Broaden your context

Hong Kong Design Institute talk Orient Unlimited

The greater and more diverse your context, the greater your chances are of understanding your clients brief and providing a unique design in response.

I recently had the good fortune to be invited to address (and get inspiration from) students at the Hong Kong Design Institute, where we spoke about where inspiration comes from - #everything!
Here is the transcript of our discussion.

How do you broaden your #context? Leave a comment below

In your career, as in your personal life, you establish relationships with people based on sharing or at least understanding their interests: music, travel, TV shows, film, sport, art etc.
Finding a common interest or expressing your understanding of theirs is your entry point in, and the platform for, building a successful relationship with colleagues, employers, studio heads, trade contacts and importantly – clients.

[To make things easy we will refer to everyone as collaborators as that is what they all are in essence and what is being communicated as the brief.]

Your entire career will be defined and driven by your ability to do this really really well.
No pressure!

Most, if not all, of the commercial design fields are highly competitive. You will need to stand out from the crowd to gain employment and once in your job you will be competing to win work for your company.

What collaborators are looking for is not only the most astounding creative genius the world has ever seen….but someone they can easily work with who understands what they want. I would say that the ease of working with someone is easily 50% of the equation as no-one has the time or patience to be struggling to be understood every step of the way through a design process.

The tricky part is that for the first leg of your career you will be significantly younger than most of the above, enjoy a brief respite where you’re a similar age and then cruise into the latter part of your design life being the elder statesman.

Whether its age, nationality, gender, cultural or social divides in this global world you will be meeting and working with people from wildly different backgrounds either as colleagues or clients.
And this is where context really comes into play.

Your chances of connecting with and creating successful working relationships with your collaborators will increase in relation to the size and diversity of your context. The broader your mental contextual database is the better chance you have of understanding where your collaborator ‘is coming from’.

Context and Design

If context helps you understand where your collaborators are ‘coming from’ then it also helps you to respond and formulate the correct, relevant creative proposal.

It is your duty, if not your passion, as a creative to be open, curious, observant and hungry for ideas, inspiration, techniques and methodology.

In your career – whatever stage you are at – the process of learning and acquiring new ideas and building up your context should never, ever, end.

Think of context as either a galaxy or a combination lock. All of the collaborators have their own galaxy of context and your final response to brief, your creative concept that you present to clients should be a unique combination of ideas from you and the collaborators.

The most successful creative concepts are the ones that are thoughtful, relevant and original.

The greater and more diverse your context is the greater your chances are of understanding your clients brief and providing a unique design in response.