Do you often say phrases over and over and not realize how powerful they can be? Instead of being just a neon sign on AJC Design’s office walls, I’m proud to say that my mantra, “Creativity is Everything” received a registered trademark this past July! (12 months since I filed with the U.S. Patent Office).
The Origin Story
I don’t expect you to have been an AJC Design follower back in 2014 but 7 years after I first launched my business, I embarked on a branding and website refresh that inspired me to think different about who I was as a business. After lots of introspective exercises, the branding team presented me with walnut shell. I didn’t need to look any further. The walnut shell captured the essence of my brand, which is described on my website: “While one half references our own passion for dreaming up one-of-a-kind designs and our dedication to making them a reality, the other is an ode to our clients, whose ideas and visions are just as integral to the design process.”
As I thought about the distinctness of every crevice of the walnut shell, I was reminded of the last project I had done. The client wanted a $40 million dollar look, but only had a $4 million dollar budget. Sound familiar? Since I like a good challenge, I agreed to the project and turned his dream into a reality. What may have looked impossible to some, it was the moment Creativity is Everything® was born.
Since then, “Creativity is Everything” is the mantra I’ve used everyday…including weekends. For me, it’s a mindset. It’s about having infinite possibilities and seeing the same world with fresh eyes, day after day. It’s about pushing limits and stretching boundaries. It’s about realizing and accepting that there is an Olympic infinity pool of design ideas right under your nose. You just have to look around and not accept no for an answer.
My Manta in Practice
A project that embodies the mantra was the Harlem Renaissance hotel. Harlem in the early 1920’s and 1930’s went through a profound transformation both physically and culturally. Not only did the art community grow rapidly but this was a period where African-Americans artists started to establish their reputations. In fact, the hotel was constructed on top of a former theater. Before the project began, I first had to understand the culture of Harlem during that period. One of the stories that fascinated me was how people communicated. Since there was no Facebook or Instagram back then to share news about local concerts or plays or even community news in general, people relied on being the tallest and loudest person on the block. That is, they used soapboxes to stand on and project their voice to onlookers. Hearing that story, I immediately knew that the hotel’s history must be integrated into the design. I drew up several concepts, and searched for antiques. What we landed on was a ceiling lobby that was etched in gold foil to depict the map of the neighborhood. It was further embellished with LED lights to highlight the corners where people were first delivering the messages.
But the mantra didn’t stop there. I had to recreate the scene in real life. This included setting up an old vintage camera on the corner of Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 125th street with a backdrop of the former neighborhood. Visitors who walked past could stand on the soapbox and take a selfie or have a photo taken of themselves.
Find Your Walnut
Now that I have Creativity is Everything®is official, do I want to write a book? Not by any means. Part of the secret sauce about Creativity is Everything® is that nothing can be or should be replicated exactly. Everyone perceives things differently. I believe there are so many possibilities for doing things if someone just allows themselves time to see and explore. Simple but not easy. Luckily, from an early age my creative skills have been part of my interests and passions. I continue to travel to new places, see new art exhibitions, and talk with vendors to stay inspired. I encourage you to find your Creativity is Everything® mantra and keep living your strengths.