I’ll have a Plate of Creativity with a Side Order of Passion.

This was a post I wrote for another blog, but I think it’s perfectly applicable here. Enjoy.

Sometimes I hear people comment that they’re just not that creative. I often wonder what makes them think that. Why would anyone be comfortable living with that idea? As a creative person who works with graphics all day, I’m here to tell you that everyone is, and has always had the potential to be creative, and I’m going to tell you why.


Creativity is not just pretty graphics or designs. Creativity is more than that. It’s multi-layered and multi-levelled. It’s relative, and we all can do it. Maybe we can’t all create pretty pictures, but that doesn’t mean you are not a creative person.

Each of us has heard a quote where at least one person has remarked “I have to write that down”. That’s because language can be beautiful. Words and phrases that are strung together like pearls on a string can be memorable if done with care. They roll off your tongue like they were meant to be together.

We’ve all read literature where the author’s abilities in word-smithing made the material enjoyable to read. Advertisers have known this for a long time. It’s called copywriting. They use it to write text for products and services that draws consumers in to read more and to buy the products. Since the forties, the big deal was writing slogans because they were bite-sized consumer information that were written to be memorable. Sometime, more often than not, they used humour to generate silly sayings like “where’s the beef?”, because as long as it was memorable, the consumers would buy. It didn’t even have to be grammatically correct.

Sometimes these phrases were so powerful they actually became part of the cultural lexicon. Here are some examples: “Don’t leave home without it” (American Express), “It keeps going, going and going” (Energizer), and “Good to the last drop” (Maxwell House). Slogans waxed and waned like the tides in the ocean, some lasting a generation or until events made them distasteful and others spanning multiple generations.

Language is like that. A well-written book is a another example of when thoughts and ideas are conveyed in such a succinctly perfect way that it’s more than just pleasurable to read. A well-crafted story is a thing of beauty. The point is that language, specifically writing, is an art form. Anyone can do it and with a little care and common sense, produce something that is memorable. It’s also the reason why some people, such as some politicians and presidents of large firms hire specially trained people who write many of the words that come out of their mouths. They recognize the power of words and want what they say to always be memorable and have some level of importance. That not exactly creativity, but they do recognize the word-smithing abilities of the people they hire.

Art form aside, creativity doesn’t have to involve art at all. Take the lowly potato chip. This now commonplace little demon of our waistlines was invented in 1853 by chef George Crum at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York. Crum created the snack in reaction to a customer who continuously sent his fried potatoes back complaining that they weren’t crunchy enough. Crum sliced the potatoes as thin as possible in reaction, fried and salted them. His customer loved them and “Saratoga Chips” were born. Crum’s solution was a stroke of high-cholesterol genius and it was his creativity that got him there.

Let’s say you work with numbers seven days a week in a cramped cubicle on a crowded floor and when the five o’clock bell rings you can’t wait to get home. You’re not rushing to get out because you hate your job, but because you can’t wait to get home and work on your garden. Creativity doesn’t have to be what you do with your time, but the passion you feel for it. You could be a horrible gardener who unceremoniously kills everything you touch, much to the horror of your neighbours. But that passion you feel, that fire in your belly to get going, that excitement is a form of creativity.

You could be a golfer who has one particular shot that you’ve perfected, and everything else you struggle with. You could be a golfer who is an amazing putter. It could be the one shot that you can cut through like “budd’ah”, but you couldn’t chip your way out of a paper bag. Some might argue that’s just skill, but I would counter that it was your passion for the game that fuelled you to invest the time to perfect that shot. It was your creativity that helped you find the solution that worked best for you.

Passion learning is something many of us do outside of work. It’s a yearning to learn something unrelated to your day job, a personal pleasure if you wish. We’ve all heard of people who have taken cooking courses after work. Passion learning is directly connected to creativity. You do it not because you have to, but because you want to. That yearning is the start of the fire that will become a passion. You don’t have to be great at whatever you do, just have the desire. That’s also creativity.

Here’s another example: You’ve just invited a guy you swear looks like Fred Flintstone into your home to fix your fuse box. Fred stays an hour and a half and charges you what can only be described as “close to your mortgage”. You might be freaking at your bill, but what you may not realize is that, according to his co-worker Barney Rubble, the work that Fred just did for you, to any other electrician, is in itself a work of art. To you, you can’t see that level of workmanship because you are not an electrician. It’s something that is outside your scope of aesthetics. Sometimes, you can’t see creativity when it’s right in front of you because creativity is relative.

Forget the graphics and pretty pictures. Take a closer look at your own life and I will bet a mortgage payment, you ARE a creative person. Take a look at your accomplishments in your work life and I would expect you to see much of that was driven by your passion, and it was your creativity that got you there.

(PS. I take Visa.)

How to recover a corrupted Illustrator (AI) File

Yesterday I was working on some designs for t-shirts in Adobe Illustrator. Today, when I try to open the file I get a message from Illustrator that says that Illustrator “Can’t open the illustration. The illustration contains an illegal operand.” WTH??

So here’s how to fix it. Most designers aren’t even aware that there is a feature in Adobe Illustrator called ContentRecovery. By default, this function is turned off. You can turn it on and then recover your file to correct the problem. These are the steps…

Enable content recovery
1. Quit out of Illustrator.
2. Locate your Adobe Illustrator Prefs, make a backup copy. Put the backup copy somewhere else (keep the original filename) and edit the original in your Prefs:
Mac: /Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator CS4 Settings/en_US/Adobe Illustrator Prefs
Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS4 Settings\en_US\AIPrefs
3. Using a plain text editor that can search, (I used Bean) search for this string: /enableContentRecovery 0
4. Change the 0 (zero) to a 1 and save it. Do not change its filename.

Correct the offending command
1. Launch Illustrator.
2. Using File > Open, hold down Command + Option + Shift (Mac), or Ctrl + Alt + Shift (Windows),  and click Open. Do not use Recent files or double-click the file to open. You want the full Open dialog.
3. Your file will be blank. Close the file without saving or altering.
4. Go back to your un-openable. You will now see a second file has suddenly appeared, with an underscore at the beginning of the filename. (myfile.ai vs. _myfile.ai).

The underscore file is your recovered file. It will also be much larger than your original. Mine was 4.1 megs which shot up to 10.8. When you go into your file later and edit it, it will go back down to the size it was originally.

5. Open your recovered file in a plain text editor and search for something unique in the offending command message. I searched for the word “sugar”. This was a new TrueType font I had downloaded that day. I already knew it wasn’t what I would classify as a quality font, but it had a look I needed. (I also knew that third-party Truetype fonts can be problematic on Macs. I’ve had problems with them in the past.) I was able to find the exact line that matched the message.

You should note that I was lucky in that Illustrator gave me a direct quote of the offending command and because I took a screenshot of it, I was able to search for the exact string.


This is what I deleted in the Prefs file:


Save the Prefs file and close.

A word about finding the correct offending command
According to Adobe, there are two things to be aware of…
1. Postscript is a programming language. Functions toggle on and off. So when you delete, your line should start with: %AI8_BeginPluginObject and end with: %AI8_EndPluginObject. The presumed offending command should be between these strings. You must be sure to capture the entire piece of code.

2. Sometimes, your own patterns, textures, brushes, fonts can corrupt your file. Anything coming from a third-party, and including third-party libraries of any of the aforementioned etc. should be considered a suspect in the cause of your offending command.

Also, you should always be aware of how you built your file, whether you downloaded a new font or pattern and used it in your file, whether you’re working in an old file that was converted by Illustrator… even if you used a piece of someone else’s Illustrator art. All of these are clues to a starting point in your search for the error. Illustrator will not always give you clues.

Sometimes, you will have to search and delete every instance of the string. In my case, I just happened to find the right string quoted in the error message. As it turned out, I opened the file and it still loaded the font “Sugar”. The very first thing I did was convert it to outlines to remove it from the document font list altogether.

This is my recovered file…


Hello world, no really

As a designer, your eye stays peeled for anything of design interest whether you want it that way or not. You can’t help but notice little things such as the fluid curving arm of your mom’s kettle or the unusual tight kerning in an ad. It’s just the way designers are wired.

This blog represents my travels… on the net or the world around me. Anything I find of design interest is going here for other designers to rummage through. As well, anything of art and culture is landing here. So, for your reading pleasure, here are the keywords for today… design, graphic, art direction, font, type, typography, colour (yes, in Canada we use a “u”), paper, pigment, canvas, brush, oil, watercolour (See? I did it again), acrylic, alkyd, support, medium, art, painting, illustration, writing, literature, short story, novel, book cover, art direction.

This blog will link back to my online portfolio.