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Our New Year’s (design) resolutions

It’s 2021, and Design Monster is off to a good start – last year, we launched our website, secured our copyright, and even got ourselves an adorable mascot (seriously, have you seen Sizzle the dragon?). Now, like the two-headed Roman god, Janus, we’re reflecting on where we’ve come from – while setting our sights on the future.

Fitting in with Janus’ namesake month, January,1 we’ve put together a handful of designers’ New Year’s resolutions – but we’ve turned to the life sciences for inspiration (we are healthcare advertising and medical communications experts, after all). Read on to find out how to invoke Mendel in your media, Darwin in your design, Watson in your writing or Crick in your creations.

Never stop innovating

Life is the ultimate innovator. It occupies every corner of the Earth; so-called extremophiles live in boiling water and some microorganisms can even survive in space.2,3 Indeed, finding life on other planets is a realistic ongoing quest.4 In medicine, this tendency to innovate is most obviously exemplified by pathogens; bacteria rapidly evolve by ‘swapping’ DNA, contributing to the ongoing issue of antibiotic resistance.5

To be more creative, could we learn from biology and its capacity to innovate? Natural selection is essentially based on trial and error – the emergence and ‘testing’ of novel genotypes.6 How could we apply this to our work? The options are endless:

  • Feeling uninspired with your infographic? Map out the story flow with sticky notes and bring in visual elements to make the key messages sing
  • Is a dull slide deck lulling you into a PowerPoint coma? Break up the monotony with a flash colour scheme or new chart type. Try animating the data, raising the deck from the dead like a Microsoft vampire

  • Need to create some buzz around your webinar? Turn the invite into a shiny new website and send your invitees the link; they will think they’ve been beamed up to the Enterprise and yesterday’s boring e-mail notification will be left out in space
  • Struggling to explain a mechanism of action in a conference presentation? Use a 3D printer to craft your molecules and have your audience gaze upon them with their own eyes: seeing is believing

Tinker. Experiment. Surprise. It’s only by trying out novel and exciting design concepts that we, too, will be able to evolve as designers – and as medical communications experts. However, dear reader, a word of warning: Annette Sparks of Precision Marketing Group reminds us that some clients “might not get your visionary insight and brilliant out-of-the-box approach”.7 Sometimes, the humble bar chart will do just fine.

Fuel your creativity

Fuel the fire that is your creativity. Thinking about biology, again, fire is rather appropriate – the process that keeps us alive, aerobic respiration, has the same chemical formula as combustion.8 You are – in a sense – burning sugar to sustain yourself. You’ll have heard about the mitochondria (the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell), where much of this process takes place, but what you might not know is that the electric field strength across the tiny 5nm membranes within the mitochondria is equivalent – get ready for this – to a bolt of lightning.9

So, in the same way that food maintains our mitochondrial electric fields,9 how do we feed the ‘spark’ of creativity that drives our work? One blog post has compiled a number of great ideas on how to do this.10 One of these suggestions is to “invest time in your hobby”, cultivating creativity by giving you “access to a more creative self”.10 This goes hand in hand with another frequently-mentioned goal: setting a good work-life balance.11,12 Are you feeling like your creative soul has been drained? Make time for your hobbies, and you might find it flowing back to you.

Be ready to adapt

It’s time to be more like a microbe. No, we don’t mean like the viruses that are able to ‘surf’ along protrusions from cell surfaces,13 although that would undoubtedly be cool; we’re not even referring to the bacteria that have biological ‘wires’ that can transfer electrons, much like completing a circuit, to their environment.14 Milo Goodman of Gymnasium argues that it is important to be prepared to rapidly embrace change, which might include factors such as evolving technology and the needs of clients.15 We should be ready to rapidly evolve – much, returning to the microbes, like some pathogenic bacteria and their alarmingly fast evolution of antibiotic resistance.5

In fact, this need to adapt is why we set about expanding our Monster Medical family of agencies in the first place: we know that clients need support across a number of areas, from medical writing through to creative, digital and design processes – and even 3D printing. When technology or needs evolve, we aim to be there to expand and adapt our services once again.

In the same vein, a common theme across many of the blogs we’ve read is the importance of acquiring new skills.7,11,12 Have you been meaning to become an Adobe apprentice, a master of typography, or a wiz at animating your own cell biology videos? 2021 is your year – make it happen!

Closing remarks

We’ve developed from a boutique collection of medical communications agencies, here to make your life easier. We’ll make sure we always Inspire with Fire. Beyond this – who knows? We’re ready to take on whatever our destiny holds. So, join us on our quest, and – in 2021 – be prepared to innovate, adapt, and keep that creative spirit alive. Let’s go!

References

  1. What’s in a name? Months of the year. Available at: https://blog.britishmuseum.org/whats-in-a-name-months-of-the-year/#:~:text=January%20is%20named%20after%20the,also%20the%20god%20of%20doors. Accessed January 2021.
  2. Merino N, et al. Living at the Extremes: Extremophiles and the Limits of Life in a Planetary Context. Front Microbiol. 2019;10:780.
  3. Hydrothermal Activity. Available at: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/13023/hydrothermal-activity/. Accessed January 2021.
  4. Life probably exists beyond Earth. So how do we find it? Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/2019/03/life-probably-exists-beyond-earth-so-how-do-we-find-it. Accessed January 2021.
  5. Vrancianu CO, et al. Targeting Plasmids to Limit Acquisition and Transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance. Front Microbiol. 2020;11:761.
  6. Ridley, M. Economics: Trial and error. Nature. 2011;474:32–33.
  7. 6 New Year’s Resolutions for Adept Graphic Designers. Available at: https://www.precisionmarketinggroup.com/blog/graphic-design-tips. Accessed January 2021.
  8. Respiration. Available at: https://www.rsb.org.uk/images/14_Respiration.pdf. Accessed January 2021.
  9. Why Are Cells Powered by Proton Gradients? Available at: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/why-are-cells-powered-by-proton-gradients-14373960/. Accessed January 2021.
  10. How to be more creative: 8 tips from designers. Available at: https://www.canva.com/learn/how-to-be-more-creative-8-tips-from-designers/. Accessed January 2021.
  11. 10 Insightful New Year Resolutions For Graphic Designers In 2018. Available at: https://www.designmantic.com/blog/new-year-resolutions-for-graphic-designer-2018/. Accessed January 2021.
  12. 10 designers’ New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Available at: https://www.creativebloq.com/features/10-designers-new-years-resolutions-for-2018. Accessed January 2021.
  13. Cossart P, Helenius A. Endocytosis of viruses and bacteria. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2014;6(8):a016972.
  14. Boesen T, Nielsen LP. Molecular Dissection of Bacterial Nanowires. mBio. 2013;4(3):e00270-13.
  15. Adaptability As the Key to Success in Design. Available at: https://medium.com/gymnasium/adaptability-as-the-key-to-success-in-design-ea64c1ed4044. Accessed January 2021.