Tell It Slant: The Art of Turning It On Its Side

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In our roommate years, Lauren had a variety of jobs, but her work in the visual arts was her driving commitment. She produced a large volume of abstract and mixed media paintings — some for large collaborative projects and others for her own portfolio.

After several hours (or weeks) with a piece, she’d have Brittany come to her bedroom-turned-studio for feedback. Armed will little more than a college art survey course and one particularly moving experience with a Rothko exhibit, she was hardly a qualified critic. The conversations were lively, and more than once, we turned paintings on their side to get a fresh view.

It’s a practice that we’ve retained in our design process. It’s common for us to stand a laptop on its side or print out art boards and flip them around a few times.

There can be hidden meaning, references, and opportunities that emerge with a new perspective. Sometimes the lesson is “Uh...oops. That’s not going to work.” Other times it’s “Yes! This is what it needs.” or “More here.”

The creative process is full of ruts. We fall into them unknowingly. That feeling of being stuck and vaguely resentful is a telltale sign that you’ve found yourself in one. Turning work on its side can feel like a cool breeze in a stuffy hot room. It’s no sure-fire way to an easy solution, but it asks you to pay attention differently. It usually leads in a new direction, sending us off to work hard with new insight.

Like our dear sage Emily reminds us, “the Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind.” The design concepting process is far from straightforward — although the one-concept approach helps immensely! — but practices like these keep us digging deep to create work that ultimately sings.