As I write this, I sit on a plane uncomfortably tucked into a smallish window seat with a broken armrest, battling fatigue and subarctic temperatures. Per usual, I made the wrong choice between “chicken” or “pasta,” and now have a lovely shade of red sauce stained on my lower shirt pocket. The guy next to me doesn’t speak a word of English, and yet we have had no trouble communicating with each other. Somehow, I find joy in our conversation of gestures and broken English, as he has a warm smile and shows me pictures of his grandchildren. Unfortunately, this is another of the oddball scenarios in which I find creative inspiration to write. Lucky you!
I’m flying direct from Atlanta to São Paulo, and despite the nine-and-a-half-hour flight to get there, I am quite excited about my second visit to Brazil. From my experience, Brazilians are a culture exploding with passion and excitement about life, food, family and, certainly, retail. It’s an exciting time for retail in Brazil, as a population historically separated by the “have” and “have nots” increasingly strengthens and grows into the “have enoughs.”
One thing I have learned from traveling abroad is that the barrier of language enables an added layer of interpersonal communication that is sometimes ignored when two parties openly speak the same first language. Suddenly, reading someone’s eyes and hand gestures—and overall body language, in fact—is just as informative as hearing what they say. If you watch hard enough, you can actually see and feel someone thinking. You can begin to see the gears align and get inside someone’s thought process, despite not quite being able to make out what they say. It’s fascinating, really.
We are an industry of thinkers. Nothing in retail is done without careful thought, planning and consideration of the initial spatial planning, the implementation process and the ultimate final outcome. Whether that thought process begins with a hand-drawn sketch or CAD rendering (see more on that debate on page 42 of this issue), the creative journey as a store grows from a seedling in the designer’s mind to a fully functioning selling space is a captivating one.
Creativity strikes people in many forms. When I was in college, a professor sat 10 of us down around a table, each with a blank sheet of white paper before us. He then told us to “do something creative.” We all blinked for a second, as the pure challenge of being invited to “be creative” settled in. But, what direction would unrestrained, raw creativity take for each person? Well, one guy drew a stick figure, another an impressive sketch of her mother. Several people drew landscapes, and a few attempted portraits. And, of course, there was the anti-establishment guy who crumpled his white paper into a ball and threw it into the corner of the room “in the name of art.” Me? I wrote a poem. For me, words and their juxtaposition and relationship with each other is my creative outlet. Luckily, that has served me well in my career.
But, drawing that creativity out onto a Mac laptop while on an international flight takes patience, and practice. I am so grateful that we get to cover an industry of inherently creative people who make each day and each project new and exciting, creating stories that we are eager and able to tell. Here’s to creativity—and please, keep it coming. May you find yours in the oddest of places as well.