Repeat Performance

Creating new ideas for the same old stories

Designers and illustrators are constantly being pressured to come up with something no one’s seen before. But there are few surprises in publishing. Newspapers tend to run the same stories year in and year out. It is not unusual to design or illustrate something thatís been covered before: the yearly festival, the annual sporting event and the reoccurring year-end feature. Content is deadly cyclical.

Even new content is rarely fresh. Reader’s have already seen that new movie—on the TV trailer, Entertainment Weekly cover, online teaser and print advertisement—before the newspaper review.

To merely repeat visual treatments from year to year or from advert to page would make a publication predictable, boring and unappealing. Designers need to make their content—however old—surprising, exciting and engaging.

Designers must adopt tools for creating new ideas and discover visual approaches to predictable content that adds surprise, excitement and impact.

Inside a Mexican restaurant, a cook takes a limited number of ingredients—beans, meat, corn, tortillas, chile and, in “El Norte,” copious amounts of cheese—and combines them into tacos, enchiladas, posole, chiles rellenos, chimichangas and tamales. That’s creative. Fresh recipes are fabricated from a larder of redundancy.

Designers can do the same.

In the kitchen, a cook can boil, fry, bake, broil, poach and steam. On the page, a graphic artist can create designs and illustrations that amuse, express, react, connect, engage and expand.


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paper 5 info This paper was created as a companion to a session about creativity, prepared for the Graphics Garage short course in Denver, 2010.
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