HOW Design Conference’s Jim Krause on Just Getting Work Done

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Jim Krause published the first of his extraordinarily useful (and best-sellingly popular) Index series, “Idea Index,” in 2000 with HOW Books. Since then, Krause’s output has expanded to Index titles on color, layout, photography and logos.

As an author who designs his own books, Krause gets incredibly up close and personal with his subjects. With hundreds of examples—photographs, layout prototypes, logo formats—in each book, Krause has to push himself to keep the creative energy going through the long slog of writing, design and production.

Krause’s books lend themselves to creative instruction, and he’s become a much-admired speaker at the HOW Design Conference over the years—particularly his photography workshops that had designers pointing and shooting at all kinds of subjects throughout the conference venue. He returns to the 2014 HOW Design Conference to present “Learn By Doing (and Have Fun Doing It),” which encourages designers to carve out time for extracurricular projects.

We recently asked Krause about his own creative process, and about what he’s planning to share during his session in Boston.

Jim Krause Back By Popular Demand at HOW Design Conference 2014

HOW Design Conference, Jim Krause

When you get stuck in a creative rut, how do you break free?I believe that the best way to stay out of creative ruts is to deny that they exist. Seriously. Just ignore the idea that it’s even possible to run out of ideas or creative energy, and keep right on working. As Chuck Close says, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Who are the other creative people—inside the design world or beyond it—that are really impressing you right now? Whose creative chops do you envy?Great movie directors are always in the crosshairs of my creative attention. I mean, I watched Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” three times in a row just to try and get a handle on his use of color and composition. (And yes, I know that not all people love his movies in the same way I do, but how can any designer dismiss Mr. Anderson’s art-sense?!)

Thinking about the span of your career, can you tell us about one event, or one piece of advice, or one mentor that made a significant difference to you?There was one time when i was working on a logo that needed to include a few stalks of wheat—and I just couldn’t come up with just the right stalks of wheat for my logo masterpiece.

Anyway, I’d been working on ideas for many, many hours when my boss came back to the art department, saw all my thumbnail sketches, and said (in unprintable language) that he wasn’t looking for a “doctoral thesis” on wheat, just some LOGO IDEAS. I think it was at this moment that the lightbulb went off over my head—the lightbulb that says that there comes a time when the thumbnails simply need to cease and the rendering(s) need to begin—or else you could lose your job.

What are you most excited to share with session attendees in Boston?I always look forward to talking about design, photography and art at the HOW Conferences, but this year I’m especially excited since I’ll be talking about all the stuff I (willingly) do outside of working hours to have fun with—and try to get better at—design, photography and art. Things like making mini-movies with my pocket camera, painting and drawing for fun, making outdoor sculptures out of rocks at the beach … and things like that. I think there will be a ton of take-home ideas in this session and I’m really excited about leading it.

What inspired you to choose the topic of your presentation at HOW Design Live? Did it come from a lesson you learned or experience you had?I chose to talk about the creative projects that I do outside of working hours at this year’s conference because these are exactly the things that keep me excited about design, keep me learning new things, and keep me wanting to do better creative work both on the clock and off. And I think anyone who regularly does projects like these outside of work will love them too—for the same or similar reasons.

HDL; HOW Design Conference

Join Krause for his sessionLearn By Doing (and Have Fun Doing It),” and rejuvenate your own creative energy at HOW Design Live. It’s the best investment you can make in your brain and your soul—register now!


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