more like your own manager when you’re in this type of role. Put the creative hat on when you’re in your modem creating. To function well, learn to really separate the two. Don’t think about finances while you’re creating.

To be successful as a freelancer or business owner, you’ll need to know how to position yourself, sell and close deals, write up contracts and price your offerings in such a way that makes it profitable and sustainable long-term.

“So how do I get started?”

There are so many ways you can go about it. You can either package your creativity into a service that you provide, you can create a product, and you can teach or sell coaching. It’s all about supply and demand. How can you help, solve problems, or give value to other people or companies with your creative endeavors? It’s likely you can do many things in several different ways.

Let me give you an example…

If you’re a photographer, you can sell typical photoshoots. But you can also package your services more niche as a wedding photographer, baby photographer, real-estate photographer or a school portrait photographer. You can turn your best shots into prints that you sell online, you can sell some photographs through stock libraries, you can have monthly/yearly recurring contracts with magazines or fashion brands. Taking it one step further, you can turn your skills into online courses teaching other aspiring photographers about lighting, lenses and editing. The possibilities are endless!

You just need to think “outside the box”, which means the normal parameters of where your skill is typically used. Brainstorm all the different ways you can make money from your creative passion. Write down everything you can think of and do some research online. From there just figure out what you want to focus on and build your business around. Think long-term and how you want to position yourself in the marketplace. How can you stand out and be different?

Back to the photographer example … As a wedding photographer, there are usually lovely professional pictures done at the bride’s home as she gets ready with her entourage. At the same time, the groom and his group are getting ready, but the photographer is tied up. Perhaps you could be a photographer who specializes in “the guy’s’ story”. Your style could make a great addition to the final wedding memories.

My advice to you is to just get started. Nike said it best – “Just do it!” Don’t spend too much time thinking or creating your business plan before you take that first leap. Get your first client, and some quick wins to build momentum and experience. Tweak and polish your business from there, test and learn through trial and error.

It doesn’t take a lot of clients before you can make the transition from your current job, and to be able to work on your creative passion full-time. Be prepared to put in the actual work and be dedicated to making your dreams come true.

“But I don’t have an idea.”

You don’t have to come up with this brilliant idea that has never been done before. If it’s been done, there’s a market, which is a good indication that your passion can be profitable. You can however, put your own angle on it to make yourself stand out.

“What if my work isn’t good enough?”

I’m pretty sure your work is good enough for something. You may not be the best in the world, and you can work on that, but it’s likely you can help someone with your current skills. To use the photographer analogy, you may not be the best fashion photographer yet, but you can easily be a wedding photographer while you’re learning, or help companies with taking photographs for social media updates or website content. You can change your business as you go along and that’s totally fine. It’s called growing!

I hope this has given you some motivating ideas. It’s a big topic and I’m pretty sure that I’ll write more posts on this subject. Just know that today is a great time for you to start a business. With the Internet and social media, there’s really no boundaries and you can serve people all over the world. With 7.4 billion people on the planet, there’s a market for what you do. You just have to find the right angle and a clever way to position yourself.

I recently launched a free email course in Norwegian about this very subject! Head on over to casperstang.com/gratiskurs/ and check it out!

Now let me hear from you…

Any questions, thoughts or ideas? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it right here.

Remember to share this with any creative person who’d love to have the freedom and be his or her own boss.

Let’s move forward…

– Casper Stang

Let’s Talk About Color

Color makes life interesting. Color is all around us in endless different hues, shades and variations. Agreeably, we find the most beautiful colors in nature, but they also give life to buildings, homes, furniture, clothing and product label designs. Color can evoke strong human emotions, and the use of color can mean totally different things based on culture, location or simply the context colors are put in.

Color can change your mood. Sometimes the colors that you wear can give you an identity. Color can be in and out of style with trends, certain colors can calm you or raise your heart rate. In some cases, people will fight over colors (bloods and crips), while some people are actually color blind. People with synesthesia can even see colors when hearing sounds.

It’s fair to say that colors spice up our life. They really enrich our visual experiences and connections. Sixteen million is an estimate of how many different colors a 24 bit RGB computer monitor can simulate. But in real life, there’s almost an infinite number. There are endless ways to combine these multitudes of shades and hues, which gives us so much uniqueness.

Color is a basic natural element and our brains have learned to associate feelings and meanings to them. In some ways it has become second nature for us. Thus, the use of the powerful imagery connected to colors can be used as a powerful language. You can see that color brilliantly applied in the fields of art, design, marketing and branding can be very effective.

If you convey a message, not only with text, but also with color, you can really hit home with a message. If you add images, shapes and symbols to the mix, the message will be even stronger. That’s when you really can strike a chord and get people engaged. Clever marketers manipulate us with these powerful tools, languages and other tricks every single day.

Let’s Talk About Color - Coca Cola and McDonald's

To learn more about the tricks of good marketing, it can be useful to know the basics of color theory, and to have a basic understanding of the different hues of the color wheel. There are differences between warm and cold colors, triads, and complimentary colors. It’s beneficial to know how you can combine colors to make things pleasant for the eye, create harmony or evoke human emotions. If you can combine that knowledge with intuition, feeling and personal taste, then you’re on to something truly magnificent.

Studies show people typically respond to bright colors. Not only because they’re easier to see from afar, but it’s easy to remember colors that you can name. Some colors also have the power to evoke gender norms in our minds, like blue for boys and pink for girls. What’s really interesting is what we associate as meaning to the different colors. Let’s talk about a few here regarding the three primary colors: red, blue and yellow.

Red

Red is the color of extremes; it captures attention. It is often used to communicate some kind of action, to provoke, or make you feel pretty strongly about something. It can mean love, passion and seduction. Just think of Valentine’s Day. Or, it can also mean violence, danger and anger based on the context. Think of red dripping blood on a knife point. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire, blood and energy. It’s the international color for stop and it’s used to trigger alertness. Most Japanese children draw the sun as a big red circle. In China it is the color for weddings. Red is actually one of the top two favorite colors of all people.

Blue

The most popular color in the world is blue. It is also the #1 favorite color of the majority of people. It’s a more passive color and less provoking. It’s nature’s color for the water and sky. It’s the color that is most commonly used in corporate identity. Most blues convey a sense of trust, loyalty, authority and intelligence. Light blue is peace and serenity, while bright blue is cleanliness, strength and coolness. Blue can reduce stress, create a sense of calmness, relaxation and order. In folklore, a bride wears something blue for good luck. It is also the skin color of the god Krishna. Guess what color the highly recognizable logo for Facebook is…blue!

Yellow

Yellow is the most visible color of the spectrum. It’s the color of happiness, and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, sunshine and spring. It’s the color of: happy faces, the Tour de France winner’s jersey, post it notes, and it’s the internationally understood color of traffic lights and signs indicating caution everywhere.

Color theory can go deep; it’s a science and can be quite advanced. But knowing the basics can take you a long way when dealing with colors in all types of situations. For example, wearing a specific color in a job interview or business meeting can make a difference, especially when the color is near your face, which is where you will communicate. And the color you choose for your corporate identity can be critical.

The common problematic issues when working with colors are typically about applying color without a concept or goal, lack of contrast and using too many colors. It’s good to be conscious of the relationship between color and emotion and see how the colors around us at work and home, can really affect our mood and us.

Let’s start using color with intention!

What do you find most interesting about color? Let me know in the comments!

Now let’s move forward…

– Casper Stang

Dominate Your Space With Brand Identity

Ever heard of Lego, Disney, Kellogg’s? Sure you have. These words have actually become “household words” meaning their name is almost a noun. What they do and what their product is about is tightly linked and together they create a clear image, understanding and trust to the consumer. This is the strength of ”brand identity”. And it is critical in successful marketing.

Brand identity is often tricky to define and commonly misunderstood. It’s so much more than a logo. When it’s done right, it is very effective and this image will help your company or product rise above the noise and set yourself apart. It will give you an advantage, especially over competitors. But when it’s done wrong it can really be critical.

Certainly, not all business owners are interested in brand identity. Sometimes it’s because it is not clear or understandable, and we all have different business backgrounds, and some don’t know the importance of branding. Some business owners just want to launch their company, sell products and get moving. But like with anything, if you don’t have a good foundation, the house can easily fall apart.

Just think about McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Starbucks or Apple. Think about Nike and the iconic swoosh and their recognizable typeface. Think about Facebook and how they have owned that blue shade, and you can see it across all of their communications and everything the brand does. These companies have a concrete and clear identity that engages people emotionally.

Let me ask you this. Does your company or product stand out? Does it make an impact? Is it memorable? What feelings are you giving your customers?

The fact is, with a good brand identity, you will sell more, attract more and you will have a much better chance for longevity.

So, let’s break this down…

Branding is many different things, but brand identity is the foundation that the company or the product is built on. It’s how a business wants to be perceived by consumers. And obviously, if the company doesn’t know, or has not yet figured this out, it’s very easy for consumers to be just as confused, which is never good.

Brand image on the other hand is how consumers actually perceive the brand. It’s how it’s viewed in the marketplace. Is it an authority, trustworthy, reliable? Ideally, brand image will match the brand identity, but that’s not always the case.

Brand identity is colors, typography, patterns, symbols, the logo, tagline, tone of voice, the brand language and style of photography or illustrations. Scents can be a part of it as well as sounds and music. Together it gives you the feel and vibe of the company or the product. It can evoke feelings, mostly by initially engaging the senses. It gives you an experience and every element should support the overall message and business goals.

Most companies have a logo, and usually they have some colors, but the rest is often lacking. This is typical of startups or medium-sized companies. But with more effort in the early stages, effort to get this right, you’ll be able to dominate your space and stand out from the crowd.

Companies that are consistent with brand identity, and good at expressing their uniqueness over time, can really forge deep emotional connections and create fan audiences. People will want to get behind them, and it can also change how employees behave every day. It builds recognition, association and loyalty.

Dominate Your Space With Brand Identity like household brands such as Nike, Starbucks and Apple

So how can you start doing the same thing?

First, before you design the visual guidelines, commit to having a better understanding of your niche, your positioning and your company’s strategy and business goals. If you don’t have this clear, work at figuring this out. Go through your vision, mission and values.

You can do research and interviews in the marketplace. Who is your target market and how can you reach and inspire this group? What’s the tone of voice? And what’s your claim, tagline or message?

Once established, move on to getting a team of designers to help you design the visual guidelines to build a good foundation. The logo, color palette, typography, patterns, style of photography and so on. Typically, the bigger the budget, the better the end result will be. Obviously, with a higher budget, you can explore different directions and variations before you narrow it down to a final design manual.

If you’re a startup and low on funds, you’ll come a long way with just a great logo, a color palette and a well thought out set of fonts. However, just keep in mind the importance of the brand identity, and how crucial it is for the success in building your company and acquiring customers. It will play a huge role if your brand thrives … or merely stumbles along.

While your designers are working on the visual and sensory guidelines, you can go further. What are the first visual impressions visitors receive upon entering the place of business? Should you incorporate a specific scent in the reception area? Or maybe add some unique sounds or background music? You can polish the brand language and the editorial guidelines.

What follows after we have developed our brand identity?

Use the visual and editorial guidelines and integrate them across everything you communicate; everything you do in all mediums. Remember, consistency is key. Make sure your visuals and marketing activities communicates the personality and the value of the company/product. Stand out and convey a powerful promise. Demonstrate the difference and your uniqueness.

Remember, you can use brand identity for your business, but also for your own personal brand. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Let’s move forward…

– Casper Stang