Form is determined by content.


It’s not uncommon for a designer to be asked “Where do your ideas come from?” or “How did you come up with that?”

The creative process can be difficult to articulate. Unfortunately, it’s not always automatic and it very rarely (if ever) follows the same path or sequence. Good ideas come at what seems like the most random times—sitting on the train, lying restlessly awake at night, or my personal favorite (and a bit of a cliché), in the shower. However, this is not to say that design is without process. In fact, the opposite is true. The process is different for everyone, similar to how there are often multiple ways to navigate to a destination.


I was fortunate enough to be taught early in my career that the best ideas will come from the content. As a young designer, and when I was struggling to generate ideas, my Creative Director would tell me to make the content my source for an idea, and that this is when the magic of design would begin to happen. At the time, I remember thinking that this concept was slightly abstract, but the more I focused on this idea, the more truth I found in it.

A recent example:


When we were asked to redefine and reposition the brand for Clackamas Repertory Theatre, the first thing we did was invite our entire creative team to take in a show. We wanted to see everything that informed the audience experience and affected their senses. The intimacy of the environment. The set and props. The emotional charge of the actors.

After returning to begin thinking about our first task—the visual identity—we were surprised and delighted to see that the content had done its job once again.

The shape of the seating in their beautiful theatre became the perfect icon for illustrating the theatre company’s name, and so began the creation of their new mark. It just so happened that Clackamas Rep was also celebrating their 10th Anniversary, which created the perfect segue to a seasonal image using the new mark.


At Counterform, not only has this become the foundation of the way we think about and practice design, but it has proved to be a highly effective way of communicating our thought process to our clients. It has also helped them to see the relevancy of the ideas we present, as well as the impact that they have on the public.

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