CNE Presentation

Birch Studio’s primary output is creativity. All of the work that we produce is custom: graphic design, web design, user interface design, data visualization, etc. To keep our wits about us, we needed a process that could be the same each time for us. The following is a summary of the tips David shared at the seminar hosted by the Center for Non-profit Excellence on July 19, 2011.


  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel – There is precedent for almost every aesthetic decision you will have to make. Use google images to find your ideal model & refine from there. Choose at least three good examples as a basis for your custom project and you reduce your risk of blatant copying nearly to zero.

    Good artists borrow, great artists steal – Pablo Picasso

  2. Read each other’s minds – Creativity reaches its peak when we can leverage each other’s new thoughts. The most effective communicators have a way of getting into each other’s head. Rather than relying on telepathy, we use sketches and pictures to support and confirm what everyone in the room is thinking. That puts everyone literally on the same page.

  3. Don’t throw anything away – Most designers don’t show you the stuff they don’t like. We used to do that, but have changed our ways because there is always the lingering question the client has… what if you try this? In many cases, we have tried that and realized that it didn’t work. But that editing process cuts half of the team out of the creative process and asks the client to take an unnecessary leap of faith. So, now we share it all, good and bad. And get amazing feedback from it.

  4. Juice the creative process – Simple rule: Allow random associations to creep into your mind. Silliness helps to clear the air and foster a comfortable environment. Put all of your problems on the table and start throwing ideas at them, any idea. Working out problems verbally and visually with others increases your overall output of ideas. Drawing on a board where others can see helps. Documenting all of your thoughts allows you to share ideas with people in the room, out of the room, and in the future. Allow 60-90 minutes for a good cathartic brain dump. If you have time, go back the next day and look again, fresh. You’ll probably double your ideas on the second go round and be able to see the merit in yesterday’s ideas.

    A little nonsense every now and then is relished by the wisest men. – Willy Wonka

  5. Confirm changes in expectations – If you change course, your creative partner needs to know. Explain why, answer any questions and get their blessing. Don’t assume your partner sees it just because it’s right in front of them. In a good creative session, the focus is often more on creating new ideas than revisiting what’s been done. A quick mention of a change quiets any question as to why something occurred and lets all of your collective brainpower be focused on the task at hand.

    Without deviation from the norm, progress would not be possible – Frank Zappa


  1. Elizabeth Pyle

    David – Unfortunately, I wasn’t at your presentation but can tell from the above notes that you hit the nail on the head on all points. I especially like point#3 – never throw ideas away. You never know where they can lead you the second time around. I also like and appreciate that you encourage direct interaction between your designers and the client. So many in your field don’t do that and in my opinion slows the creative process down. So keep up the good work and continued success to you and your team! Liz

Comments are closed.