January 23, 2023

A creative's secret power up - the power of noticing

Reading Time: 5 mins

This article was re-posted from my weekly newsletter. Want to read it a week early? Subscribe to Design Insight.

Beauty product design i.e. the design of packaging for cosmetics, beauty products, and even candles is a fascinating world I never thought to explore.

So this past week, to sate my curiosity I went down the rabbit hole.

But first some context:

The world of the shop-with-me video

I’ve recently been watching shop with me videos focused on beauty products. It’s a long story about how I’m learning more about make-up and beauty products to make me look young forever (hmm may be too late for that 😅).

Anyway, it took me a while to realize why I found them so enjoyable to watch (aside from the whole consumerism of it all).

It finally dawned on me that I loved seeing all the different designs of beauty products on the shelves. It was a designer’s paradise of color theory, typography, layout, contrast, and white space in action.

I was particularly struck by videos of shoppers exploring Bath & Body Works. We don’t have this store in Ireland so I’d never seen inside one until a YouTuber took me on a tour to see if they could find any deals.

I spent some time after that looking on the Bath & Body Works website and was captivated by all the uniquely designed perfume bottles, candles, and body care products.

Who knew hand soap could be so beautiful?

Bath & Body Works Products

What I learned from my deep dive

I went down the rabbit hole on Bath & Body Works to sate my curiosity and learned a lot about the company.

Admittedly, I couldn’t find any information detailing the thought process that goes into the product design aspect of things. My Googling skills just aren’t up to snuff here it seems.

Perhaps there’s a gap in the market here for someone to break down beauty products from Bath & Body Works in terms of their physical design. 🤔

What I did learn was how Bath & Body Works have turned all their products into valuable collectibles.

Here’s how they do it:

OK, this took a bit of a “marketing turn” but I found this all really fascinating so had to share it.

Being able to notice the world around you

I think all this reminds me that by nature, designers and other creative people are all really good at noticing what’s around them.

I recently started digital sketching as a new way to be creative. As part of the learning process, I subscribed to a newsletter called The Sketch Club among others (recommendations welcome).

A great quote from a recent edition still resonates with me:

“A more mindful observation of our reality is the first step to a more creative life.”.

If you pay more attention to the world around you, there’s no limit to the amount of creative inspiration you can draw from. With enough practice, you’ll be able to see something that catches your eye and use that spark to create a new painting, a new song, a layout for a website, or an idea for an article.

If you’re struggling to take anything away from the content you consume, I love the idea of The 10 Things Exercise from David Hoang.

Here’s how it works:

“The next time you’re watching a TV show or listening to a podcast, write down 10 things you want to research deeper on that were mentioned in the episode. This could be something directly quoted by a person on the series or mentioned passively. The purpose of the exercise is to generate ideas to forward thinking.”

If you can take the most interesting aspects of different things from the world around you, you’ll have an endless supply of inspiration and ideas. I realize this isn’t a new concept and if you’ve read Steal Like An Artist you’ll have heard this concept before.

For me though, I found this concept hard to internalize.

Sure creativity lies in unique combinations of things but what do I combine? I’d mindlessly watch, read, and listen to everything that interests me but would never take the time to actively think about what I was seeing or hearing.

I’ve recently adopted a form of the 10 things exercise mentioned above and even now in such a short space of time it’s unlocked a new level of interest and curiosity I didn’t have before.

This very article is an example of that exercise in action!