How ideas happen.

I get to be creative for a living. In fact, my livlihood depends on me coming up with creative solutions to problems, and creative ideas in marketing, advertising and design. I’ve given a lot of thought to how ideas come into being, largely because the more ideas I get, the better off I am (within reason). There’s an old saying I like, “necessity is the mother of invention.” You could argue that it’s also the mother of creativity, or at the very least, the spark that lights the match of imagination. Case in point…Aside from being a graphic artist, I’m also a musician. I play a number of instruments – drums (my first love), vibes, guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, and so forth. Recently, I’ve been playing with a couple of other musicians locally. Because of the way the group’s configured, I get to play a lot of different instruments, which creates something of a problem – how to keep them nearby, without allowing them to be damaged.

I’ve tried a number of different kinds of guitar stands over the years. Sadly, nothing I’ve found really works. They’re either too easy to tip over, ugly as sin, to bulky to carry around, or just plain clumsy to use. And did I mention way overpriced and not too durable? Most multi-guitar stands come in the “holds two back-to-back” or “holds three in a kind of pyramid” configuration. I needed something more, and specifically, something that would easily accomodate my fretless acoustic bass. I went to our local Guitar Center, and found something that would work – it holds 5 or so guitars in a lean-to rack. However it was ugly (black painted steel and foam rubber), bulky, kinda flimsy-looking, and expensive. I figured I could do better. That’s where the idea thing kicked in.

I started envisioning a wooden stand – something that would be both visually appealing and sturdy. I wanted something easily portable, secure, and really attractive. Mrs. Digital and I really like “mission-style” or Arts & Crafts furniture. It’s almost always made of oak, and is simple, elegant, sturdy, and really durable. Now there are cheap mission-style pieces for sale, but if you look at really well-made mission style furniture, you’ll realize that the stuff is designed to last almost forever. I began to think about a stand that would take design cues from mission style furniture. Then I began exploring how to put the thing together. The quick ‘n easy answer would be to screw it together, or use hinged so it could fold up. I’ve always found puzzle boxes to be appealing, and I really like fine joint work – especially mortise and tenon joints. There’s something special about woodworking where pieces fit together with precision.

So I began work on a design. Now a lot of people at this point would get out the CAD software and start measuring. Not me. My dad taught me what I know about woodworking, and he like to work from simple sketches – with most of the concept in his head. I do to. I sketched the mortise and tenon joints I had in mind, and took off for Home Depot to purchase the lumber. I let the lumber dictate the design parameters (it’s easier that way, and saves on lumber, too).

What I ended up with is (I think, anyway) pretty cool. It’s obviously mission style. It’s easy to transport, easy to assemble/take apart, and holds up to six instruments securely. And there’s a wonderful symmetry, and economy of design in the piece. Everyone that’s seen it has said “you could sell these.” And I think they are right.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working on setting up a new company to manufacture and sell these stands. Soon as I have a production model, I’ll post pictures on the blog.

So what does this tell us about the creative process? I don’t know – other than there’s a big connection between solving a problem and ideas.

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