“It’s done in a second and 34 years.”

You know, the creative business is an odd bird. Anyone who has a creative bent knows what I mean. My uncle was a welder but when he came home, he was welding crazy little metal sculptures, (which later on became crazy big metal sculptures) transferring what he did at work, welding, into art… his art. The tension between mind (his working as a welder) and heart (his desire to create) did exist. At the time, I didn’t really didn’t understand how a welder could be a sculptor, but I do remember his enthusiasm for doing it. For him it fit…being a welder and an artist. An inner drive to create and to make. He resolved the tension within. Pure happiness.

Oftentimes throughout my career I have been asked how we, as designers, arrive at the solutions we present. How do we arrive at solutions that speak directly to the mind and hearts of our clients. Much like my Uncle Jim, I believe we recognize the tension within our clients and resolve it for them. But what is the recipe? What is the process that gets us to the destination?

What I can tell you about the creative process is that there is no process. No 1 + 2 = 3 equation that generates solutions to meet the client’s objectives creatively and strategically. No perfect recipe that enables us to arrive at that perfect solution every time, all the time. But somehow, we do arrive. And, not only do our clients feel that release, that happiness, that contentment, but as the designer, I too share in that happiness and joy. It never gets old.

I have always been a fan of Paula Scher, a real pioneer in the field of graphic design and one of the early partners of the firm Pentagram – a significant and long-lasting design studio founded in 1972. Impressed by her work, I followed her career trying to understand the processes she had in place to produce such exceptional work. Thought provoking. Lasting. Powerful. So how do she and her associates continue to develop such great creative work with such consistency? How do they recognize the tensions and appear to arrive at such perfectly executed solutions?

I came across a great little video of Scher from an artist series developed by Hillman Curtis. At about 4 minutes in, Scher speaks to how she came up with the Citi Bank logo in a second (yes, a second) after meeting with the client for the first time. Before arriving back at her office, she had the solution to their problem drawn on a napkin. How was she able to resolve the tension between two giants of finance merging and create an identity that would represent both? In answering how she arrived at the solution so quickly she said,

“It’s done in a second… it’s done in a second and thirty-four years… it’s done in a second and every experience and every movie and everything of my life that’s in my head.”

So, enjoy the video. I’m feeling a bit tense on how to end this.