Who is afraid of Creative Chaos?

When I start out with new clients in the process of designing a new brand and website, clients often hit a moment of feeling overwhelmed by so many ideas. This mostly happens in the first phase of exploring the brand and project, when we look at different styles, images, ideas, examples, colours and moods. This is the phase where we find inspiration and see possibilities. And this feels chaotic and overwhelming. How can we find clarity? How can we make something out of this muddle? How do you know what to choose, where to go with all these possibilities?

This is scary!

Creative chaos on my iPad in the first stages of designing a website. In this case, I used the app Paper 53.


As an art student I was always struggling with feeling overwhelmed by the creative process. I felt inspiration bubbling up, ideas were taking form and this butterfly of excitement in my belly…. There were so many options, I could go anywhere! And then panic would hit me and a feeling of defeat would come over me: I was overwhelmed by inspiration and not being able to create something from it, because, where ever do you start?! And I felt terrible. Incompetent, lost. But then, I would push on and try something, then find it didn’t work, and feel like a failure again. My ups and downs were terrible during my creative process.
Then, one day, we had to write a dissertation on a subject that formed the theme of our last big project (mine was taste and gender in design). This is where our art history teacher mentioned something called the Creative Chaos. And it so resonated with me that it has always stayed with me, as a process that I have to go through when creating something.


The Creative Chaos, the creative process, is a phase that takes place as soon as you start with an idea and go on to completion. It is is scary, messy phase where you gather ideas, put everything you think of on a heap and then start to sift through them to eliminate or keep these ideas. And it is messy work! There is a lot in there that is ugly, bland, not right, bad thinking, etc. Then you do it again, and again, you circle over them like an eagle and sort out the mess. And then, you will see things coming together. And that is where magic happens.

Don’t feel daunted.

What I have learned over many years, and it took a while, that you need that process to create something beautiful. You need all the ingredients on the table, to be able to choose the right ones to create something with. But the hardest part is to not give up. To not be daunted by feelings of being overwhelmed and wanting to give up. Or feelings of worthlessness (I think this is a creatives issue). But to stay with those feelings, don’t turn away, but let them be and let them pass. They are just part of the process.
I explain this to some of my clients that get a bit nervous at the start of a design or branding process. And I can easily reassure them, because I’m a veteran in that area, and not daunted any more by it. I can say: “This is the Art of Creative Chaos, and it’s part of the design process. We are going to embrace it and use it and come out at the end with something right, and beautiful.”

Creative chaos on my iPad in the first stages of designing a website. In this case, I used the app Paper 53.