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Creative Process Q&A: Rachael Grocott and Emma Corkill

Creativity & Innovation

Rachael Grocott and Emma Corkill work as head of marketing and digital designer for UVD, a website, web application and mobile experience design company based in London. We’re very grateful for their detailed and insightful answers!

Do you follow a creative process?

Emma: As my role is so varied, I tend to use a process that is most fitting to the project I am working on. When I begin creating a brand for a client I tend to put pen to paper with initial ideas, based on user personas which we create as part of our branding/design clinic. I feel that illustrating initial ideas or concepts is essential before carrying out competitor analysis, where I will work with the client to research not only what competitors are doing well, but what could be done better. After we’ve gauged brand positioning, we’ll iterate through design ideas until the client is happy.

When working on user experience design concepts, I tend to do my research online first. When creating a user journey, I think it’s really important to research current online trends and to see what works for competitors. There’s so much inspiration out there of how others solve problems with the use of aesthetics and functionality.

Rach: I’m pretty old-school and seem to always follow the same process I was taught in secondary school. No matter what it is that I am setting out to make, I like to create a mind map. It’s great to refer back to when you’re a bit stuck, there’s always something genius in there that I’d forgotten about, which always seems to inspire me.

Do you use any tricks or techniques to come up with ideas?

Emma: Getting my fellow team members involved always helps me to come up with fresh ideas. Working as a team enables me to gain invaluable opinions on my ideas and I always believe that two minds are better than one. I like to use music to inspire me; different melodies and beats can really help influence my approach and I always have a sketchbook with me, you never know when you may have a sudden epiphany or idea.

Rach: I like to read reference books. I have hundreds of books at home that I have picked up from all sorts of places over the years. When I open some of them it’s like someone’s turned a lightbulb on, some I’ve had since college and they’re like old friends.

What’s the best idea you’ve had recently? Tell us where you were, what you were doing, where you found inspiration.

Rach: As a company, I think that the best idea we’ve had recently was to create a microsite guide for startups. It’s kind of a ten step guide to success, taking users on the journey with CSS3 animations and slides. The reason I feel that this is the best idea we’ve had is that it was an internal project that played on the strengths of everyone involved. Our founder at UVD acts as an advisory for startups, so he wrote all the copy, which is something he is really passionate about. Our Digital Designers’ strengths lie in creating illustrations, so the guide has given them a great chance to create some stunning visuals. My degree was in Multimedia Design, so it’s given me the chance to dust off my animation skills. The idea came to fruition after a quick brainstorm with all involved and I think everyone really enjoyed the process.

How did you develop your idea?

Both: From initial sketches, right through to the animations, we all worked really closely. It was great to get input from all involved. Kirsten’s copy influenced the illustrations, which in turn influenced how we animated them. We also got end user opinions on our imagery to ensure our message was portrayed as successfully as possible.

Did you get any feedback or test your idea on anyone? Who did you ask?

Both: We held regular catch ups for feedback where everyone’s suggestions were taken into account. In hindsight, this was essential, as some issues around how to best portray our message were flagged up in the initial sketch stages, as opposed to our designers having spent hours drawing them out and illustrating.

No matter what it is that we’re developing we like to test our concepts on end-users as early in the process as possible, so we turn our ideas into prototypes very rapidly and run usability testing sessions with our target audience.

What was the hardest part of developing your idea?

Emma: The hardest part of this idea was trying to get across the message in the most simple way possible. Trying to visualise a whole paragraph in one illustration can be quite tough, which is why audience feedback was essential for us.

Does technology help or hinder creativity?

Both: At UVD we work primarily with web technologies to create engaging digital experiences. I think technology and software enables us to be extremely creative. New technologies give us more opportunities to be creative in different formats, whether it be creating SVGs in Illustrator to create CSS3 animations, or us really experimenting with tech and creativity on one of our hack days.

Emma: Technology also gives us access to a huge amount of inspiration with the click of a mouse. Inspiration can come in any form; music, architecture, film and new sources can be stumbled upon so easily, be it from social networks, blogs or searching. I couldn’t imagine a world of not being able to access and appreciate various designers’ work from all over the globe.

Can creativity be taught?

Emma: I think creativity is very much within your genes and during our early years I strongly believe we are all creative, whether we persist with being creative posts another question. As we get older we tend to be more hypercritical of what we create and therefore are less likely to create or be creative. Saying that, I do believe we can be taught to be more creative as creativity can be expressed in many different formats and disciplines. I guess it’s about breaking the rules, forgetting the critics and allowing ourselves to be expressive in what we enjoy.

What’s the biggest challenge facing creative people?

Emma: In my role, I guess it would be the pressure from ever changing technologies and increased expectations. Ever changing software puts pressure on designers to keep up with new tools and techniques, but it’s exciting too!

Rachael: I think being at the top of your game. Trends and technologies change so quickly and it can take so long to perfect a technique, that it could be dated once you’re up to speed! I think you just need to be really passionate about what it is that you’re doing. Passion shows in what you create.

Who is the most creative person you know?

Emma: Probably my 2-year-old niece. Apparently we are at our creative peak at the mere age of 5 years old. I feel the older we get the more self-critical and compliant we become. My niece definitely has no boundaries and is the most expressive person that I know.

Do you use group brainstorms? If so, how do you run them?

Both: We like to use Magic Whiteboard and Post-it notes to collaboratively brainstorm ideas at the start of a project, but we also have a daily standup where we discuss ideas, and a weekly personal development session where we share anything exciting we’ve found or we’re working on, we call it ‘Interesting Stuff Club’. We also take advantage of social media platforms to bounce around ideas and share our progress.

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