How Do You Define Creative Flow?

Courtesy of Hugh & Marie, NY.

Courtesy of Hugh & Marie, NY.

The term “flow” could mean anything in relation to graphic design. It could epitomize having a harmonious experience,managing your time extremely well, accruing experience to the point of automating your process, or having a professional relationship that “just seems easy.” I know that I’m missing something in that string of thoughts, but you get the point. Each moment has a steady pace, or a “flow.”

I’ve also known the term “flow” as “being in the zone,” which started during my young adolescence in sports. However, I realized that I rarely experienced “being in the zone,” athletically. I’m an average athlete at best with terrible balance and above average coordination. For this post, flow as it is defined, relates more about my own experience. Allow me to explain how I experience “being in the zone”…

Creatively, I’ve experienced the “flow” and rarely have I experienced its intensity. When it happens at an intense state, it typically occurs on my terms yet is likely influenced by many other external factors (unconsciously). If I’m “in the zone” it’s not often initiated in order to meet a deadline. Meeting a deadline helps me to stay on task, yet rarely motivates me to find personal gratifaction. Finding the “flow” doesn’t occur for me when fulfilling someone’s idea or if persuaded by monetary incentive. I don’t always need an “atta boy” although recognition is needed once in a while. “Flow” is buried deep within myself at the time that it occurs. It’s something that I realize that I’ve long been passionate about, but perhaps never fully understood why, nor had dedicated quality time in order to explore. It could also be a moment when I visualize something that no one may see, but that hasn’t happened for a while.

“Flow” can also occur when I find myself highly emotional during the creative process, at the point of crying out of joy or because of reaching a point of where I wanted to be. It may not necessarily occur because of how well I executed something, but rather how I reached the point of realization. This type of intensity with feeling the “flow” during a project, has always been 100% on my terms and no one else. Often, I can get there if I don’t consider what everyone else is saying, which is not the way I like to think of myself. It starts with me, involves everything else during the process, but almost always ends with me. I believe that it’s not the only way for me to experience “flow” and honestly, I need more experience in order to better understand it.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to categorize “flow.” I don’t see it as something that occurs very often, nor do I expect it to always occur. It’s special. Perhaps it’s a moment that occurs due to several accumulated hours, days or years dedicated to one specific task: exploration. It may occur because of putting off or suppressing a genuine desire to explore whatever it is you want to create, which can force exploration. When I first experienced an intense moment of “being in the zone” I started to shake and cry. I also didn’t realize what just happened. I thought that I was mentally unstable. I also didn’t realize that I had stayed up until 4AM on a work night because of it, but that I felt like I was wide awake.

How I might be able to define “flow” in graphic design is: Discovering how to exactly convey a visual image, concept or solution and to translate it. Exactly. Not 99.9%, “almost there” or “I’m so close, but it’s missing something,” but exactly, without any doubt. For that reason alone, I think that experiencing “the zone” or “the flow” is special. Flow can definitely derive from inspiration. Inspiration often leads to excitement and renewed hope for personal discovery. Inspiration also serves as an example for researching further into how or why I have been inspired. Collaboration can also attribute with finding flow, but experiencing flow has to be on my own terms. At some point I need to figure out whatever it is I want to find without further input.