'I am creative!'

Attributes of success to nurture and cultivate

  • Design

  • Work

  • Growth

  • Skills

  • Collaboration

  • Teams

  • Communication

'I am creative!'


What follows is a collection of attributes that make up a fully-realized, super-powered creative.

At Upperquad I use these to encourage growth, inspire teamwork and clarify the myriad of skills top designers need. We found them valuable and comprehensive, though realize a full catalog such as this is prone to gaps, biases and assumptions. Consider this a working prototype from which you can adapt to your design teams and their needs.

Generally though, I stress that these things are what we're ALL striving for, myself included. It is basic criteria on which our work is judged. Yes, we naturally excel at some of these things more than others, and our interest and ability to learn or improve specific skills may surpass other areas. That is OK.

These are the attributes we are ALL trying to improve upon. These are things you should be thinking about if you want to get better at your work. Take them seriously. Celebrate them.

This is a clarion call! Shout these from the rooftop of your brain!


I am!


I have lots of ideas. Better yet, I have lots of GREAT ideas. I dream big and I dream wild. I only see opportunity. Every project is a chance to make something special. Every project contains multitudes! I see multiple, creative paths a project can take. My ideas are relevant to our client and their audience. They are always anchored in relevance, audience, objectives and solutions. I know creativity is not just weird for weird’s sake. But I also know when to get weird. Even as they take into account all these complex parameters, my work STILL feels vibrant and fresh.

"I am inspired."

How does this manifest?
Everywhere and in everything. It is our lifeblood. It permeates everything we tackle: writing, pictures, drawings, motion, layout, art direction. It is breathing life into something that's never existed before. It is conjuring magic. It manifests in fantastic work.


Idea-having is great, but I know idea-executing is equally important. I make high quality work. I don’t sit around waiting for someone else to make it happen. I set out to make it. I use my current talents to make interesting things, and reach to add skill sets and styles as a project dictates. If I can’t make it myself, I can finagle a convincing argument to explain it. Maybe it's through collaging the proper FPO things, maybe it’s finding references or resources, maybe it’s prototyping. Whatever it is, I want to do what it takes to PROVE the concept. I want to make it happen, and set out to do so. I’m not waiting for bigger budgets, more time, perfect temperatures and proper weather conditions. 

I also understand that a critical component to the making process is remaking. I strive to make it better at each stage of the process and each round of design. I understand revisions and alternatives are important steps to making better and better work, and I don't mind doing it.  

"I make special things."

How does this manifest?
In bringing ideas to life. A smart logo, clever support iconography, posters, merch, a gorgeous drawing, a smooth interaction, a movie, a beautiful photograph, an inventive layout, a playful animation. A page transition. Making the thing is critical; Without making, it’s not a thing at all.


I understand design is a process of making and remaking. Listening and re-listening. Hunting and finding. I love digging into these details. I sniff out inconsistencies in the project. I consider the design system and all its components when making something new. I re-examining previous design decisions based on new developments to the system. I respond to all the clients' feedback. I can respond to their feedback, their new needs and left turns, without devastating the integrity of the design. If I did disrupt its integrity, am I diligent enough to catch that and find another way around the issue. 

I insist on seeing-it-through. I am persistent through feedback both good and bad, I am unwavering, my effort is earnest and constant.

"I’m on it."

How does this manifest?
Studying materials and briefs. Studying strategy. Analyzing architecture,  Presentation making. Design system making. Components and Global styles. Thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Thorough documentation. Rigorous QA. Rigorous QA. Rigorous QA.


My style is all styles. My favorite thing is all things. I can handle any phase of any type of project. I enjoy the various phases of the work we do. I think broadly and specifically. New projects and new clientele excite me. 

"I can do anything."

How does this manifest?
In a varied skillset, or a diverse portfolio that showcases a broad range of design and artistic styles, mediums, and concepts. In being able to handle any aspect of a project. In the willingness to tackle new challenges, tools, strategies, and perspectives. Having flexibility and grace in understanding, peer, client and user feedback, and in absorbing feedback and responding with better, more appropriate results.


I think we’re all here to make life easier for one another. I’m willing to tackle big questions as well as little ones. I’m always open for a task to come my way, big or small. I’m willing to attack problems. I’m helpful across teams and disciplines. I make the person's job next to me easier. I’m not waiting around for someone to tell me what to do. I’m able to pitch in when called for across projects. 

"I’m asking, 'Okay, what can I do next?
How can I help?'"

How does this manifest?
Everywhere and everyday. Doing your work well first and foremost. Jumping at project tasks and challenging problems.  Compiling slides. Writing slides. Mercenary work (jumping into a project to use one of your swing skills when called upon). Little things like clean files, organized file structures, labeling clearly, documenting change logs. Providing daily updates. Screenshotting and explaining clearly in QA. Refined and accomplished work. 


I work well with others. I take in what they’re saying, I listen, I ask questions. I’m thinking about the audience and their needs. I also understand the client is part of my audience and I work well with them, and earnestly consider their feedback and input. I emphasize listening, empathy and understanding. I’m collaborative. I believe working in collaboration is the best way to get big things done. I also believe it makes me and my work better. I share useful techniques and skills with my team. I share my work early and often. I work toward consensus within my team, across teams, and with clients. 

"My door is open, come on in."

How does this manifest?
In working well across teams, sharing, transparency, clear communication. In taking critique well and altering designs to answer issues. An open mind is also critical during client related phases of the project like discovery and client feedback.


I make everything I’m on better. I have swing skills [see below] and am excited to bring them to my projects. I’m also excited to use them on other projects if I need to pitch in or help out. When I jump in on the project, I can quickly absorb the style and system so the work I do is helpful and not rejected or needing an overhaul. It doesn’t take long for me to get up to speed. I can take loose inspiration from either project leads or the client and make something brilliantly realized.

"I make things better."

How does this manifest?
Bringing your best skillsets and super powers to projects when needed or asked. Jumping in and out of projects when necessary.


I am present in every meeting. I am an active listener, and note taker. I have an engaged mind during critique, I ask questions, I love sharing ideas, and am a valuable participant in brainstorming sessions and idea docs.

I’m invested in the problem at hand. I’m invested in the health and vitality of the project throughout its lifespan. I want to make my work the best it can be and I push myself to make special things. 

"I’m awake, my eyes are wide open."

How does this manifest?
Participation in critique, brainstorms, research, noticing, cheering and championing others. Providing daily updates on your work. Present and attentive in meetings, responding to questions, taking notes.


Self motivation is important to me. I am attacking design phases, I am checking off tasks, I am solving problems and not waiting for them to be solved me. I stress learning new things and improving.

"I’m driven."

How does this manifest?
Rigor throughout the process. Tackling problems and checking off tasks. Sharing work and progress. Aggressive design making, presentation building and getting ahead of deadlines. In learning new skills and getting better at our craft.


I think about the why and think about how to express that visually. I can understand and parse different perspectives and find the connective tissue between them. I bring insight and thought to each phase of making and creating. I think about what it should say, and what it looks like and what those two things mean when wedded together.

I invest in content. Understanding content, finding content, organizing content, reinterpreting content, making content. All of it.

I think deeply about our clients. I know what they should say about themselves, and what they need in order to say it clearly. I turn people’s contradictions, frustrations and searching, into coherence.

"I connect the dots."

How does this manifest?
Conducting in-depth research, examining market trends and user behavior to find useful insight. Competitor research and analysis. Participation in discovery processes. Understanding the 'Why?', Why does this thing exist? Targeting what makes this company/product/feature more special than anything else, and amplifying it.
A snappy headline, an electric mission statement, telling a great story.
Appropriately structured information architecture that improves content flow and user experience.
In design phases, applying strategy to design decision making. Making choices based on goals and objectives, not personal preferences. Understanding words and content matter, and submitting designs that aren't confused, or unclear. Recognizing when content is missing or when it can be condensed.


I diagnose and solve problems before they happen. I see what we need to build. I can see what pages might be needed, what assets we need to create, what our design system will need.

I read the tea leaves. I understand the pulse of the project or client, and can gauge where our current relationship stands. I use this to know when to take swings and when to play it safe, when to push and when to pull back. When to be high level and when to dive into the weeds.

"I can see the road ahead." 

How does this manifest?
This lives in systems thinking. Seeing what you need to create, and budgeting your time wisely to make sure it happens. It’s understanding feedback and making adjustments that will answer those issues. In understanding the current temperature of a project and making educated decisions on how clients are feeling and what they’re willing to handle.


I understand that every choice at every stage matters. Making great choices is crucial to every step in the process of making something, and I continue to refine, reiterate and reexamine choices. I do this at every step of the way. My choices aren’t made on likes or whims, but on objectives and goals.

I know the importance of quality and smart selection. I’m a curator extraordinaire, be it theming, mood boards, art direction, and making choice selects for final art. I take even the simple act of selecting proper FPOs that won’t cause problems during a presentation, seriously. I have good design taste. 

I apply rigorous self-discernment to my own work. I have an eye toward asking “How does the quality of my work compare to the work of my peers? Where does it fit in the design zeitgeist?” I stay current with the modern landscape but don't force modern style and avant-garde into work that doesn’t call for it or clients that don’t ask for it.  

"I know the right buttons to push, and when."

How does this manifest? 
Cohesive moodboard or inspiration boards. A keen eye for detail and an insistence on quality. Hunting and finding the exact right references to explain where photo or art direction should go. Finding the best interactive references to facilitate communication with our developers. The ability to critique one's own work and make continuous improvements.


I understand our clients want their projects to move quickly, and getting work to a presentable state fast is a huge part of the game we're playing. I make symbols, I make components, I know what can and should be reused. I get from loose concept and direction to something substantial and presentable in a short amount of time.

I commit to learning and mastering our design tools. I seek better approaches that I can pull into my workflow to make me faster. My fingers are on fire from using all these hotkeys.

I recognize when I'm starting to spin my wheels, and can quickly reset and progress again. If I’m stuck I know to ask for help.

"I’m haste but not waste."

How does this manifest?  
High quality options for the team or client to consider. A mastery of design tools, the ability to use them quickly to execute what's on your mind, be it icon, illustration, motion piece or website. Work that is consistently client ready.


I am rigorous in getting all the details right. I don’t miss feedback, I don’t miss meetings, I don’t miss due dates. I have a feel for timeline and milestones and when I'm(or the team) is behind and re-engage my efforts accordingly. I check my work frequently with my peers and leads. 

"I can be trusted."

How does this manifest?
A proactive approach to each phase of the design process. Not waiting around for people to solve problems for you. Work that is as complete and mistake free as possible. High quality design submissions. Work that doesn't need re-worked, or heavy intervention by design lead or creative director. Presentations that are complete and ready for review.


Am I asking who, what, when, where, and why? Do I understand the WHY? Do I INVEST in the why? Do I LIVE in the why? 

Do I poke and prod at each of my submissions, road testing its successes and faults? 

Do I investigate the heart of feedback notes versus just getting it done?

Am I exploring? Am I pursuing alternate concepts that will bring this project to life? Can I solve objectives in different ways? Am I breaking out content into multiple paths to see what works best?

Do I look at my work from different perspectives? From our audience and their needs? From our client and their needs?

Am I asking these questions? Am I asking enough questions? Am I asking the right questions?

"Am I curious enough?"

How does this manifest?
In asking lots of questions! In asking great questions. In active participation in research, discovery and strategy.
The constant hunt for new and exciting design styles, art, typography. The desire to test out new tools, strategies and processes.


I believe research is important and ensure due diligence for each project. I look into the history of the client, I examine all the provided (and unprovided) materials and context. I look at industry parallels. I know the project forwards and backwards. I come to meetings with all the materials and questions necessary for things to go smoothly.

I make all the screens necessary to fully communicate an idea. I make motion prototypes or find references that will help communicate my vision of something. I don’t skip steps or have blank sections. I complete all the pages in the project scope. I’ve even got mobile screens right here, check em out. See it's all there, neat huh?

I understand that slides are my sword and shield. I think of each presentation as a landmark that gets viewed by many stakeholders. As such, I make sure the presentation has everything it needs to make sure our design alternatives are compelling and fully realized. I think about the slides that are missing. I make sure those are in there too.

"I’m ready to go."

How does this manifest?
Quality art direction, clear references, prototypes. Complete, convincing presentations with all the necessary slides in place. Smart notes and talk-tracks. Answers for critical use cases and edge cases. Providing useful background materials asked. Having the necessary tabs and files open and ready to share, pre-meeting, in case we need to look any of those pieces.


Speaking of slides, I can present them just as well as I can make them. I articulate the major themes in a way that feels natural, or easy to understand. I understand how to keep people's attention, I know when it’s important to dive into the details and when to keep the flow brisk. I can vocalize this work in a thoughtful and entertaining way.

I understand that every question needs an answer, so I plan and prepare in advance to answer queries and deflect issues. I can improvise when called for, because I’m knowledgeable enough in the subject matter to answer things from left field. I also know when to say “That’s an interesting question we haven’t thought about, let us dig into that and circle back to you with a better answer than I can give in this meeting”

I am patient with clients and their needs. I understand how to temper my passion against what someone’s boss thinks. I know we’re also here to make people look good.

"I’m a thoughtful, steady and objective voice."

How does this manifest?
In strategy, in discovery, in presentations, in meetings, in comments, in slack, in emails, in critique, in conversations, any place you're trying to convince or communicate clearly.


My work is consistently high quality and client-ready. My work doesn’t often need reworked, or deep critique. I respond to assignments with thoughtfully made, high quality work that is well articulated. I do this no matter what the client, industry, or day of the week.

I know the effort that each phase of the process takes, and make sure my output is focused as we cross each threshold. People count on me to get something done without much oversight. I know what to do, how to do it, and I get it done. 

I strive to do all the things listed in this document. And I strive to do them again the next time. And the time after that.

"I’m reliable."

How does this manifest?
This ones simple: quality design submissions, comprehensive IA, well-composed presentations.


Swing skills

These are unique, individual skills that each team member brings to the table, abilities that can pivot a project towards success. These skills could be anything from proficiency in a lesser-known software, to a knack for storytelling, to a deep understanding of a particular industry. Swing skills transcend traditional roles, adding a rich layer of diversity to our collective toolkit.

Motion — Making things move is critical for both new era brand work, digital marketing, product, and video work. The world isn’t static, it’s moving a million miles a minute, our work should react in kind.

Photography — Being a shooter is a powerful skill. We need pictures for every project, client, internal or otherwise. Having a photographer’s eye and camera knowledge are valuable for art direction, communicating with stylists, props, and photographers. The confidence and skill to organize and take great pictures is even better. 

Illustration — We draw all the time. We will always be drawing. An illustrator's imagination can weave together concepts and create new realities. Skillful illustration in a variety of styles is a phenomenal superpower to have or cultivate. Go genre-jackers, go!

Programs — Knowing the ins and outs of each design tool translates to a most pressing, but not often discussed superpower: Efficiency. The faster you transform that swirling tempest of creative that’s in your head into tangible design results, the better. The quicker you get something done, the sooner we can all go home. It’s a tough reality to face, but doing good work fast is something you’ll come face to face with throughout your career. 

Generative AI — While a new field of expertise, prone to wild successes and dismal failures, it's likely that those who incorporate generative AI into their workflows will win.

Writing — Everything starts in writing. Notes to yourself, outlines, post-its, to-dos. High quality writing and explaining super charges our brand and digital presentations with insightful ideas and compelling rationale. It’s also invaluable for sharing ideas, communicating needs, and building consensus. 

Architecture — The in’s and out’s of our large scale web work can be hard to handle. Having a knack for strategic organization and information architecture is nothing to sneeze at. Deft skill in wireframing and parsing content will lead zto smoother IA phases and impress clients with our knowledge and investment in their content. Some have it naturally, some need to cultivate this more. It’s needed for every project. 

Code — Programming and digital work go hand in hand. Knowledge and use of machine learning, data visualization, open frameworks, or processing is never relegated to developers only. Procedural animations or code techniques to make our work come alive is a boon for clients in the data and information systems space. Even small scale coding like expressions in after effects can supercharge animations.

General know-how —  Brand-making processes, UI processes, workshop processes, strategy processes, print processes, photography processes. Knowledge is power, and knowing and executing under a multitude processes is valuable in staying adaptable and solutions oriented when faced with the whatever unique problems our clients come up with next. Knowledge is also the other required half of efficiency, allowing you to hit the nail on the head faster and more often. 


Through education, experience and our innate personalities, we all start at various levels on the scale of all these traits. Don’t fret if some skills don’t seem in your wheelhouse. You can be a valuable contributor and wonderful colleague by focusing on things you excel at. Upperquad has been, and will always be a place for learning and growth. There’s room here for explosive leaps and bounds, there’s room here for incremental and methodical improvement. You need to run your own race, and not worry about where your peers are at or which aspects of these traits don’t come naturally to you. 

Three points:

  1. This probably isn't a comprehensive list! There's so much knowledge out there to absorb! We can always get better at something! And the world isn't getting any less competitive! Yowza!

  2. This isn't "hey I was in a brainstorm session so that's a check mark for ‘strategic’ aren't I great". The constant and ongoing process of consistently hitting or improving on a significant amount of all of these traits is the marker that signals you’re improving, making strides, and exceeding expectations.

  3. Unfortunately you aren't the final arbiter and judge of yourself on these aspects. Our clients are and the work we do for them and the process by which you approach that work is.

The goal for everyone here is to become a completely self-actualized designer who can tackle any problem that comes your way from an icon assignment, to art-directing a shoot, to designing and flowing product screens and product systems, to brand systems and visual vernacular. Yes we all have a variety of skills, and yes we should put those to work as much as we possibly can (both individually and collectively) to make each project better. But my hope is that through working at UQ you'll be well equipped to handle anything that comes your way throughout your career, not just the stuff you're naturally good at.

Always keep in mind these are all investments in yourself, no matter where you end up or how far you go, take these with you

NOW! What on this list excites you? Which ones fit like a glove? Which don't? What have you never thought of before? Shall we target major gaps? 

Let's get to it!