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James Davidson

    Creativity Corner The Creative Process

    The Creative Process – Meet James Davidson

    May 13, 2013

    I think we can safely now call it an ongoing category🙂

    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.

    Today’s guest contributor is no other than the talented and slightly bonkers (in a good way) James Davidson. I met James a few weeks ago at a talk he held at The Hoxton Hotel and instantly fell in love (you know what I mean:-) He oozes creativity and brilliance so in typical Tina fashion I pounced on him with my request for a post on his creative process. Luckily he said: err, yes!

    James, 34, is a former creative turned editor-in-chief of We Heart, which began as a personal blog around 2009 and now has a team of 5 and is one of the UK’s most popular online magazines.

    ‘We Heart is inspired by creators, makers and daydreamers, and explores the intersections between arts and culture, lifestyle, living and travel.’

    James, who was nominated for “Most up-and-coming journalist/blogger” has transformed We Heart from a personal blog, which won Best Design Blog 2010 at the London Design Festival, into an online magazine with an ever-expanding team and ever-increasing profile. He’s driven by a desire to create innovative and engaging content, ensuring that We Heart is not one of the countless sites that regurgitate similar content. James is passionate about the experience of travel, covering hotels, bars, restaurants and shops that defy the norm. We Heart recently published its first book, a move into the offline world that James hopes will see We Heart grow as a brand.

    Enough said. Over to James!

    The Creative Process – James Davidson


    The infinite loop of inspiration

    When you think of a process, you expect a diagram – maybe something that’s conditioned into us in the science classroom’s of our youth. I racked my brains, long and hard, to dream up a complicated network of arrows, boxes and motivational-manager-speak buzzwords, but could only come up with the lemniscate – aka, the infinity symbol.

    The creative process, for me, is an ongoing chain reaction: inspiration, research, doing, publishing, inspiration…

    I’ve had a quote on We Heart since it was relaunched as an ‘online magazine’ at the end of 2011: You can find inspiration in everything* (*and if you can’t, look again!). It’s less a quote, and more the title of a Paul Smith book about the designer’s life, loves and passion. For me, the creative process begins and ends with inspiration; with everything in the middle being your ability to draw fruits from yours. Never trust a creative who’s reluctant to share theirs. They’re probably ripping someone off.


    Music is the fuel for my creative process

    When I was asked to share my ‘creative process’, my initial thoughts were ones of trepidation, of fear – I’m a fraud, I’m not a creative. I used to be: I worked in graphic and web design for a long time, eventually graduating to campaigns and marketing. I started making music around the age of 12 or 13 but, such is my workload, even that passion is on hold. I now just edit press images, occasionally take the odd few, and post them on my website – oh, I write a little too, but that’s not creative, is it?


    I love buying old magazines on eBay to step outside the digital cycle of regurgitated content. This is a spread from a 1970s issue of Oz magazine

    It was pointed out to me that I was being a little hard on myself, pointed out that I design the website in question, design the partnerships we run with various international brands and, if my recent nomination for best up-and-coming journalist was anything to go by, that my writing wasn’t too shabby. The thing is though, I don’t think that I have a proper job – it’s too much fun. Writing about what I want, doing what I want… I sometimes forget that thousands of people are inspired daily by the content that we produce. I forget that I’m a cog in the chain of inspiration that keeps me going, makes me want to get out of bed in the morning.

    So, as simple and un-process-like my creative process may be (or I may see it), I wanted to share with you five top tips that keep me going, keep me creative and keep me inspired: 


    Travel is such an essential part of my inspiration process, nothing can replace wandering unchartered streets with a camera as a visual notebook

    Step outside the digital world

    In my line of work, so much is recycled. Just a quick browse through a handful of the most popular design blogs on the internet will demonstrate this – it’s so easy to fall into a cycle of perpetual regurgitation of PR-led content.


    Equally, trawling through old photos back at HQ is a great chance to be re-inspired

    Get outside, see the real world, find content that nobody else is writing about. Travel is vital for what I do, but equally talking to local designers, artists and makers is utterly essential. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting at your desk and repurposing the same content over and over, and I’m not saying I don’t personally fall foul of it myself from time to time, but forgetting the internet for a little while is the best way to make the internet a more interesting read for everyone else.

    Equally, a little more digging in the digital world can also pay off…


    Pulse for iPad is my news reader of choice, over 70 of my favourite websites can easily be browsed regularly

    Crate digging for the 21st century

    Rarely did anything give me as much pleasure when I was a kid, as digging through crates of records looking for rare gems. Theoretically little has changed, although the format of said crate digging is wildly more advanced.

    It can be so easy to be reactive in creating content than it is proactive – emails constantly drop into your inbox, brimming with pre-made content, countless blogs and websites post content that’s so easy to repurpose… but where’s the fun in that?


    Outsider art inspires me so much, this is from an outdoor art space in Detroit called The Heidelberg Project. A local resident started creating it all from the junk that people had left behind when vacating the area – these things are often so much more inspiring than the works of established artists, because they’re real, and from the heart

    Get inspired – but dig a little deeper. When I see a photo series or an exhibition doing the rounds on design websites, I get in touch with the creative, find out more, flick through the proverbial crate of records with more intensity. The same photo series may be regurgitated on a hundred different sites, you’re not going to trump anyone by showing the same deck of cards – publish an interview, a retrospective, ask the creative about their inspirations. Explore. Engage.


    It’s important to look the other way sometimes, this was on the floor outside a show at this year’s Milan Design Week and I loved it so much it inspired me to run a post called “Not Milan Design Week 2013” – a collection of the non-design-related madness going on all around the show. It was probably my favourite post from this year’s design week

    Don’t take yourself anything too seriously

    Well, this little nugget does pretty much what it says on the tin. I’m not a doctor, or a pilot… I’m a curator of ideas, visions and creativity. I’m a creator of content to inspire. I’m not going to win a Nobel Prize for this, ergo I’ve no need to act like I will. There’s nothing worse than po-faced creatives who think their work changes lives. It doesn’t, get on with it, have a laugh.


    Another ‘outsider’ source of inspiration for me is toilet graffiti. Or ‘crap graffiti’ – having my iPhone at the ready to snap subversive pearls of wisdom is an ongoing source of thinking differently

    Structure is dead, long live structure

    Routine is everything and nothing: having a set way of doing things is essential, but do things your own way, and mix it up as often as you can. Being bored is the worst possibly deterrent to creativity.

    I’m woeful in the morning, so fill my time with browsing websites, reading magazines and sorting through images I’ve taken as visual notes. I bookmark, file, request further information, file again… sure, there’s a structure to what I do, but it’s my structure. There’s no 9am clocking in, but equally there’s no 5pm clocking out. But for me, that’s vital to creativity – freedom.

    I’d love to advise on methods, processes and procedures that work, but the most important thing is to find your own way of working and to fit it around the things that keep you inspired.

    Keep moving

    Finally, DON’T STAND STILL. Got comfortable in your structure, your processes, your style of writing or designing? Rip it up, and start again. Nothing stifles creativity like getting bored. 


    A sneak peak of the new version of We Heart. It’s vital for me to keep changing, reinventing and never standing still – you need to stay enthusiastic and switched onto what you do

    Whether it’s a good thing or not, We Heart is in a constant state of reflux – tinkering, reworking, redesigning… they’re things that may seem minor to the casual observer – hell, they probably don’t even notice – but the important thing here is that I keep it fresh. For myself.

    Whenever you start to get comfortable, is always the moment you get complacent. Surprise yourself, re-find yourself – get out, look at what other people, in other sectors and industries are doing. Think about how you can apply new passions into what you already do.

    If I knew what I was going to be doing in a years time, I’d give it all up now.

    There’s little else to say but a huge thank you to James for taking the time to share your creative process with us. Hope everyone has a good week.