David on creativity

mark-makers on creativity

In this series we’re asking mark-makers to reflect on their relationship with their craft and what inspires them. This episode is with Senior Designer, David Souch.

You know those stories that your parents love to tell people about you – the ones from a time when you were younger, but too young to remember yourself? Well I guess my story fits quite nicely with both where I ended up and my attitude towards work.

The story begins at the dining table, me working away doing the smallest of drawings. But heaven forbid if something went wrong, because that very small drawing wouldn’t get a second chance – it was straight in the bin. No rubbing out, no line through it, just screwed up and discarded. Accepting that I couldn’t get things perfect wasn’t enough for me. It even got to the point where my dad had to bring home printer paper for me – the kind that came in stacks, concertinaed up with the holes running down the side.

Things had to be perfect. It seems strange now I think about it, but that’s just the way it had to be.

At school, art was one of only a handful of subjects that I would say I enjoyed. I wasn’t the brightest. I’d never really stopped to think about what I wanted to do, but knew what I loved and I hoped, in my very naive way, that this might come true. Like many 15-year-olds, I had a dream of becoming a car designer. But I never really truly understood what it would take.

I was going to find out, and probably not in the way that I was expecting.

When the moment came, to say “I was stopped in my tracks” is an understatement, and in all honesty I gave up a little (on pretty much everything and myself). I knew I wasn’t clever, but I’d worked so hard and surely that would count for something right? How wrong I was. I was told outright that I wouldn’t be able to continue with my application for the course I wanted unless I pulled off my target grades*.

I accepted what the guy from college had to say, and of course it was a bitter pill to swallow, but by god I wasn’t going to let it stop me. I would just have to take a little detour on my journey as a designer.

College still awaited. I had hedged my bets in the end and gone for a general art and design course: it turns out it couldn’t have been a better decision. While I must admit the textiles module wasn’t quite up my street, the next term certainly was. A room full of brightly coloured macs; the introduction to graphic design. And of course, the option of creating new documents over and over which, for *some* reason, really resonated with me.

University would then see graphic design split into even more wonderful and fascinating directions. It was here that illustration (drawing to everyone else) once again raised its weary head. I was free to doodle and sketch to my heart’s content. Ideas would manifest themselves from the page. Things I was doing all those years ago were now things that other people got excited about seeing and being a part of.

But while that freedom and creativity was flowing there was always something missing. I would put so much pressure on myself to get things right – and to get things right quickly – that I completely forgot to enjoy what I was doing. Elements of self-doubt will always raise their little heads but it’s easy to forget that you don’t have to do it alone.

It’s wasn’t until I came to mark-making* that it started to really show, just how much a great team around you can give you the confidence to take work to a new level. Having that support – or more often than not, that kick up the butt – makes an incredible difference.

I think every designer would admit that they have serious self-doubt at times and sometimes the answer to a brief can seem so very far away. But I’ve come to realise that you just have to have the belief and drive to move forward, and never stop learning.

I even tried to write down my process just so that I wouldn’t forget…

Accepting that I wouldn’t always get it right the first time.
Accepting that I can’t and don’t have to do it alone.
Accepting that everyone needs help from time to time.
Accepting that even though I think it’s right doesn’t make me right.
Accepting that being quick isn’t the same as being productive.
Accepting that things will change.
But stay true to your idea.
Because remember acceptance isn’t the same as giving up.

So. Even though my drawings still start small, and I’m still often surrounded by screwed up pieces of paper, I guess it’s not about how you start.

It’s about being brave enough to make that first mark. Being able to accept that every project will take its unique journey.

Just bare with it. And for god’s sake ask for help along the way.

*I did get those target grades, by the way

About David