Making the Invisible Visible

There is a phrase: ex nihilo nihil fit. It roughly translates from the Latin as from nothing, nothing comes. Generally, this is a true statement; you can’t create something from nothing. Unless, that is, you happen to be a designer*.

We designers are in the business of creating something from nothing. A client has the need for something that does not yet exist. They have an idea of where they want to be (they want to introduce themselves to the world, they want to grow, they want to expand into a new market, they have a new product or service) but they aren’t there yet. It’s so far only an idea.

I take hold of that idea and begin drawing ideas. I call this process thinking out loud. Doodles and quick sketches cover many pages until they start to look like the something that does not yet exist, but is starting to. The seed of an idea has been planted and it’s taking root on paper or a tablet. It’s becoming tangible. I translate it onto my computer, bring it to maturity, and send it off as a completed design.

My job is to look down the road in faith and envision what the client
will be in due time and design to that end.

It’s similar to faith in that faith is confidence in something that is not yet visible. I know it’s there. I believe in it. I do the work of fleshing it out until it is fully formed. I take ideas that cannot be seen and make them visible. It takes no faith to see what already exists. My job is to look down the road in faith and envision what the client will be in due time and design to that end.

I get to imagine what is possible for my clients. I see them not as they are now but as they will be in 3, 5 and 10 years. I invest my time, thinking, imagination and creative effort in what does not yet exist. If I look only at where my client is positioned now, my work is futile. Because success is best measured over the long term, I anticipate a realistic future for them that is bigger than they are now. And they should expect to grow to fulfill the intention of the designs I create for them. Think of it this way: if the client is currently a single cup of coffee but wants to be a full carafe, the design has to accommodate the capacity of the carafe, not the cup.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions.” If he was correct, it can follow that an organization or business, once stretched by effective design, will never return to its former state.

*We can expand the title, designer, to include all visual artists who create original work.

Where will your business or organization be in 3 years? How about in 10? Are your current design assets able to accommodate your goals? If not, we should talk. Get in touch.

Alvalyn Lundgren

Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and principal of Alvalyn Creative, an independent consultancy providing brand strategy design and bespoke illustration for more than 30 years. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business school and podcast for creative freelancers. She teaches design and design practice on the college level with design schools and programs.