Friday, September 30, 2011

Creativity Booster: Using Mind Mapping to Grow Ideas

"Structure of Mind Maps" courtesy Mind Map Pictures.

Have you ever heard of mind mapping?

It’s a really wonderful technique for boosting your creativity and growing your ideas so that they can see more of their true potential. It is used by creative people as well as business professionals for a variety of purposes. It is another excellent way to help you think outside the box!

A mind map is a diagram that represents specific concepts arranged around a central idea or theme. They can help you visualize and structure an idea as well as brainstorm further possibilities. You can use them to organize thoughts, make decisions, solve problems, and just stand back and look at something from a broader perspective.

One of the fun things about mind maps is that there are no rules. Some people have come up with guidelines, but really, you can use them in any way that works for you. I like to use different colors and add drawings to encourage both halves of my brain to get along more easily, but I think it’s just the simple act of laying things out on paper in a nonlinear way that makes it so effective. You will develop your own style as you test it out and discover what works for you.

"Art & Design Mind Map" courtesy Mind Map Pictures.
To create a mind map, get out a blank sheet of paper. Write a topic or idea in the center that you want to think about or expand on. Next, draw lines moving outward from the center like tree branches, with thicker branches close to the center stating main themes or aspects of your central idea, and then branching out to multiple thinner branches getting more specific about each of those sub-topics.

You can click on any these mind-map images to view them larger, and help you get a better idea of how a mind map works!  As you can see, you could easily create a mind map about any topic you like, and every person will have their own style!

One of my favorite things about mind mapping is sitting back to look at it when you’re done (or at least you think you’re done.) While creating the mind map helped you to expand on your original idea and clarify all of its different aspects, there is even more to be gained simply by observing your creation. I love looking at two different sub branches that aren’t necessarily related and asking, “What do these two things have in common?” or, “How can I combine and connect these two aspects to make something new?”

Have fun with this, and let me know what you think about mind mapping! Do you like it? Has it helped you to think more creatively, or even just gain clarity? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fun with Florals

"Lotus Flower" © Tien Frogget 
What is it about floral and botanical images that makes them so peaceful and calming?

Maybe it’s because they’re one of nature’s most beautiful treasures; a brilliant blossom of color and shape that brightens up any space. Or perhaps it’s the fact that they’re so transient and short-lived; a flower will bloom only for a brief time before wilting and returning back to the earth that made it, making its tiny blink of a life span all the more precious.

"Magnolia II" © Marsha Tudor
"Ribbon" © Bonnie Kelso

"Narcissus Containment" © Marsha Tudor
Whatever it is, flowers have been one of the most popular subjects of art and photography for hundreds of years – and they still are. In fact, they make up roughly 65% of the current decorative and retail market. Think about it - when you hang a painting or print of flowers on your wall, you don’t have to trim the stems, change the water, and replace them at the end of the week. They are always in full bloom.

The flower has long been a symbol of the human spirit; the epitome of a life lived to its fullest potential. Throughout history, various cultures have applied different meanings to both flowers in general as well as specific varieties. Roses and all of the brilliant colors that you can find them in each have a different meaning; for example, the red rose is a symbol of love, while the pink rose is a symbol of friendship.

"Dancing Calla Lilies" © Emelina Figueroa
"Lavender Rose" © Ricardo Vela

"Tropical Bloom" © Tien Frogget
Researchers have also more recently discovered that different types of flowers and their colors, when used with specific patterns or arrangements, can have healing or calming effects. When placed in a hospital or wellness center, the art can contribute to the overall positive well-being of the space. Green is an especially powerful color for promoting healing as well.

Not only do florals appeal to a wide variety of people of all ages and from all walks of life, but they are truly timeless. They make up an ever-growing market and will always be a surefire pleaser. They are the perfect addition to almost any space. With so many different types of flowers to choose from and even more artists to interpret and portray them, you can find gorgeous botanical works that convey any effect you are looking for.

"Floral Galaxy" © Tom Griffithe
"Fire" © Ricardo Vela
"Blue Star Sunflower" © Emelina Figueroa

"Scarlet Geranium" © Tien Frogget
"Midnight Callas" © Marsha Tudor

"Fall Flowers" © Tom Griffithe

"Golden Abundance" © Marsha Tudor

"Colorful Roses 2" © Tien Frogget

Friday, September 23, 2011

How Color Affects the Energy of a Room

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you walk into a room and feel angry for no apparent reason? Or a retreat to a favorite room can completely calm you down and make you feel better?

Often times, the colors that surround you can be affecting you, and you don’t even know it! The color of the walls, the couch, the floor—all of it affects the overall feel of the room and your mood. Although each individual will have their own personal preferences and will react differently based on culture, past experiences and so on, there are some rules that carry over generally to most people and will affect them in the same way.

Here is a list of the most common colors and how they can impact your mood when they are in your home:

White is the best color to use in design; it is completely neutral, balanced, open, and peaceful. It adds a sense of space to any room (this is why most ceilings are white) and enhances every color it touches.

Red stimulates energy, excitement, and can help to incite conversations. The best room for this color is the dining room; but don’t overdo it, and use rich deep reds rather than bright, garish tones. This color can frequently cause people to feel irritable or angry, especially when too much of it is used.

Orange is an energetic color which spurs excitement and enthusiasm. This is not typically a color you want to use a lot unless it is in a room where you are going to be doing a lot of physical activity, like a workout room.

Yellow can have different effects on people, depending on how much of it is used. This bright, cheerful color can be energizing and uplifting, especially in kitchens, bathrooms, and sometimes bedrooms. It works well in small rooms to help them feel more spacious. In some cases, too much yellow can cause feelings of anger or frustration.

Green is a very peaceful, earthy color and is one of the most popular interior design colors. It is peaceful and calming, and can help to relieve stress and promote health and healing. This is an excellent color to use in just about any room of the house.

Blue is another very peaceful and relaxing color, but the different tones of blue can have varying effects; try to avoid blues that are too bright and vivid or harsh pastels, they can over stimulate and make the room feel cold. Dark blues can also be very depressing and make you feel sad. The best tones are light, soft blues accented and paired with warmer colors to balance it out.

Neutral Colors (like tan, light brown, and gray) are like the glue that holds the other colors together; they balance the brighter colors out and can both warm and cool the environment.

Black is on the opposite end of the spectrum as white; it is a neutral color, but should not be over-used.  Just a little black here and there is usually perfect. It is a great color for grounding and adding balance to anything, and will often times add dimension to a room.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making Clients Happy and Still Being Creative

At OC Designer Source, we pride ourselves on being one of the most customer-oriented design firms out there. Our #1 priority is to make our clients happy, and we consistently meet that goal. The main reason for our success is the fact that we do everything we can to make their dreams a reality.

One of the difficulties of being an interior designer is balancing your own ideas with what your client tells you that they want. (Actually, that’s a difficulty that most creative people in any career face.)

Because of this, it is one of the biggest challenges for less experienced designers. They might sit down with a client and listen to what they want and takes notes, but the designer might have something else in the back of their mind. It could be the latest trend they were just reading about, or an idea they’ve been mulling over, but often times it can simply be the thought, “They think that they want that, but they’d really like this better and they just don’t realize it. When they see my idea they’ll love it.”

They might luck out and wow them with their ideas, but more often than not the client already has a picture in their mind of the end result that they want, and if the designer can’t meet their expectations there can be frustration and a lot of changes that are necessary. But all of this can be prevented with a simple shift in focus.

Right before you sit down with a client to discuss their project for the first time, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is for them. You have a wealth of knowledge and education at your back that will help you to turn their dream into a reality, but each client is going to want something different.

Your job is to be a detective! Get as much detail out of them as you can. They may only have thought as far as a general theme or color scheme, but they may already be picturing the curtains they want and don’t tell you because they don’t realize that they are picturing them.

Ask them what they like and what they don’t like. Ask them about the various details of the project. The more information you can gather, the easier it will be for you. And if they’re vague, or they don’t quite know what they want, give them suggestions and see how they react—see what they like and don’t like. They will thank you in the long run.

Also, if you are one of those designers that can sometimes feel frustrated because you have so many fun, creative ideas that you never get to use because your clients always want different things, be sure to give yourself design play time where you write down your ideas and create designs just for you. You never know, a client might just see them one day and love them!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Value of Art

"Why is art so expensive?"

Ever heard that one before? This is typically what you hear from people who haven't thought of art as an investment; who aren't seeing the art for what it is - a valuable, one of a kind commodity.

I know a lot of artists and photographers and it’s also one of the biggest frustrations for them, too. Until you are well-known and established, you will probably spend years hearing the same dreaded words: “You should lower your price. You’d probably sell more of your work.”

This may seem like good advice on the surface – but if we dig a little deeper, we might discover there’s a lot more to art than the price tag.

Take hiring an interior designer, for example. Naturally, we would consider how much it will cost us for their design. They are providing a similar service as an artist; they are going to spend valuable hours creating a beautiful product that you will have the benefit of enjoying every day as you look around your home.

Still, when you hire an interior designer, you may think it is expensive, but you don’t ask yourself “is it really worth as much as I’m going to pay them?”

Of course it is! You know it is because you recognize how much time and effort goes into the design – not just the hours they spend designing it now, but also the years they spent in school or training.

You recognize that you are not just paying them for their service, but also for their ability to create something unique to their talents. You are supporting their career and celebrating their creativity. You are paying for the years that you are going to spend in this beautiful environment, and the people you love that are going to share that space with you. You are buying how good it makes you feel to wake up every morning and love where you live.

So why is it often different with artists and photographers?

They spent just as much time training and practicing, honing their skills and putting in the necessary effort to be good. They are likely just as passionate about what they do.  Each creative person in this world provides something that others can't; they have the ability to express what they feel and think and see in new ways.

When you hang something on your wall that you love – something that feeds your soul – it will be there for years. You can pass it on to your children. Supporting yourself spiritually with an environment that feeds your soul does arguably more for your well-being than the food you eat.

If you have ever fallen in love with a piece of art (of any kind) you know exactly what I'm talking about! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

OCDS On The Radio!

Interior design world, watch out! OC Designer Source is revolutionizing the way the art and design industries interact.

What is our fresh and highly effective strategy?

It’s simple, really. We’re doing something that no one else is doing. Our company is based around established and exclusive relationships with the top experts in every aspect of interior design. We have set up our business model in such a way that we have become a tight network of quality industry professionals with a unified goal. OC Designer Source is not just another design company.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of this business is our new art department, headed by Wendy Froshay.  Unlike other interior designers who spend time and effort trying to find art to complement their designs, OC Designer Source has its own team of established professional artists and photographers from all over the globe that we represent exclusively. Froshay works with each of these artists to ensure that all work is presented and reprinted with consistency of high quality.

Our goal is to make finding the perfect artwork easy and reliable. Any color scheme, style, or size – you name it, we have it all. Not only do we sell original art, giclees, and prints to designers and collectors, but we have found ourselves frequently approached by companies who are searching for high quality work to license.

We are becoming the “go-to” resource for these companies because we simplify and streamline the whole process for them so they no longer have to try to wade and sift through individual artist submissions, only to find out they can’t provide what they need.

Michele Preston and Michele Wiemann of OC Designer Source were interviewed on 1040 AM Radio yesterday morning about their new art department. If you missed it, you can still listen in on the short 10 minute segment below:

If you are interested in purchasing art for your project or looking through our art library for licensing, you can contact us at:

(949) 391-6710

Friday, September 9, 2011

Creativity Booster: How to Think Outside the Box

You know those truly GREAT ideas that step outside the box and reinvent the way we see things? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more of those on a regular basis?

We all admire those people who have the ability to always know where the cardboard flaps end and the limitless possibility of the universe begins; those people who somehow are able to see beyond the current perception of what is and say, “I know! Let’s do this and this and this instead. It will simplify the process, streamline it, and it will create a whole new ___!”

Part of you is in awe at how brilliantly simple and elegant the idea is, and the other part of you is squirming with envy, “That’s so obvious! Why didn’t I think of that?”

It’s actually not that hard to think outside the box – but the thing is, most people don’t do it because they simply don’t know how, or haven’t stopped long enough to figure out how. You can change the way you think with a simple shift in focus.

Here’s the key: People who frequently think outside the box have learned to look beyond what is assumed.

The greatest thing you can ever do is to stop and ask yourself:

"What am I assuming?"

You may be assuming that because something has always been done a certain way, it has to continue to be done that way. You may be assuming that certain things are “taboo” or will be misperceived by others. You may be assuming that because you don’t currently have the money or resources, you can’t find them. You may be assuming that you need those specific money or resources in the first place – maybe there’s another option.

You want to continually stop and ask yourself questions about the nature of the problem your are trying to solve, or the thing you are wanting to create. They need to be open-ended questions about the processes itself. “Is there a way to do this better that I haven’t thought of?”

‘What if…’ is another great way to start these kinds of questions. “What if we used this instead of that?” “What if I were required to do this on a budget half this size? How could I do it differently?” The wonderful thing about the human mind is that often times, simply asking ourselves the question is enough. But here’s where the magic comes in.

Once you’ve asked the question, get out a pencil and paper and write down every idea that comes to mind – EVEN IF you already know it won’t work. The reason for this is, you may be thinking it won’t work because of another assumption you are making! If you want to think outside the box, you have to be willing to assume temporarily that everything is subjective. Ultimately, you may crumple the paper and throw it away, but the process of giving your mind total reign will completely set your creative mind free. The idea that doesn’t work may actually lead to a similar one that does.

Don’t squash your mind before you’ve given it a chance to wander completely off the path. That’s where it might just stumble on a gold mine.

Write down ten, twenty, thirty ideas that you already know probably don’t work… THEN go through them and ask, “Why do I think that this wouldn’t this work? Why could it work? What am I assuming? Is there a way I could change the rules to make it work?”

You might just surprise yourself. Thinking outside the box is about looking beyond limitations and assumptions and being willing to consider all ideas and possibilities before assuming that they can’t be done.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

6 More Keys to Having a Great Website

  1. Break up the text.  When you see a whole bunch of text jumbled together on screen in several massive paragraphs, it can be an eye sore. Not only that, a lot of people will click off your site, sometimes without even knowing why. People don’t like to drag themselves through a whole bunch of reading if they don’t have to, and they simply won’t do it. If you take the exact same text and split it up into smaller paragraphs of 2-4 long sentences or 2-6 short ones, people will be more inclined to keep reading – provided that what you have to say is of interest to them.
  1. Use good images.  People love images. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s true. In many ways, images can tell your story more effectively than your words. You don’t want to overdo the images, but you don’t want to skimp, either. Choose images that reflect what you do; pictures of your work or you working; images that illustrate a point or a concept; images that make your site more attractive.
  1. Don’t use a lot of light text on a black background.  A little is okay. If you have a dark website design and a paragraph or two of text and mostly images, you can easily not worry about this rule. But if you have a lot of written content, such as articles, you’re going to want to shy away from the black background. A whole bunch of white text on a black background is a surefire way to make your viewers eyes start to ache and regardless of whether they are interested in what you have to say, they will leave.
  1. Skip auto play music and videos.  A significant percentage of the people who visit your website are going to either be listening to their own music, or at a place where they can’t listen to music, like work.
There is nothing worse than to be surfing the web, enjoying your favorite tune, when all of the sudden you visit a website and your ears are bombarded by a clash of music or a video that starts without you ever having hit play. Or you’re sitting in a quiet office and suddenly loud music comes blaring through the speakers and all of your coworkers turn to stare at you. What’s the first thing you do? Yep, close that website as fast as you can, and never return.

As the website owner, you may think the music sounds nice, and it may even complement your site really well. However, give your visitors the chance to decide for themselves whether they want to hear the music or not. Before they open the site, tell them that the music complements their experience, but ultimately give them they choice. That way they have the opportunity to turn off their own music or put on some headphones before proceeding. It’s a courtesy.

  1. Skip pop-ups.  These annoying things drive everyone crazy. No one wants to be surfing the web and have to step to close a pop-up that jumps at them. If at any point you absolutely must open something in a new window, warn them. (Please note: clicking the link below will open a printable page in a new window.)
  1. Don’t use a lot of technical jargon.  Unless you are selling something specifically to people who are just as well versed in all the technicalities of your profession (ex: your services target professional interior designers) you are likely going to alienate your viewers if you don’t talk to them on their level. They will think, “great, they know what they’re talking about, but I don’t get it.” The same goes for using a lot of fancy words and big language. Meet people on a level that they can connect with you on.

Friday, September 2, 2011

6 Keys to Having a Great Website

Your website is easily the most important aspect if your creative business presence online. Nowadays, everyone is expected to have one, and if you don’t you’re probably missing out.

A lot of people think that just having a website is enough. This is one of the worst assumptions you can make! In fact, if you have a really poor website, this can reflect even worse on your company than not having one at all.

Here are 6 keys to having a great website:

  1. Simple design. Yes, it would be great if we could all hire a designer to create a beautiful layout with the perfect color scheme and elegant graphics. However, regardless of whether you’re shelling out the big bucks or just making do with a template, you want to keep the layout and design simple. Choose neutral and soft colors and stay away from anything too garish, this will just be an eyesore and make them want to leave.

  1. Simple layout. Don’t overcrowd the page with too many elements, otherwise your visitors will be confused and not know what to click on. Use drop-down menus if you have a lot of content. Put things in categories that it makes sense for them to be in. Guide them gently towards where you want them to go by lighting up that path for them and giving them a few simple choices. Make it easy for them to decide where to go next.

  1. Stick to the standards. Put things where people expect to find them. Don’t hide your contact page under “About Me” because you think it makes sense to put it there; it may make sense to you but when someone wants to contact you, the first place they are going to look is the top right corner of your menu bar. If it’s not there, they may be determined enough to search your website to find it, but more often than not they will just get frustrated and click off. Potential best client of your life just went to another site.

  1. Keep the design uniform across all of your pages. Don’t have the design jump around so that it’s one way on this page and different on another. Just when they thought they were getting the hang of navigating your site, you confused (and probably frustrated) them. Make sure your main menu is on every single page and looks the same so that they can navigate easily.

  1. Know your goal. Before you even get started, ask yourself: what do you want people to do when they visit your page? Do you want them to contact you? Do you want them to buy from you? Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter? It may be all of these things, but know what the #1 thing is. When you know what your goal is, you can subtly direct them towards that throughout all of your site. If you want them to contact you, it may be as simple as having your contact info at the top of every page. If you want them to buy from you, use a standard shopping cart and make it easy for them to see what you have and make purchases. If it is to sign up for your newsletter, you probably want to have a sign-up on most of your pages and an individual page as well that lists all of the features and benefits of signing up.

  1. Tell your story, page by page. You’ve probably heard the term “branding.” What’s your brand? What’s your story? Know the story that you are telling and weave it throughout your website in little pieces. Give them all the background on your “About” page; share testimonials and nuggets of information throughout your other pages, know who you are and what you are sharing with the world. Your website should reflect that.