OK, here’s my latest obsession – and it’s a big one. The book is called Beyond Trend: How to Innovate in an Over-Designed World. It’s written by Matt Mattus, Creative Director at Hasbro. The book discusses cultural and creative traits that allow true design innovation to occur. As I’m reading it, I find that he’s done an amazing job explaining what I am so often unable to explain about myself – my passion for design, my obsession over the nth detail, my refusal to go for the lowest common denominator. Like many of my peers, I fall into a category of folks Mattus calls “culture creators” – and while that tag is a little egocentric, the more I read, the more the shoe fits.

Thought I’d excerpt some of what he’s said here over the next few posts; I have no doubt that many of you will see yourself here as well 🙂

Introduction: Become a Culture Creator

When was the last time you experienced something completely new?

As designers, our jobs are all about imagination and new ideas, but those ideas seem to be getting harder and harder to find. The only way to keep our work fresh and ahead of the trends is to become more than designers, more than people who choose nice fonts and appealing colors (AMEN! – JN). We must become “culture creators” by finding new sources of inspiration and influence in the world around us and translating them into our designs. Here are 10 characteristics you must embrace in order to take your work – and your creativity – to the next level.

Trait 01: They have endless curiosity.

Culture creators are insatiably curious and constantly learning. Culture creators demand high stimulation of all the senses.

Obsessed with “things,” these are the people who find wonder in collecting unusual discarded ephemera – the type treatments of vintage sales brochures, color palettes from mid-century modern books, certain colors of pottery glazes from the 1920s.

They don’t tolerate boredom. They spend any spare time cruising the Internet, discovering new things. They often have multiple interests and hobbies: gardening, surfing, raising canaries, breeding show dogs, sewing plush animals, cooking jams and jellies, collecting and reupholstering 1960s furniture. They assemble massive collections of books, travel to exotic locations and sometimes find the idea of relaxing horrifying.

Trait 02: They are researchers.

Culture creators are obsessed with research. They are more likely to invest time in informing themselves with exhausting research before assembling solutions, a practice which is sometimes misdiagnosed as procrastination. The culture creator is driven to fully understand all possible dynamics that could factor into a solution before establishing any attempts at assembling innovative strategies.

They may have an advantage over the more process-driven problem solvers who are more likely to default to a less informed solution or a systematic approach rather than a culture-changing vision.

Where many novice creatives jump ahead to find a solution to a challenge, culture creators first invest time in thorough and informed research.