Browsing Tag

Design Nation

    Creativity Corner The Creative Process

    The Creative Process – Meet Cody Wallis

    June 10, 2013

    The Creative Process is back… this time all the way from across the pond!

    For new readers:
    Much has been written about The Creative Process, which in its purest form is simply a way of solving a problem. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Creativity and its process, contrary to popular belief, is not just reserved for artists and designers. I believe that everyone can benefit from learning and understanding the numerous ways of the creative process. I will invite people to share their own personal creative processes with us and hope this will help you with identifying your own.

    Cody Wallis is a graphic designer and illustrator residing in Seattle, Washington, USA. He is currently touring the United States working on a passion project, Design Nation, interviewing graphic designers and architects and seeking wisdom about the influence of culture on the design process. He works for several non-profit organizations such as Ohio-based Drive to Create and the Cleveland International Film Festival. He holds a bachelors of fine arts in Visual Communication Design from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

    All I can say is that Cody is generous, talented and inspirational. He is a true gentleman and very professional. I salute you… over to Cody!

    The Creative Process – Cody Wallis

    As a Junior in design school, I designed this poster about “the creative cycle”:


    Looking back at this project is a personal lesson in my own naivety. I’m a little embarrassed that this was the solution I came up with for the prompt: “create a poster that visualizes the creative process.” At the time, being relatively new to the field of design, I thought that the creative process was neat, orderly, and beautiful. Surely the process by which clearly understood systems and precise communications are created has those qualities inherent in itself, right?

    If I were asked to answer that same prompt today, I would respond with something like this:

    cody wallis creativeprocess

    But boiled down to its essence (seriously boiled down), I suppose it’s more this:

    cody wallis creativeprocess2

    A continuous cycle of investigation, ideation, and inspiration.


    I’m going to be frank, my ideation process is terrible. I find that my best ideas are usually born out of my worst. My favorite projects usually started as a joke- something I probably sent to a friend as a text message accompanied by a sassy emoticon.

    Another way that I ideate is just through casual joking banter with friends. My best friend and I like to jokingly come up with new inventions and start-up business models as a way of keeping ourselves entertained. For instance, Jon, Ryan and I were recently sitting in my sister’s dining room eating a tray of Danishes. The crumbs kept falling to the floor and someone said something about needing a rhumba, one of those automated vacuum cleaners (the kind you always see cats riding around on YouTube).

    Anyway, this somehow evolved into a restaurant with mannequins dressed as Dutch girls in clogs and bonnets riding around on rhumbas and serving up trays of hot Danishes.

    cody wallis creativeprocess3

    This all probably sounds ridiculous to a reader who’s never met me. And truly, I dont think any of us ever expect that idea to come to fruition. But for me, this raw kind of humorous creativity keeps me fresh. From this compost pile of yesterday’s bad ideas grows a small and rich garden of insight.


    My creative process isn’t necessarily set in stone. It’s always changing- in fact that’s the basis of my process: change. I find that personally, whenever I get stuck in a rut or can’t come up with any new ideas, it’s usually because I’m trying to do things the way I’ve already been doing them.

    Whether its finding a new coffeeshop, riding my bike down to the river, discovering a private corner in the library, or even just eating something I’ve never tried before- that introduction of something new is usually enough to take me off my usual tracks and into uncharted territory.

    As far as visual inspiration, that can come from almost anything. An old rusty washer I picked up on the sidewalk, a unique pattern on my friend’s fireplace mantle. For me, the best inspiration comes from seeing as much as I can.


    The word “research” makes me cringe. I would much prefer to investigate a topic—it just sounds more fun that way. Research is nothing more than unending google searches and sad, desperate book-skimming in the library that makes you want to blow your brains out. Investigating means breaking out the magnifying glass, searching in places no one else has looked, talking to people involved with the case, and getting to the bottom of things. Most importantly, it’s fun.

    I find that the best investigation comes directly from the source. If I’m designing a product aimed at middle-aged women, I’ll go find one and talk to her. That kind of information is one-thousand times more useful than anything on the internet.

    This cycle of ideation, inspiration, and investigation can happen in any order and repeat itself as many times as necessary until somebody says the project is done. But my main point is that this process isn’t something that can be nailed down—it’s not something that a junior in college can effectively summarize in an awkward spiral diagram. It’s different for everyone, and it’s always changing. That’s what makes it beautiful.

    Cody, on a personal note, I cannot thank you enough (you know why). You’re a true gem. You know you’ve just paid forward:-) Happy week everyone!