Right brain versus left brain, analysis versus exploration, creativity versus structure and order. Many people think these ways of being are in opposition to each other. My experience has told me otherwise: rather than working against one another, these modes actually support each other.
A Tale of Two Bosses
This first became evident to me at the beginning of my career, when I worked for two book designers at the same time. The two designers shared a space, and each guy was growing his own book design agency. They decided to pool their efforts and hire a graphic design student from the local art school as an intern (yours truly.)
I started the job and loved it, the studio was fun, we were working for great clients and both men were talented, fun guys with impressive experience in the magazine and publishing industry.
Beyond the surface, however, the two were a study in contrasts.
One guy was a little more ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ and didn’t seem to have a clear process for planning and executing his work (he may have, but if he did, it was in his head.) And he while he created a lot of really beautiful designs, it seemed he always had a handful of the same clients and no real strategy for growing his business. I never knew what he expected of me, and wasn’t quite comfortable working for him. He also had a very messy desk.
The other designer, whose work area was always immaculate (can you see where this is going?), had a very systematic way of approaching his business. He had lists of what needed to be accomplished. He had a process for organizing, storing and backing up our files. Although it was informal, he seemed to have a very deliberate strategy for helping me grow and routinely increased my responsibilities, which freed him up to pursue lucrative side projects, like magazine consulting.
The second guy’s business literally grew before my eyes.
I started working for him exclusively. He promoted me to designer and together we were incredibly productive and creative. We routinely acquired new clients. Our books won design awards. We pitched to and won projects from publishers like Chronicle Books and Harper Collins.
I started earning a bonus based on our monthly revenue. As a result, I paid attention to how much the business was billing and noticed the amount steadily increased each month.
Flourishing Within Structure
Both designers produced amazing work. However one seemed to grow his business and his body of work through systematic planning and working in a structured, orderly way – with no discernible impact to creativity. I have seen this played out over and over in different scenarios throughout my career, despite the perception by some that in order to be creative you have to be chaotic, disorganized, or unhampered by structure or constraints.
How about you? How do you reconcile creativity, structure, and productivity?