Get ready to embark on your journey from early ideas & concepts to spiritually-aligned creative products, brands and businesses. Read a sample chapter today.
My first paid design job earned me a tidy $20 as an 11th grade high-school student back in the late ‘90s.
A friend of mine approached me to design some advertising for a collectible card tournament he was running. Magic: The Gathering was a popular game at the time, and he needed a poster to get word out about the tournament. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Not only was this what I wanted to do with my life, but my fast-food job was only paying a comparatively measly $4.92 per hour. When I realised I could make posters and make more money, the decision was made.
This was the start of my career in design. A career that has since taken me around the world and allowed me to work with clients from multinational corporations and million-dollar start-ups, to Governments and global NGOs.
But here’s the thing: Design isn’t about being a professional designer.
Design isn’t about the degrees, the titles, the clients, or the studios. It’s so much bigger than that. Design is something we can all engage in, whether we call ourselves designs or not. And you don’t have to be in a creative industry to design. You don’t have to work in fashion, architecture or branding. You don’t have to be an artist, musician or filmmaker.
Design is not tribal. Instead, it is a set of tools that we all have access to that can help us transform ourselves and the world around us. And embracing this incredibly simple truth is at the crux of this chapter.
In the pages ahead we will:
This chapter is our foundation. Here we will pack our bags for the journey and prepare to step out with confidence, no matter what lies ahead. We will be getting to grips with what design really is, how it shapes the world around us, and why you can use it just as readily as any major brand.
Once you can see how design works, and how you can use its tools, processes and strategies in positive ways, we’ll be ready to take our first steps towards the Heart of Design.
The one rule I have when I lead the Heart of Design online course is that nobody is allowed to say they’re not creative.
It’s often something people say when they can’t draw particularly accurately, don’t work in a creative field, or don’t find it easy to think up business plans on the fly.
Creativity is everywhere in various guises, but it’s sometimes hard for us to see.
But that’s not what creativity is. Most five year olds can’t draw accurately, but they will share incredibly creative stories. Education might not be classed as a creative industry, but teachers are surely among some of the most creative professionals you could meet. And people who hesitate to call themselves quick-thinkers can often be the ones who find unique and beautiful ways to make you feel safe, valued and heard.
Creativity is everywhere in various guises, but it’s sometimes hard for us to see. Perhaps it’s knocked out of us by the education system? Or not given enough appreciation in the workplace? Whatever the reason, we often resist the label of creativity, and deny ourselves possibilities and opportunities that creativity can bring.
This is where ‘creative confidence’ comes in.
One of my favourite books about creativity is titled just that – Creative Confidence – written by the founder of IDEO and Stanford d. School, David Kelly. He wrote:
Kelly reiterates the point that creativity isn’t something magical and elusive reserved only for ‘creative people’.
On the contrary, you can find creativity in your daily life, whatever your passion, profession or craft is. Perhaps you use creativity to find a way to spend more time with your kids? Maybe you’re creative while launching a new business, or growing vegetables in your garden?
This is a hurdle that we have to overcome right at the start. Unless we’re prepared to shift our beliefs and understandings about creativity, it can be easy to trip ourselves up, and stifle our potential for doing something wonderful.
I stress the importance of this point because once we believe we have the ability to be creative, we start to see things differently, and start to trust in the path ahead – despite the fact we can never guarantee where it leads.
This is something Rumi wrote about more than 800 years ago. I’ve personally found Rumi’s work to be an incredible source of inspiration - constantly fresh and relevant – and this passage from his timeless Masnavi, shows us why being bold is vital to the creative seeker.
No one knows for certain whether the vessel will sink or reach the harbor.
Cautious people say, 'I'll do nothing until I can be sure.' Merchants know better.
If you do nothing, you lose.
Don't be one of those merchants who won’t risk the ocean.”
– Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Masnavi Book III: 3080-3100Translation: Coleman Barks, The Soul of Rumi
Put simply, Rumi is telling us that we need to be brave and take a risk. We have our dreams, aspirations and imagination, but there are no guarantees of what the outcome will be – of what might be on the island on the far side of the sea. Yet the journey is still worth the risk, because the alternative is that you do nothing. Change nothing. Reach nowhere.
Creative confidence gives us that courage to be bold. With creative confidence, we can prepare ourselves for the journey ahead, and become ready to face whatever challenges, opportunities, insights and openings might meet us along the way.
Design Around You
Now that we’ve started to get comfortable with calling ourselves creative, let’s start to think about what design actually is.
What is its role and potential? How do we experience it on a daily basis? How are we impacted by the decisions that design teams have made in developing their products and services?
At its most basic level, design is change. Design is solving a problem.
As a simple exercise, look around you and pick out a single object.
It could be something old, something new; something high-tech, something low-tech; something rare and expensive, something commonplace and low-cost.
Once you’ve made your choice, start to think about the fact that whatever you’re looking at is a piece of design. Everything around you is a piece of design. It all started in somebody’s imagination as a potential solution to a problem, before a process of prototyping, testing and iteration until it got to where it is now.
At its most basic level, design is change. Design is solving a problem. So think about what problem your object is solving. What is the change it is creating?
Now go a bit further. What was the thought process behind creating it? How was it made? How and why did it arrive at its current location?
Let’s take a wireless mouse as an example. Perhaps somebody from a big tech company’s product design department wanted to make it easier for you to use your mouse without being so close to the computer. First they had to think up and try out different prototypes, then somebody had to approve the best option, and after that the designs needed to go to a production facility where it could be made, and then it had to be shipped around the world until it got into your hands.
There would have been hundreds, if not thousands of little decisions along the way, just to get it onto your desk.
And the decisions wouldn’t have been limited to the physical product itself. There was also the process of how you chose to buy it, order it, and ship it. If you bought it from a store, that store would have had signage and way-finding to help you locate the product. If you ordered it online, there was likely some kind of registration or on-boarding. Then there’s the delivery truck - how did it find its way to your street and house to deliver it?
Design decisions surround us every day, but we’re so used to how things work that it’s sometimes hard for us to notice them. We don’t actively think about design as being an integral part of our life experience.
This lack of awareness is partly due to our definition of design. Once we reframe that definition, and start to see how it influences our lives, we can understand how we can use design in our own lives, our projects, our careers and our spiritual aspirations.
INSIDE THE BOOK
The book will also feature exclusive insights from Peter’s journey, and excerpts from his conversations with scholars, entrepreneurs, academics and creative professionals who have implemented heart-centered design.
“ As artists it’s beautiful to make art, but the real goal of the artist on the spiritual path is that you make your life a work of art.
Poet, Author, & Teacher
“ When a person is not grounded and doesn’t have the right compass, intention, focus and priority, you can really lose your way.
Psychologist, Author, & Globally-loved Speaker
“ I’ve seen how people transform when they start to do something they love.
Photographer of the Muslim world
“ We’re trying to ensure that there is Ihsan (excellence) in everything we do. Whether it’s the product, how we interact with our customers, the website, our social media, our blog, everything.
Founder & CEO of Haute Hijab
“ That's what spirituality is. Spirituality is connecting into the essence of something.
Dr. Abdallah Rothman
Principal at Cambridge Muslim College
“ There can be Barakah in anything – especially if that thing brings you back closer to the divine in some way. If it puts you into a spiritual mode, there’s Barakah there.
Entrepreneur and Founder of The Productive Muslim
“ That's kind of what spirituality is. It's another level of information to connect you to your purpose of life, through the lens of design.
Author, Coach, Teacher & Design Leader
“ You have to combine a kind of sanguinity in business with a deep faith that your provision is not coming from the business - it’s coming from God.