I was browsing through some of my older work today and for some reason it struck me just how much my work bears influence from things I have seen. I spend so much time looking at other creative work that sometimes I feel over saturated by it. You start to pick and choose and push and pull the elements that you think people want to see and what you think will gain favor. Unfortunately, without even realizing it, the end result is that I end up producing work that resembles things I have seen and like much too closely.

A lot of times I will kick off working on something by gathering inspiration and then starting out. After I have started on something, I cast aside the inspirational resources and work until I feel I am done. After that, I usually never look to the inspirational sources again and trash them. Its not until much later that I will sometimes stumble across something on the net or in print, that I realize just how close some of my work turns out looking like whatever I looked at before I started working. I have always had a powerful memory and I used that memory to get through classes as a pre-med/chiropractic major for the first couple years in college. I switched over to design later in my studies. It’s a great thing to have, but sometimes I think it hurts me because I take a mental note of something and am able to recreate something I have seen very quickly and easily (just from memory).

So I end up being a junk man, a collector of influences and images with no real original or individually recognizable feature. I am growing as a creative and a designer just by continually working, but in order to reach something that is really my own, I need to push away from my current process and do something completely different. One of my greatest influences in the past was Shepard Fairey (Obey Giant). Although I still have a lot of respect for Shepard and always will, I am not sure anymore if I agree with appropriating imagery and inspiration. I think the real objective of an artist and a designer (creative not commercial), is to reach something that truely represents you as an individual and carve out your own space.

As a result of this questioning and searching, I will be cleaning house. I am going to be slowly casting out things in my portfolio that I think too closely resemble things I have seen. I will no longer be appropriating imagery or collaging appropriated imagery into my work. I will still be blogging like a mad man, but I am pushing away from the computer when I start working on my personal art and design work. I am picking back up the pencil and starting there. Hopefully, a change will begin to emerge in my work that I have been seeking and my real identity as a creative will begin to finally emerge. That is my end goal. This won’t happen overnight. It will be a slow process but in time I think my creative work will take on a completely different aesthetic that belongs entirely to me.

I have never hidden myself from public scrutiny on this blog. I wanted it to be something different. I wanted it to be something that helped me grow as an individual, artist and designer, but also share that growth and inspiration with my peers and the world. I think of it like a conversation I am having with a very large audience. It helps me to state my intentions and bear my flaws and mistakes. I just want to hit the reset button on some of the things I have done and turn over a new leaf.

As a result of this epiphany, I will be culling down my print and design work and casting out the things I think don’t represent my new ethos. And eventually, I will most likely pull my work from the site, and continue Changethethought as a source of creative inspiration while housing my studio work elsewhere (Changethethought studio, if you will). I am no where near what I hope to achieve as a designer and artist and I hope committing to this new model will push me where I want to go faster.

Again, thank you for visiting the blog and being a part (even if it’s just spectating) of my growth and journey as an artist and designer. I won’t bore you with my inner-struggles anymore. Back to design porn.

written by Christopher | tags: , , ,

8 Responses to “Reinvention”

  1. Greg Ponchak Says:

    I am going through the same thing at the moment. I assume my realization is probably not on the same level as your epiphany because you have had much more experience in the field than I have, yet I can still relate. I have recently cast most of the work out of my portfolio and found a new source of inspiration rather than from other design. (Most of this new inspiration comes from nature). I’m currently working on two new projects that I guess you could say are more “me”.

    Anyways, I wish you the best in your redefinition of yourself as a designer and look forward to seeing the direction in which you take your work.

  2. Lifter Baron Says:

    I know how you feel dude… I go through the same sort of shit. I feel like I unintentionally fall into these ruts where my inspiration comes from other peoples work instead of the source. I’ve really been doing my best lately to seek out the root of the things that inspire me and develop concepts that embody my ideas or concerns. Too many ways to think about it all to ever have the right answer I guess… Word up though! Stay fresh Chris, keep killin it!

  3. Jason Wilkins Says:

    Perfectly stated…I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling that way.

  4. Martijn Says:

    Same problem here … I use NetNewsWire to collect RSS-feeds from numerous design websites to draw inspiration from. But now, I have collected so many feeds I have to spit through thousands of articles to keep up with the flow. I use the isnpiration for my work at a marketing and communictation agency because there I have to spit out designs and concepts like it’s nothing. I feel too like loosing my own style and creativity.
    I now am starting up my own company together with 2 friends. We want to create a new design culture and the things we have made so far are so radically different from what I make at work it is amazing … I don’t even look at my RSS-feeds when I am working for my own and I even switch my whole design process. I try to draw as much as I can again before doing something with the computer. Even business cards will be made by hand and not printed in a print shop or something. Everything needs to get back to the roots again and it’s working out just fine.
    I am actually now at a point I hate the workflow at my work, especially because I know that it will never change.

  5. nick Says:

    [old school rant, but not that old…] and don’t take offense if you are younger and just entering into our industry. I’m not talkin sh1t, I’m just stating my observations…

    I think your comments may also reflect what is happening subconsciously with “younger” designers as they have grown up on the internet. Having a massive amount of digital resources and inspiration has left some, solely relying on it too. It seems that “younger” designers right out of school jump right to Istock for ideas, rather than asking themselves questions and heading for the sketch book. They have to find their idea, instead of creating it.

    We who went to art school before Istock and CTT had to head to the library and the book stores before we headed to the prisma markers then computer. I guess you could make the argument that both parties are arriving at foreign resources, just through different methods. I just feel that alot of designers these days are looking for love in all the wrong places, and when pushed to create new ideas on their own, buckle under the pressure of a fresh idea. Not for lack of trying or knowledge, just lack of proper process.

    The process of concepting is a fickle one, and one that is unique to every designer.

    I think designers by nature commit influences and inspiration to memory from everything in our lives. I think its a pretty tall task to try and develop an idea that doesn’t mimic those influences in some shape. But if anyone can do it, it’ll be you :)

    [old school rant/]

  6. Ryan Says:

    I’ve got a major addiction and it isn’t crack pipes and whores. I spend more time looking at other peoples work when I should be focusing on my own style and intentions. I mean literally, it’s an obsession, thinking something might rub off on me. And it’s obvious I need to think more about what I’m doing instead of staring at other artists I admire. Sometimes I just want to give it up. The more I look at all of these creative sites, I feel I’m never going to be that good but in reality, I should be focusing on who and what I’m about and turn that energy into my own artwork. It’s a daily struggle and I sound like a little bitch but that’s the truth.

  7. Rocket Science Design Says:

    […] As a designer and product of a packrat upbringing, this self-aware article is a fantastic read. I don’t think I’ll ever stop gathering inspiration, physical and digital, and using that in my own design process, but the article really makes you think and to an extent reevaluate just what originality is. Reinvention by Changethethought™. […]

  8. Emory Says:

    I find this post really interesting because I look up to your ability to work in (and essentially master) different styles. Whenever I’ve had this same identity conflict in the past (who am I, what’s my work say about me, how’s my work unique), I look at your work and say to myself, “Well Christopher can do it and he’s successful”.
    But recently, I’ve found myself in this conundrum once again. This post has kind of assured me that trying to find my, for lack of better words, artistic personality is the right thing to do. And you’re right, it will take a while and it will take a lot of work but it’ll be worth it in the end.

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