news that the Dark
Angels collective’s latest book
has hit it’s funding target, I caught up with contributor and Dark Angel
Gillian Colhoun for an insight into her chapter, exploring the links between
design and writing.
a nutshell of 26 words, what’s your chapter about?
For 20 years, I’ve
written in the company of designers. I noticed early on that, while the
outcomes of their work change massively, their methods and mindset follow a
systematic pattern – a pattern they articulate, use and in some cases even
trademark. I also speak to ridiculously talented writers all the time, who,
after completing a sizeable project, say, “I’d never do it that way again.”
countless books extolling the wisdom designers can learn from writers. Rightly
so, writing is important to design. I wasn’t entirely sure I could add to the
canon, so my chapter isn’t about that, nor is it about pretending there’s a
secret sauce or rigid formula. It’s about being open to a different
perspective; observing the ways we, as writers, can adapt from the world of design
to make our methods more harmonious and our thinking more original. Above all,
I believe that design is good at two things all great writing needs – insight
inspired you to write about this?
obsessed with the notion of creativity. It’s such an elusive thing, so personal
and often unconscious. Intuitively, we feel there’s a difference between when
we’re being creative and when we’re not. But how do you know the difference?
And how do you replicate those circumstances, which can be wickedly chaotic, to
produce something worthwhile? I think that’s an interesting question whether you’re writing a novel or a
really what my chapter is about; exploring a different way to open up the
creative mindset. For me, when I’m in that flow, ideas seem to spring from
everywhere. And of course, just like writing, the more you do, the more natural
that process becomes.
why now? Have you always approached writing in this way, or has this grown with
time and experience?
When I started,
I was really learning on the job. I followed the work of designers, like Alan
Fletcher and Harry Pearce, the way other people followed rock stars. I also
think I have my postgraduate studies to thank for the introduction to design
thinking. The course is no longer available, more’s the pity, but it was the
most invaluable learning experience.
The course was
called Writing for Creative Industries. Advertising executives, copywriters,
designers, illustrators, editors – we all of us studied the same modules.
Together, we learned about conceptual thinking, how to engage audiences, we
were even taught how to design and make a printing plate. What made it so
transformative was seeing how my individual work usually trebled in quality
when it went through the spin cycle of a multi-disciplinary team of peers. It
feels quaint writing about it now, but industry leaders would come and critique
our work. At times it would be brutal, but there was also a feeling that they
were there to nurture the flowers so we could get to the worms. That lesson in
resilience has proven very useful throughout my career, but so has keeping an
open mind to what’s being said in the critique. I’ll still grab any and every
opportunity to be better at what I do.
love your analogy of ‘creative cross training’, any tips for warming up or is
it a case of diving right in?
different. My advice would be to try lots of things and see what works for you.
That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to Dark Angels in the first place.
Space to indulge in creative playfulness with no judgement and no commercial
consequence? That felt like sheer bliss to me and one of the reasons I wanted
to get more involved in the courses. The exercises have a magic of their own
that prompt creative adventures that are singular to each person. We’re
developing them all the time to include components from other creative
disciplines like photography and painting. The experience is as much as an
experiment in creativity as it is a writing course. So I guess, that would be
my tip. Sign up for a Starter Day, or jump straight into a Foundation and discover
what works best for you.
you think designers are more natural collaborators than writers? Or does that
all come down to circumstance?
working with other writers, it’s an absolute rush. And yes that may be because
we’re working within a process that has provided room for us to bounce off one
another, divergent thinking, but also time for us to do our specialist thing,
convergent thinking. I would say though that productive collaboration needs
more than a good process, it requires rapport and mutual respect. As a kid, I
adored the A-Team series. It’s probably why I’m such a big fan of the crack
team model, where everyone has different skill sets and performs them at an
all-star level. Actually, now I think about it, that’s more than respect, that’s
the end of your chapter you say ‘Every
human being is a designer’. What would you say to anyone who disagrees with
Ha, I’d imagine
there are designers out there who would absolutely disagree. Let me contextualise
that. First of all, professional designers are highly trained people who
dedicate a lot of time and labour to their craft. When a client employs their
services, I recommend they listen very carefully to what those designers have
In this chapter,
when I say that every human being is a designer, I’m asserting that all human
beings take millions of decisions that affect their work, their life and their
environment. We are each of us the architects of our own lives. Does everyone
need all the skills of a designer? Of course not. But when it comes to
friendships, romance, politics and creative endeavour, our thoughts and how we
express them have real power. I guess I’m saying we all of us have the capacity
to be more mindful about how those decisions and choices affect the final
outcome. In that sense I believe design, or at least design thinking, to be a
democratic activity; an enriching process that can make the world a little or
whole lot better.
lastly, for anyone who hasn’t already pledged for a copy, why should they be
putting in an order for the book today?
Writers love reading. It comes with the territory so I imagine the 26
membership’s bookshelves are already heaving under the strain. Lots of books
draw the lines between business writing, fiction, poetry and so on. But this
book is different. It’s based on the need to allow emotion and personality into
writing, then to shape it with a writer’s craft. Twelve unique perspectives
present fresh and original approaches to different aspects of writing. There
are chapters on how to tell stories, on what your readers really want, and on
how good writing makes a big difference. We’ve also included some special guest
contributions, so there are bonus sources of darkly angelic insight that are
lyrical, practical and emotive. Who wouldn’t make room for all that on
It’s not too
late to pledge for your first edition copy of Dark
Angels on Writing.
Think of it as a little post Christmas gift to yourself – you’ve earned it.
– Sophie Gordon
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.