Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

We all know (don’t we?) that the best way out of a creative rut is to do something different. To shake things up with some crazy music, a walk in the fresh air, a chat with a stranger in the lunch line. In work—and in life in general—we people tend to settle into our daily habits and patterns of thought. This gets us through our days, but it doesn’t stretch our creative muscles.

In the book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, authors David Kelley and Tom Kelley argue that if we want to label who we are or what we do “creative”, we need to move away from following familiar routes and instead explore new places in new ways. We need to ask smart questions, frame problems thoughtfully and act quickly, challenging ourselves to better our world with the best possible products, services and ideas. They show us how to move past our fear of the unknown and the assumptions we hold that stifle our creative confidence.

The Kelley brothers combined are a powerhouse of creativity. David Kelley is the creator the Institute of Design at Stanford University, a multi-discipline design school that focuses on innovation, collaboration and learning by doing. He’s also the founder of IDEO, a global innovation and design firm. Tom Kelley is a leading innovation speaker, as well as a partner at IDEO and the author of The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation. They’re veterans in the field of creativity, and they have some great stories to share.

Their book is full of anecdotal accounts of people who have overcome barriers to success by exercising creativity and design-driven innovation. It examines both solo work and group dynamics, with suggestions on how to collaborate effectively across disciplines and build a strong creative culture in your workplace. There are tons of practical tips, from “how to best observe and understand human behaviours” to “how to prototype a service in half an hour or less”.

David and Tom proclaim with gusto that everyone is creative, and our creativity truly is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice. Working that muscle —growing stronger and more flexible with practices outlined in this book—is what will help us leap out of the rut of routine and into the space opened by inspiration, innovation and action. And it’s in this space that we realize our potential and change the world around us.

Little House in the Illustration

I welcome any opportunity to illustrate, and was really excited when a client asked me to develop an illustration to be used in a fundraising campaign for the restoration of an 1803 timber cabin.

The main challenge in illustrating the cabin was that my point of reference—the cabin in early 2015— looked like this:


As you can see, it’s a little choppy, a little snowy. It’s a little wrecked.

Poor little cabin.

However, after researching the appearance of finished timber cabins from the very early 19th century (including porch and shingle styles) I developed this illustration:


The simple style suited the client’s requirements exactly and allowed for some flexibility in the appearance of the final restoration. They were really pleased with the final result and have used the illustration in a variety of applications, from letterhead to reports.

It’ll be great to see this little timber cabin in all of its restored glory!



Keeping company

Working independently can sometimes get lonely. I’ve been hauling out my sketchbook more often and building some collages, and in doing so I’ve managed to introduce some critters to my workspace.
I suppose on some level they do keep me company, but most of all they keep me challenging myself and having fun. Here’s a few from the menagerie:


The early bird dons a snazzy suit while keeping his eye on the prize.


Not to be outdone, Frogwoman keeps her finger on the pulse of the pond by reading the lily pad first thing every morning.
Then she’s off for the day, letting her dreams soar.


Rabbit is Rabbit. He’s quiet.
Late, again.

(One Last Note on) How a Graphic Designer Can Help Your Business

hire a professional graphic designer
Great visuals need to work hard and be creative & smart—just like a graphic designer!

As a wee finale to my last couple of posts, I’m going to further my “graphic-designers-are-good-for-business” theory.

I’m writing this as a person who is passionate about the success of small businesses, a person who shrinks inside when she sees badly designed visuals attached to a great business run by terrific folks—design that doesn’t come close to adequately reflecting who they are or what they do.

There are so many different design pieces you can use to tell your story, to build your brand. But some business owners are inclined to cut corners with their visuals, because hey—running a business isn’t cheap. And there’s like a zillion YouTube videos out there to show you how to find your way around design software. And if that doesn’t work, your sister’s kid is a dab hand at Photoshop who could surely put something cool together for a quarter of the cost of a professional.

But in the same way that you wouldn’t try to fix the rattle in your car’s engine yourself—because you know that’d be a waste of your time (you don’t have the expertise!) and money (it’ll just cost you more in the end!)—if you have design needs that require specific knowledge, problem-solving abilities and technical skills, it really and truly is best to hire a pro.

If you’re not yet convinced by this theory, consider these four ways in which a professional designer can be of benefit to you and your business:

A designer can save you money. The hours you would spend creating a design piece for your business is time you could have spent doing what you do best—running your business.  And will this design piece you created stand out amongst your competition and catch the eye of your target market? Will it communicate your message with elegance and strength? Will it be printed or uploaded without a hitch? A designer has laboured at great length to develop their skills and hone their craft. A good designer is an investment that will pay off every single time.

A designer is strategic. Hiring a designer means you don’t have to spend time trying to figure out how best to present yourself to your target audience— a good designer will ask the right questions, gather all the necessary information and develop strong concepts that effectively and attractively communicate your message. A good designer will not just put together a pretty picture to sell your story—they will research, review, analyze, consider, brainstorm, develop and design elements that are targeted, thoughtful solutions customized for your specific needs and requirements.

A designer knows their stuff. A professional graphic designer has an advanced knowledge of design principles, typography, colour, software, materials,  printing processes and much, much more. A designer can also offer—or contract out— other services such as illustration, photography or web design, and work directly with printers to ensure your project is pulled off smoothly, on-time and on-budget.

A designer will help you succeed. A professional designer knows what it takes to help you build your brand, maintain a consistent image in the marketplace, and stand out from the crowd. Great design will help catch the eye of your customers, your investors, your clients and competition. It’ll make people take notice, and they’ll recognize that you’re serious about who you are and what you’re doing. And while helping you to look great, a designer understands that eye-catching good looks are just a part of your design strategy. Ultimately design has to communicate the right message in the right way to the right audience. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Design is not just what it looks like… Design is how it works.”

A graphic designer does so much more than build a digital file. A good designer is a strategist, artist and technician who will take all the different aspects of your business—your products, services, mission and message—and deliver a cohesive, elegant visual design that communicates your brand in a distinct and memorable manner. A graphic designer has the potential to become an integral part of your support team, an adviser and collaborator who can help build your business over the long term. Go on, try it out. Ask around, do some research, and see if you can bring a designer on board who can fix that rattle and help you move forward, in the right direction.

Welcome to the notebook

This notebook is here to serve as a little sketchbook and journal, a place to explore ideas, talk about process, show some personal projects and share bits and pieces that I’ve found curious, clever or inspiring. I’m glad you’ve stopped by to take a look!

I welcome your company and your feedback. Feel free to leave a question or comment here for Heather Corbin (click on the post title if you don’t see a comments box), and please don’t use any of the content on the corbin creative website without permission.