Industrial Designer Chris Leykam has designed for New Balance, Rockport and Tommy Bahama. He was Co-Founder and Designer of WICKIT-X, an experimental mens apparel company that sought to bring environmentally-friendly garments to dirtbikers and BMX riders. WICKIT-X created durable separates made for the outdoor enthusiast with natural materials found right in the environments they ride in. The process included developing mood boards to discover relevant seasonal color, graphics, and patterns.
Chris Leykam’s original art graced the DINERS theme motorcycle from the TV show of the same name on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV). The motorcycle was featured in the American Motorcycle Association’s “MotoStars: Celebrities + Motorcycles” exhibit and coffee table book alongside bikes owned by Brad Pitt, Carlos Mencia, Keith Urban, Peter Fonda and bands Journey, Rush and Foreigner.
Inbetween design projects, Chris dirt bikes the back roads and trails of his home in England for inspiration and does freelance design for companies in the motorcycle and apparel footwear industry.
One of the greatest obstacles we have to being creative is that critical voice inside us that controls what we say, how we say it and even how we write. I’ve actually seen people in graduate school handwriting sections of their thesis (yes, I am dating myself for all you Surface owners) then throwing away perfectly good idea snippets because what they wrote wasn’t neat enough or had too many cross-outs. Conversely, I’ve produced or engineered bands who’ve walked into the studio with chord progressions and lyrics on the backs of napkins and recorded some of the most incredible songs imaginable. Next time you listen to Sir George Martin’s productions of those amazing Beatles songs, remember how the words looked on paper before there was anything to listen to!
Give yourself every day a few minutes to free write your thoughts without regard to what’s coming out or what it means. Just let your mind do a data dump through your arm to your hand and onto paper. It’s the best way I know of to tame the control beast and to give your creative energies the paths they need for expression. When you build on that habit, amazing things will happen. Try it! Give yourself a ticket to write…
The Beach Boys’ 1966 release of “Pet Sounds,” produced, arranged and almost entirely written by Brian Wilson, forever changed the landscape of pop music and is considered one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music. Inspired by the immaculately constructed and filler-free Beatles album, “Rubber Soul,” Brian’s masterpiece incorporates unconventional instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Electro-Theremin, dog whistles, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans, and even barking dogs.
Record producers, musicians and arrangers are continuously on the lookout for unique ways to incorporate novel sounds into their productions. The 13th Floor Elevators are remembered fondly for Tommy Hall’s work on the electric jug in “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” That’s an ocarina solo happening halfway into The Troggs “Wild Thing” and Nirvana on “Drain You” made musical use of a rubber duck, some chains, and aerosol cans. On “Harvest Moon” that down-home sound is created by an old corn broom being swept across a sheet of sandpaper and Brian Eno fastens down a contorted guitar solo with a deft typewriter beat on “China My China.”
Being able to see alternative uses of anything is a key to jump-starting the creative process. A slice of white bread with the crust removed will eliminate greasy fingerprints from painted walls and bicarbonate of soda sprinkled into offending shoes will eliminate the odors. Crayola crayons serve as excellent fillers for small gouges or holes in resilient flooring especially since the color options are immense. And, don’t throw away those scratched CDs. Screw them onto stakes along your driveway and they make great nighttime reflectors.
My point: looking at objects and problems from different perspectives is key to coming up with novel solutions to any challenge. Right now, wherever you are sitting, pick up any object within reach and think of all the alternative uses you can imagine for it. And, when you think you’ve exhausted the possibilities, think again. The best ones are waiting for you. Now, apply alternatives to life and career. The possibilities are endless!
Producing and engineering for London Records during the height of the British wave of music was a rush that has never left me. I’ve applied to business, leadership and team building the lessons I learned in the studio to bring out the best performance in any setting.
One dynamic in particular that occurred naturally when working with bands and groups was this: as rehearsed as I made sure band members were before they entered the studio (this was the pre-digital analog era and hourly studio costs prohibited wasting any time) I always allowed for natural, spontaneous creativity to emerge. While working through a part like a guitar solo or background harmonies, band members would give immediate feedback to one another as to how they heard or saw a particular part and the suggestion would be tried. No pre-thought was given to the exchange of feedback. It just happened. As invested in a musical part any band member was, they were open and creatively quick to listen to the suggestions of their mates and to try them.
To amp up our own creative juices we should condition ourselves to step back from the challenge at hand to “see” it and “hear” it as we would imagine others might; especially our targeted audience. What would they say or recommend at this stage of the process that might direct us in a more productive or unique way. When I’m working on a creative project of my own I sometimes get up from my desk chair and imaginatively “invite” someone else, often a specific person, to give feedback. I literally stand behind my chair, like I used to do in the recording studio during playbacks when I put my “commercial audience ears” on and assessed whether a song was a hit or not, and try to imagine others’ responses and suggestions. You can be involved in a solo endeavor like writing and still engage the recommendations of others. Think of it as conjuring the creative spirits of those you respect the most! You might surprised at the outcomes!
"You've had such a varied and impressive career. It's awesome to read about your adventures and reinventions and how you're now helping others do the same," branding expert Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You, Stand Out and Entrepreneurial You