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Clare Warmke
Clare Warmke is the acquisitions editor for HOW Design Books

Clare Warmke on "Creativity"

A moment of white space

For many months of last year, a design magazine editor whose office was next to mine was putting in long, tedious hours trying to get her product in the best shape possible. Every night as I left -- and she was still pounding away on her keyboard -- I'd offer a cheery, "Don't stay all night, OK?"
      The few times I saw her leave after eight hours, she was weighed down by stacks of memos, folders, articles to edit and art to check, all of which she planned to do that night at home. She told me stories of traveling to see her family, but remaining tucked away in an office working while she stayed with them.
      It didn't take long for me to be concerned about her well-being. On our way out of the office one night -- her arms loaded with take-home work -- I shared with her my favorite quote from Henry David Thoreau:
"The truly efficient laborer will not crowd his day with work."

"How?" she said, exasperated. "How can that be true?"

She's right-it's a lovely thing to say, but what does it really mean?

In my position as editor of the HOW Design book line, I help creative people share their vision and design techniques with the professional design community. I have the privilege of spending each day corresponding with aggressively creative people-people who are paid by the idea. Possibly the most astounding thing I have learned from them is that creative ideas actually do solve problems. And creativity itself is extremely easy to acquire.
      Designers employ white space in their designs to give the viewer a visual pause, and the best designers understand that their lives also need a little white space. A 16-hour day will never be as high in quality or quantity as an 8-hour day. The human body simply loses its ability to focus and produce good work. It's better to retain your energy and enthusiasm over the course of an 8-hour day-yes, even taking breaks-than to labor like a burdened pack mule.
      As a left-brained, stodgy editor, even I have gotten grumpy when seeing a group of our in-house designers playing ping pong and claiming they are using the time "to let ideas gestate." Just like anyone else who forgets about the importance of white space, I grumble, "Must be nice to play and get paid for it." In those moments, what I forget is that those designers are probably going to turn out better work than me that day. In fact, I should have joined their game.

Article continues . . .

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