How to nurture your creative soul

How to nurture your creative soul
If you listened carefully, what might your 21-year-old self be telling you?

If you listened carefully, what might your 21-year-old self be telling you?

Emma Parnell

I recently interviewed British graphic designer Jonathon Ellery. As well as heading up design agency Browns, Ellery’s also a conceptual artist. In light of our discussion, I began to wonder, is graphic design enough?

Graphic design is a great thing. Its focus is problem solving involving a client and a brief. As practicing designers we thrive on this, but there’s an occasional cry for creative freedom; every now and then that design student within us lets out a faint whimper.

For established designers, that voice was hushed to a whisper years ago. The realisation that design is not about artistic creation but solving problems for paying clients is a turning point. You learn that criticism is not a personal attack, to take a step back and to find a healthy balance between creativity and business.

Still, it’s important not to neglect your creatively indulgent self. The recent answer to this seems to be a recurring trend for the adoption of after school activities.

Now I’m not talking badminton or table tennis here, but more fuel for the mind, essentially creative practice that affords us a little more freedom without the usual studio pressures.

My own personal indulgence is right here, writing. Occasionally I trade visuals for words, exercising my creativity on a new level. Publishing has been a popular choice, more recent advocates being the designers behind the launch of Studio magazine. A colleague of mine is a keen photographer, recently shooting at New Zealand fashion week while another friend has taken up screen-printing.

The beauty of university was the freedom; we learnt how to be a designers in a world without clients. It may have been unrealistic but it fueled our creativity at the time, allowing us to develop without constraints.

The days of all night parties may be gone, but it doesn’t hurt to listen to our 21-year-old selves occasionally. Once school is out, you never know where their sense of adventure may lead you.

Emma Parnell is an Auckland graphic designer and blogs at

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