To kick things off, let me just say I had no real opinion of the Kardashian Klan until one of them strayed into my much-loved music pantheon with this very ill-judged cameo is Kanye’s latest video.  I mean, COME ON!  The music is bad enough but the soft focus, cheese overload of bike straddling, hair flicking and photoshop trickery is just 37 flavours of fucked up. Yeah, I said it.  If you want to see the car crash go here but for the love of all things sparkly, wash your brain out immediately afterwards with a full viewing of Hole’s “Miss World” immediately afterwards.

Now back to the subject of comparison-itis.  My clients can sometimes ask me in the early stages of a new project “Did you see the XXX trade show stand / sales office fit out?”.  And usually, no, I haven’t.  This might indicate a certain level of laziness of my behalf (partially true) but it is based on a recent realisation that me seeking out “inspiration” and “checking out the competition” was a major time suckhole and dulled my awesome.

The realisation that I was wasting precious time worrying about the competition and what other displays looked like (Were they better? Are they done by better designers than me? Did their clients love them more than mine did of my work?) was delivered through my demonic personal trainer Nathan.  Prepping me for the NSW Masters rowing event earlier this year, Nathan totally changed how I competed by giving me a warm up program that focussed on waking up by body and spiking the heart rate but delivered a side benefit of keeping me so focussed on my warm up, I had no space to indulge my normal schtick of scanning the program, furiously analysing the draw to decide who I had a chance against and who I thought would beat me for sure.

This year was a game changer.

I got up early and started my warm up program for 45 minutes before I even left home and then once at the venue, I spent another 30 minutes on the warm up focussing on heart rates spikes and stretching out the areas that felt tight in the initial phase.  Timing it just right, the end of the warm up coincided with jumping in the boat and rowing to the start.  Because I had kept my brain busy with the warm up there was no self defeating thoughts of “I can’t do this / I have no chance / Who am I thinking that I can row…I’m not even meant to be GOOD at sport!”  To this day, I can’t tell you what crews I lined up against on the start. As soon as I hopped in that boat, I was all business and my only job was to row like I stole it.  Three minutes and 46 seconds later that state silver medal was mine and a whole new world of non compare-itis spread out before me.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

The comparison-it is can also show up through “I am just going to go research what other stand designers are doing” and “I going to spend a quick 5 mins looking for new design inspiration on the web”.  Look, you can sell it to yourself anyway you want but the cold, hard, loveless truth is that you are stepping into a time and creative vortex.  It is just another excuse for avoiding creating something new and innovative of your own making.  The fear shows up when you stretch yourself, when you try or create something new that has never been done before.  I’m being honest with you here, there are no guarantees that the new stuff will work or will be embraced or even understood by your audience so the fear of backlash and failure is totally justified.  However, the rewards are on offer though for those that seek a new way, a different path and for those that ask ”I wonder if I just did this differently…” And while I love my car, my steel capped heels and my surge protected curling iron to provide me with a sense of safety and predictability, I would never want my art to slip into that same mode.

While I steer clear of looking at competitor stands and displays to tap “inspiration”, I totally drink at the well of other sources.  My standard go-to’s include listening to my much loved music collection, seeing live music (can’t wait for 2014, I have a killer line up with Pearl Jam, Brooce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Artic Monkeys) walking about outdoors and letting my mind wander, going to a new place in the city and just meandering, hanging out with friends and family that have no ties to my industry and reading a damn good book.  I also get flashes of awesome through baking, yoga, early morning rowing sessions and painting. Happily, these forms of inspiration don’t devolve into crippling bouts of comparison-itis and the download of new ideas and fresh inspiration for creative projects just happens without all the angst and time suckage.

So for anyone that is comparing their trade show stand or display with others, cure yourself for good of comparison-it is.  Create your own category. Strike out with something bold. Intrigue your customer or intended audience with the unexpected. And just do – or commission – awesome work.

Mirvac's Array Sales Office

Mirvac did not get to be first choice for apartments and homes by playing safe and following other competitors

I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration for creative projects from in the comments section below or you can email me at fiona@diavworks.com.au

Speaking of awesome, I will circle back to the opening Kardashian slap down with the link through to the humorous homage to “Bound 2” by Seth Rogen and James Franco. If there is more attractive couple on this planet than this pair, I am yet to see it!

See you next week!