Altering the Pattern

afterglow's picture

The brain is a funny thing. This small organ lodged at the top of the body determines every single move, reaction and utterance that you will make from cradle to grave. The mind achieves this efficiently by forming patterns for the thousands of tiny decisions during any day. Something that has sent people to the moon spends the majority it’s time being as uncreative as possible to keep you alive. Tying your shoelaces properly, leaning slightly forward while climbing the stairs, recognising the difference between a speeding bus and a building. All patterns learnt at an early age which are performed effortlessly without any pause or internal debate.

Companies aren’t ignorant of this and have invested deeply in anticipating your future choices and being there to give you the product/service you never knew you needed. In the creative field, your ability to think in new ways is your career. Time to fight for it.

Amazon & iTunes Recommendations
An Amazon innovation which is one part commerce, one part social engineering, the recommendation system has enabled people to find books, music, movies which are suited to their taste. Consider though how many recommended books reconfirm what you thought about the world or how many movies follow the same general theme. iTunes has recently expanded it's recommendation system with "Just for You". A pattern of your likes and dislikes is being monitored but also crucially reinforced by the promoting of similar works.

The Four Ages of Forums.
Using forums, messageboards and newsgroups , we all seek out a group of likeminded individuals . No matter how varied the interest of a particular community, a pattern is generally evident in most communities unless it is consciously fought. This is because of the nature of a crowd, not the forum itself.

1.Swinging Doors
Wild abandon as a group tests the boundaries of what can and can't be discussed. Freeflowing and lively. Prone to deep and profoundly enjoyable silliness.
2.Cosy Glow
People become comfortable around each other but still want more people to join. Intriguing debate and good natured arguements.
3.Cultured Warfare
Still an enjoyable place to join but resistance to new influence. Animosities between certain users erupt in sporadic abuse. The culture/pattern is now engrained in the behaviour of the users.
4. Maximum Security Forum
Alienation of New Members by jargon and insider culture.Almost like a gold rush to prove who was here first and how it way better in the old days. Atmosphere poisons the reasons it existed in the first place and it withers on the vine. The culture/patterns has smothered all innovative thought.

What does this mean for Design?
The majority of the time spent being creative is fighting the brain, of setting up scenarios where the path of least resistance is not taken. Patterns must be broken or modified to produce anything original. Removing these requires practice which is in itself a pattern.

Consider the sequence of events that lead you to work in a similar way every day, even though the tasks might change daily. Would changing something early influence how you would approach something later on during the day? Sleep patterns are one of the most obvious examples but the one that that creative culture bangs up against the most often.

Altering the Pattern - Practical Recommendations

  • If you are prone to late nights, push to try a week of rising with the early bird.

  • Take a different route to work or move your desk if you freelance.

  • If you’re average at a particular aspect of your industry, try and grab a project in that area. Mild panic is the mother of invention.

  • Pick a subject you feel strongly about and someone you consider an idiot on the subject. Read their book. That idiot has a thought process which led them to that conclusion. Why is it so different to yours? Experience?Environment?

  • Religion and Politics are the two patterns that we learn from our parents and are the hardest to alter. Consider 3 aspects about your politics or religion that you disagree with. Everybody will have some but there's nothing wrong in living with contradictions.

  • Your instinct will never lead you wrong except when it does. Mostly, it has a far better strike rate than a well considered exhaustive thinking session.

None of these will make you a better person. It just might make you go off on a tangent with pleasant results. I for one have decided to try some pop punk, read some fantasy novels and appreciate the wonders of Flash intros.

How about you?


iancorey's picture

Good points...

... but what are the wonders of Flash intros? I can see the wonders of the Flash Intro's potential... but currently, it's just lipstick.

Ivan's picture

great post

Be careful not to be a slave to change either. There was a period in my life when I was so notoriously afraid of repetition that I refused to watch a movie I have already seen or eat a food that I have already tasted. Than, I realized that I'm being unreasonable and rediscovered the beauty of a pattern and repetition. We as designers are communicating through our work to average people who DO live their lives in a pattern. We need to be able to understand them and being able to relate to them. Hope I don't sound patronising.

I also want to warn against the mad creative disease. You can spot an infected individual easily. Creatives unsecure of their mediocre talents try to act like cliche crazy artists. Overdoing things, being openly racist or sexist, wearing strange clothes and not adhering to social standards just for the sake of being different. I guess there is a fine line between between somebody being a healthy creative rebel and a ridiculous idiot.

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