How Do Creatives Get Creative?

December 13, 2018

Coming up with fresh ideas and making everything look beautiful is not an easy task, but our creative team here at Fast Horse makes it look easy. I was curious to learn about their careers so I asked them a bunch of questions. Enjoy!

How Did You Choose Your Field?   

Eric (VP, Integrated Creative Director): I found myself at the library in college, trying to study for biz classes, distracted by issues of communication arts and other creative books and magazines.

Sandra (Associate Creative Director): There wasn’t a particular moment I knew I was going to work in the creative field. I sucked at everything beside sports and arts in high school. I was really into black-and-white photography at the time and had spent a lot of time in the darkroom. Naturally, I leaned in to an art school when it was time to choose my undergrad education. I had more options to choose from once I got into MCAD. I tried most disciplines, majored in furniture and sculpture but ended up with graphic design at the end.

Susanna (Designer): I’ve been at least arts-adjacent for most of my life, professionally or as a musician, but took a long time to know that I wanted to be a creator as well. I discovered my interest in graphic design while working for an arts non-profit and creating print communications for it.

How Do You Stay Inspired? 

Eric: Staying curious.

Susanna: I try to get a daily dose of looking at inspiration sources online (Dribbble, my Muzli feed, Instagram, etc.), but I often find that taking a breather here and there allows me the space to accept inspiration. I’ll get away from a screen and take a break to get coffee, read, talk to someone. It clears my mind to be ready to tackle a project and I often find I can get excited to work on something if I get some distance from it.

John (Senior Designer): This will likely sound a bit trite but visiting new places and disconnecting from my screen are the surest ways for me to recharge my creative battery.

What Is Your Favorite Part Of The Process?

Eric: That moment when the whole team on a project cracks the code on an idea and is psyched as hell about it.

Sandra: My favorite part of the creative process is the execution part. I particularly like photo/video shoots. Because so many elements happen in a shoot, I love that the process pushes you to sculpt an idea on the fly and see magic unveils as you go. I love collaborating with all types of talents on a big scale project, everyone just bringing their creative lens to execute a vision. It is always better to do it with a team.

Susanna: My favorite part is the first spark of a great idea and the excitement to implement it right away. These often happen in that breather time I mentioned above.

What Recent Project Did You Love?

Eric: It’s a simple gif, but our work for Thrive at 85 featuring an octogenarian woman doing the splits put a smile on my face. We set out to capture 80-somethings in a youthful way and I love how the team rallied around the vision and made it happen. The videos and site are great too, but it’s amazing how one simple gif can sum up a campaign.

Sandra: I think the Thrive 85 campaign I worked on was really fun. To celebrate Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s 85th anniversary we shined the spotlight on the octogenarians that are thriving. We were able to create a healthcare campaign that didn’t feel like healthcare. Instead it felt young and fresh. It was a humbling experience to have worked with so many great people who were dedicated to bringing the vision to life. It was a true team effort between creatives, partners and talent around the clock to launch this campaign.

Susanna: I designed my wedding invitations, which of course was exciting for me. It was a small piece in the end, but I managed to work in a custom font and my favorite icon I’ve ever made (a lil pinecone!). I’m also proud because it was my first personal project that I handled the production on: I contacted a local artist for permission to use his print for a background texture, I worked with a local printer and compared lots of swatches, and I set up files to be print-ready with metallic spot colors (something I’ve gotten to hand to a production designer usually). It was a labor of love all around.

What Trends Stand Out To You?

Eric: This might date me, but it’s amazing to see typefaces that were once declared dead coming back. I love it. And it’s great to see the subtle evolutions. Sort of like fashion.

Susanna: When I first started actively studying design a few years ago, flat illustration was the thing. Kind of nice for me learning Illustrator for the first time to be working with simpler shapes. It’s still appealing, but I’ve been excited to see a lot more maximalist design lately, with designers bringing in more crazy textures and dimension. Some of my favorite designers have a pretty clear through-line of experimenting with these trends while establishing their own view on them.

John: Patterns, gradients and playful type-setting that works against the grid.

What Resources Do You Tap? 

Eric: I like to follow agencies and publications from outside the U.S. and having grown up in retail in a past life I credit the industry for helping us as consumers and professionals stay on top of trends — especially the smaller brands. Retail is always introducing us to new photographers, type, concepts and beyond. Had I not grown up in the retail/surf/skate world, I don’t know if I would have ever discovered this industry.

Sandra: I often find it helpful just to stay updated on all types of news, not just in the world of design, but in science, culture, politics, tech, sports, etc. Great ideas often happen when you mix unexpected ingredients together. It also creates freshness and nuance in this oversaturated marketing world. Also, going out and experiencing the real world is a great source of creativity. Whether it be networking events, art shows, dinner parties, travel, or participating in team sports, human connection is sometimes forgotten in the process and I think it’s a very important one in this context.

John: While at work I tend toward equally predictable resources, with Pinterest, Savee, Dribbble and Behance providing a steady source of design inspiration.

What Has Been Your Biggest Challenge And How Did You Solve It?

Eric: Oh man. I was once working on an amplification-based idea where we turned every BART stop in the Bay Area into a foursquare check-in spot for an environmental client. Each check-in was supposed to generate $10 to fight climate change, up to a few hundred thousand. The only problem was we didn’t have a few hundred thousand dollars (budget cuts). A last-minute plea to mega-rich dot-commers.

John: I think this is likely true of most projects involving any sort of creative pursuit but bridging the imagination gap is my most consistent professional hurdle. Describing abstract concepts to literal thinkers is often fraught with pitfalls, but thankfully the road to resolution is a relatively simple one: empathize with their situation (or meet them where they are) and lower the barrier to creative entry through thorough and thoughtful explanation. Easy, right?

What Campaign Out There Did You Enjoy?  

Eric: It’s almost three years old, but the sheer amount of craft and thinking that went into a video/spot for the hospital for sick children in Canada still stands out as such a powerful form of creativity. Most important, it was for a great cause and delivered on results.

Susanna: I most appreciate campaigns that are beautifully art-directed, and I think FX does a great job with their eye-catching show promos. Somehow, they all manage to strike appropriate tones, (gorgeous, tense posters for The Americans; absurd spoof ads for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, etc.) while still looking like they come from the same network. And, since we’re in the holiday season, I do love seeing reruns of classic ads that have stayed clever and relevant: the Hershey’s Kiss bells, the Corona palm Christmas tree, etc.


Eric: Never stop being a student and be nice.

Susanna: Oh, it’s a piece of advice I have to remind myself of all the time: share what you’re working on, especially with your fellow creatives. I can be shy about it, even though I know there’s nothing more helpful (or more affirming) than getting some other eyes on your work talking to someone about your process.

John: Avoid lumping specific areas of discipline into the catch-all term “creatives.” Let art directors be art directors, copywriters be copywriters, and graphic designers be graphic designers. While there are often overlapping skillsets that these disciplines share, there’s a significant discrepancy between hobbyists and experts so avoid muddying the waters if you’re able.